Leaders and communicators agree: The future of work will be powered by a more holistic view of the employee experience.
To realize this future, we as communicators need to begin shifting perspectives about our work, both for ourselves and for other internal stakeholders. This shift in focus would be toward creating more of a strategic employee experience mind-set inside our companies, verses being tactical or channel-focused.
Here are a few steps we can begin taking now to create this shift.
1. We need shared definitions.
We need to be thinking about how to evolve the approach to our work and align around more shared definitions to support the consistency and quality of our craft. A common language will allow us to deepen our methodologies and focus on developing quality communications. Our goal should be to drive modern communication thinking and create experiences that support the behavior change work that many of us are currently responsible for driving.
First, let’s define the relationship between communication and experience. An employee experience includes a collection of touch points (face-to-face interactions, emails, articles, events, classes, digital experiences, etc.). These touch points are influenced by effective communication (strategy, content and design). When employees have the information they need to do their jobs, they perform better and tell their friends and family. When people perform better, they are happier. When people are happy at work and have a better experience, employee engagement will be higher. In most companies, it’s just that simple. Employee engagement is an outcome of effective employee communication.
2. We need to rethink the employee experience.
The simple framework pictured below provides an overview of the employee experience in a way that is more employee-centric verses function-centric. It outlines all aspects of the experience we create for employees in our companies. This is different from the traditional human resources journey. Rather than illustrating the stages of an employee journey or life cycle, this framework provides a broader and more holistic lens so that we can be strategic. Each of the five dimensions have four elements. These twenty elements are the proverbial boxes to check as we facilitate a conversation about creating a better employee experience.
The elements and dimensions are not equally balanced. Our work requires taking a close look at our organizations to determine the level of effort required to the move the needle in the right direction to improve all aspects of the employee experience. Once we identify the elements that need to be improved, it’s important to apply traditional segmentation techniques that weigh the level of effort, the level of impact and the alignment with business strategy and objectives.
3. We need to reinforce a sense of shared responsibility.
Creating better employee experiences is a responsibility shared by multiple functions. It is not owned by human resources, marketing, the brand group, facilities or even leadership. It is a shared responsibility across functions and the communication team (or person) should be the facilitator, constantly driving conversations and nurturing feedback loops to inform priorities. We need to partner with all functions and help to identify what elements they can influence, and further understand what efforts activities should they should prioritize to make an impact.
4. We need to reshape our identity.
The good news is that for the most part, we are way beyond the “getting a seat at the table” conversation. The bad and good news is that we need to move quickly to position the communication function (or just you in your role if you are a team of one) as a key driver and part owner of the employee experience. The communication function needs to reinforce an identity and positioning as a connector function, rather than a performer function. A performer function only responds to the needs of the business. A connector function is much more strategic and drives business priorities. This requires facilitating the right initiatives and connecting programs and functions that often operate in silos. We have found that the context of employee experience has been a better way to make these connections and still maintain our role as professional communicators. For example, rather than inviting representatives from different functions to a meeting about a communication plan, inviting them to discuss the employee experience tends to pique more interest and is more strategic.
5. We need to stop being channel-centric and be more content-centric.
We all want to increase intranet engagement, town hall attendance, email open rates and internal company app downloads and use. The metrics that we are able to get from these channels allow us to identify specific metrics that are essential to prove the value of our efforts. They help build the business case for more budget and other resources. Measurement in general is a very important part of our work.
However, many communicators I speak with continue to say “I need to get more people to read my emails and intranet articles.” Increasing readership, participation and engagement on our channels requires understanding and then responding to the concerns of our audiences in simple language. Then, we need to support our content with smarter visual design. I’m not suggesting this is easy. I find that the right place to start is typically taking a big step back and rethinking our writing style, while stealing the latest and greatest practices from modern marketing and communication. Content should address the needs of our audiences and tell stories that nurture the culture and experience that our company is seeking to create. For example, Pat Wadors, the chief human resources officer at LinkedIn, talks about treating employees “beautifully” as part of the company culture.
When looking to modern channels as examples, we need to take a closer look at how television, social media and other content that is consumed on multiple devices is developed. Many companies are using modern intranet and email platforms that allows them to use data to re-prioritize digital content that has higher click-rates and readership. These platforms allow for us to come closer to creating a more consumer-like experience for employees.
Like any industry or profession, we need to constantly rethink and evolve our work. I strongly believe that we need to ride the coat tails of the transformation initiatives currently happening inside our companies and use this as an opportunity to the modernize the communication function, all while resetting the expectations of leadership and our audiences for how we can create a better overall experience for our most valuable asset: our employees.