It can be easy for a corporate PR team to neglect a critical aspect of business communications — internal PR. Sometimes the last stakeholders on the minds of senior management are those inside the organization. In certain cases, high-profile companies take it for granted that employees are corporate cheerleaders, or they may leave the responsibility for employee engagement to HR. Yet employee communications is correlated with business success. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace, companies in the highest quartile of employee engagement experience 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales, and 21% higher profitability than others. Need more? Here are some additional reasons for a company of any size to raise its employee comms game.
A 2018 IWG survey indicated that 70% of workers work remotely at least one day per week. Although remote work can help drive up employee satisfaction, it can make building a cohesive culture difficult. Internal communications initiatives that foster engagement become even more critical when colleagues are spread across the city, or even the country. Programs like “work-together days“, summits, social outings, and training sessions can help keep a workforce connected and engaged.
A company with a two-way communications infrastructure – and a culture that encourages employee expression – can sometimes get solid business ideas from the workforce. It’s no coincidence that Amazon was named #1 best place to work by LinkedIn this year, while also being lauded for its prioritizing employee engagement. Amazon’s intranet site has a “virtual idea box.” It produced one of the company’s greatest innovations, the Amazon Prime program, after an employee suggested that loyal customers should enjoy free shipping.
As most business people know, it costs five times as much to capture a new customer than it takes to keep an existing one. A company that boasts stellar internal customer service are leading by example, inspiring (and teaching) employees to provide great external customer service. Additionally, happy, loyal employees are more likely to care about giving great customer service. Acknowledged customer service king Zappos is also known for its employee engagement – and consequently was ranked for seven years straight on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For lists.
According to Glassdoor Economic Research, the culture and values of the organization are the largest predictor of employee satisfaction. But the culture and values aren’t best communicated through a new employee orientation booklet. If a company can inspire employees to believe in and be proud of its purpose and ethos, then employees are more likely to become brand ambassadors. Most employees want to be part of something positive and authentic. Further, if employees know they’re being heard by way of structured two-way internal communication channels, they will become more engaged, and thus happier.
With unemployment under 4% and a restless millennial workforce always on the move, the competition to recruit and retain talent has become intense. According to CareerBuilder, in 2018 forty-five percent of HR managers currently have jobs they cannot fill because they cannot find qualified talent. Plus, potential recruits, many who are digital natives, have a wealth of online resources for researching companies. Therefore, companies competing for talent need to have a positive online presence, including employer reviews like those found on Glassdoor. Online reviews aside, engaged, content employees are more likely to bring in good candidates, and their employees are more likely to share pride in their company on social media. In 2013, General Electric embarked on a program to make their employees brand ambassadors – for the express purpose of recruiting.
Since we are now in an era of eroding trust in corporations, it’s critical for companies to earn confidence wherever they can. The ultimate byproduct of excellent internal communications is the creation of brand ambassadors who will proactively speak on behalf of the company and its products to friends and family members. Passionate employees who have buy-in will gladly spread the word, and that word carries influence. According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, the employee voice is considered more credible than that of the CEO, by 52% to 49%. Companies who neglect to cultivate communication, engagement, and brand ambassadorship are missing chances to boost reputation and trust.
All of the above IC advantages can lead to competitive advantage in the marketplace. Employee brand ambassadors drive customer service, recruiting, retention, reputation — and revenue. Aon Hewitt’s annual Trends in Global Employee Engagement report estimates that every 1% increase in a company’s employee engagement translates into an almost 1% increase in sales. The car manufacturer Audi claims to have saved $133 million dollars in 2017 by implementing some of its 10,000 employee suggestions.
Improving staff morale can also neutralize a negative. Nearly one in three employees say they don’t trust their employer, according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. A well crafted internal PR program can help open up communications and help leaders earn trust. Employees can only become valuable influencers if they respect and appreciate the company.
Most professional communicators know that employee engagement is key to increasing morale, managing crises, and building a unified company culture. A thorough employee-directed communications program is no small undertaking, but the benefits are exponential. In a full-employment economy and a media environment dominated by peer-generated content, any corporation who neglects its workforce as a key constituency is sacrificing opportunity and even risking its long-term reputation.