Courageous, authentic and curious...
Anyone connected with internal comms will be very used to the concept of Employee or People Experience. Indeed the role of ‘director of people experience’ is fully appreciated by more and more businesses as the epiphany of valuing your peoples’ experience on the same level of your customers’ experience starts to dawn. And we are not just talking engagement here more the whole employee experience. So just how do you make your people feel? It is understandable that for so many years businesses have focused primarily on the customer, indeed one might argue that the success of Amazon is entirely down to that focus. But we aren't all Amazon. However in this volatile business world where marginal gains are sought to have an impact on the bottom line, neglecting the advocacy that your people can bring to your business might appear a little shortsighted. Many will be aware of the service profit chain, a concept as old as the first Oasis album, so we need to reforge those 25 year old links between employee commitment and customer loyalty.
One of the key drivers for a great employee experience is how the organisation engages with them. As an agency that specialises in communication, Firehouse is fortunate to see first hand how some businesses are getting this right. We can see how some trends are working for many of our clients and broadly fit into three main communications behaviours. These are courage, authenticity and curiosity.
Try a fresh and bolder approach to communications. We all know the old adage that a definition of madness is performing the same action and expecting a different reaction, so if you sit your people down theatre style for another annual conference, complete with endless PowerPoint, isn't it totally understandable that they are left uninspired. In fact if it comes to a choice you might as well cancel your conference and write the key messages on £50 notes and give one to every delegate. They’ll probably remember them forever!
Audiences need to feel special and that means involving them in surprising, distinctive and unconventional experiences that keeps them talking about it long after. And we prefer to use the word conversation rather than presentation these days. Firehouse has been exploring immersive face to face engagements that demand involvement and encourage the audience to explore themes and draw their own conclusions. They ‘own’ their experience, often using creative storytelling techniques to help them interpret and remember messages ensuring they feel confident and enabled to share these with the rest of their community. Messaging should always be compelling and experiential, that is how we humans remember and feel.
Authenticity This is the communications zeitgeist. Yes it is. It is a simple fact that people trust their peers more than their managers and trust in leaders is being eroded. The Edelman trust barometer highlights this. We all get the sense there is a diminished trust in leadership. Being ‘real’ as a leader means showing humility and genuineness, the best way to do this is with personal stories. When a CEO demonstrates personal emotional investment then people will empathise and be won to the cause. Firehouse is passionate about this. If we want our business messages and leadership listened to it must be in the context of showing admirably human qualities that inspire an emotional response from our people. Facts and figures alone cannot achieve this. Spending prolonged time on complex charts is simply unproductive when 10 minutes on the headlines and what those figures mean personally has far more impact. Enhance them with testimony. It has to be about emotion as much as the message because your people won't remember the facts for long but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Moreover because people trust their peers over their leaders, as the Edelman trust barometer shows, you have to give your own people a real voice. For the people by the people is the true meaning of vox populi. We have been advising our clients on podcasts and vlogs to help them do just that. Showing them how to get this authentic voice pitched just right whether it is from leaders or peer to peer. We know it works. We’ve been using front line supervisors as hosts for high energy quarterly podcasts and groups of individuals who deliver corporate information in regular, authentic and very entertaining vlogs.
It is very rare that a brilliant idea springs from absolutely nowhere. Usually it is the child of different experiences and approaches which somehow meet in a newborn idea or approach. So finding new ways for our communications means being open minded to different understandings of the way the world works outside our sphere of experience. An example might be closer to hand than you think. At a recent event we encouraged internal communications to meet their marketing colleagues and understand how marketing approaches communicating to the consumer using specific personas. They are in the business of getting people to change their opinions and behaviours which is after all the plan of internal communications. Appreciating these techniques gives insight into how to approach communicating to people. Asking questions around who are we talking to and how they like to be communicated to is really important and marketing/advertising have been doing that for years. Well it's an idea, isn't it?
Of course we are the first to know that demonstrating courage, authenticity and curiosity in internal communications is easier said than done, especially when every day is filled with operational needs nine till five. However, we also know that communications professionals that actively focus on those three qualities are the ones that are enhancing the employee experience with communications that truly resonate.