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Create Active Engagement by Listening and Learning

Written by: Gregg Apirian, SocialChorus

For most companies, the customer comes first. Employees work hard every day to improve the customer experience — from brand perception to advancing products and services to delivering timely and valuable customer service. These hard-working employees are the brains and glue that hold the customer experience together and, in many cases, push it forward.

Take marketing, for example. Over the past decade, marketers have transformed their business operations and focus to best serve the customer experience. As customers interact with the company’s brands, products, and services across touchpoints, marketers are learning every day what their customers want, need, and prefer.

And because of this data-driven capability, they can predict what customers want, need, and prefer. To accomplish this, instead of operating in silos, the best marketers reorganized into a single Customer Experience operation. They have specialists owning strategy, tactics, creative, channels, technology, data, and analytics —all working together to deliver a seamless customer experience.

While this transformation took time, marketing professionals realized they needed to adopt data-driven strategies to be able to study their audiences and deliver a seamless customer experience.

Now it is time for communicators to take up the same data-driven transformation, so they can plan and deliver a seamless employee experience. However, many communicators are the sole person responsible for creating and delivering internal communications— or only have a few team members to collaborate with.

While leaders recognize that employee experience is a key objective, it’s up to communicators to bring the employee experience to life at their company— and sustain it. But it starts with one fundamental question— what’s in it for me? Essentially, what content and information do your employees care about?

What’s in it for me?

It’s a good question with an even better answer. How many times have you created content that you were sure was perfect for your employees, only to find out it that it wasn’t well received or wasn’t seen? On the other hand, there are times when you got it completely right. But what if there was a way for you to continuously study your employees’ journey and engagement so you could create and deliver content and information they value? In this scenario, everybody wins.

Goodbye to the one message to all

No matter the number of employees at a company, one guarantee is that they do not all have the same needs and preferences. By analyzing employees, we begin to understand what types of content, information, and experiences they value. But to get there, we need to evaluate their similarities and nuances, so we can use those insights to create a segmentation of the employee audience.

The value of segmenting audiences allows you to deliver relevancy to all employees, no matter how similar or different they are. You can group by role, geography, generation, and a number of other attributes. Strategic communicators will study their employees in the same way a modern marketer studies consumers to understand their preferences. As the knowledge about your employees expands, so will your skills as a communicator.

This new, data-driven approach requires flexibility, and nothing is for certain. For example, you may learn that a percentage of the workforce is indifferent, another percentage has a strong set of preferences (such as learning styles, preferred channels, content types, cadence, etc.), and the remaining balance could go either way.

The point is that effective, targeted messaging gets you much further than one-size-fits-all messaging and delivery. So how do communicators discover employees’ preferences and what they value?

Studying your audience removes the guesswork

As a communicator, most likely you have a baseline understanding of some of the things your employees value. But as you move more and more into a data-driven methodology, you should be prepared to start with a blank slate, ignoring preconceived ideas, and letting the data and insights set the redirection of your internal communications strategy.

This frees you to create a new vision and develop an effective internal communications strategy, co-designed by the employees, for the employees. These insights will tell the story of what matters to them, making the content and information you deliver more relevant to all employees. In addition, the results are highly likely to be supported by and ultimately driven by leadership.

The days are over when leadership made these decisions by guessing. A modern-day communications strategy begins with a mobile-first technology strategy. Why? Because every employee has a mobile phone which means regardless of your company’s policies, each employee can be reached if that company really wants to reach them.

By understanding what employees value, communicators can use it to find internal stakeholder and leadership alignment, and once aligned, reach out to a statistically significant set of employees to validate and refine their understanding of what those employees’ value most. You must discover what’s important to them, so use a combination of research tactics like surveys and interviews, first with employees, and then follow up with leaders. By starting with employees, you can use their feedback and insights to steer leadership in the direction of what employees value, versus what leaders might think they value.

It comes down to relevancy. By asking the right questions and following up quickly, employees and leaders know they were heard and their feedback matters. You can now begin to use your audience segmentation to create and deliver relevant content to employees, resulting in more impressions, higher click-through rates (CTRs), higher engagement, and longer-term retention. This, in turn, helps communicators understand which metrics and KPIs matter most to the business.

Research takes you in the right direction

Next, it’s crucial to develop a set of use cases that align with the results of your research. The idea is to quantify existing communications channels, determine which channels to discard, and most importantly, decide what new channels need to be created. The overarching emphasis needs to be mobile-first and digitally-driven. In order to reach all employees, you’ll create and publish relevant content for all employee segments, and finally, measuring all these experiences.

Taken together, they are refining – or in some cases defining – your company’s employee experience. The research gets you started in the right direction, and it should be continuous. New digital platforms with measurement capabilities will help you understand the effectiveness of your messages and content. Then you’ll refine those messages to drive the call-to-action you need to accomplish your communication objectives. Without research and measurement tools, communicators have no way to understand what value really means to employees.

Why understanding what employees value matters

The logic is straight-forward and so is the math. Creating and delivering internal communications based on what people value creates a higher level of active employee engagement. It should be a common goal for all of us working as communicators. To get there, you must consistently study your employees to understand what’s important to them and deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

Experiment and test to see what works and remain open to change. Develop use cases and utilize them to find the right technology solutions. This not only brings technology into the equation, but it also helps develop the overall strategy of how to define and deliver content and experiences that employees truly appreciate and value. Mobile devices are the key, so your job is to get your company’s policies aligned to your what your employees value so they can deliver that seamless customer experience.

It’s critical to keep your fingers on the pulse of employees’ preferences and you must continually question and refine your internal communications strategy. Similar to what marketers successfully implemented for consumers, a data-driven strategy combined with effective content delivery will take your employee experience to the next level. Everyone wins in this scenario — employees feel more engaged, you’ll improve your skills as a communications professional, and better company alignment means greater company performance.

[Original Post: Create Active Engagement by Listening and Learning]


Interested in learning more? Attend Internal Communication Strategies to Engage a Deskless Workforce Conference, December 4-6 in Miami.

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