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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

Want Your Employees to be Engaged? Communicate

Employee engagement continues to be a top-of-mind issue that cuts across industries and businesses of all sizes. Despite the attention, employee engagement hasn’t budged from around just 32 percent for several years, which means that more than 70 percent of the workforce is at some level of disengagement. At the same time, internal communications, a driving force of workforce engagement, is often a patchwork effort that lacks a broad strategy with measurable objectives.

What we’ve seen in our 30 years of helping clients is that organizations that excel with employee communications also have high levels of employee engagement. The principles of communications remain pretty much the same over time, but the ways organizations communicate with their employees are continuously changing.

As we re-visit those principles and show how they are put into play in today’s workplace, you might see how communications in your organization match up.

Open, honest, transparent and collaborative. These are the earmarks of a strong employee communications program. Communications are both bottom-up and top-down, in a continuous feedback loop. Employees need to know they are heard, and management needs to respond appropriately. “Spin” has long been discredited in the PR world, and it has no place in internal communications either.

Consider implementing an enterprise-wide workplace social platform, if you don’t already have one. These give employees a voice, encourage collaboration, and help top management key into employee concerns.

Driven by strategy. An effective communications strategy includes clear goals and objectives, messaging, channels and success measures. It takes into account what has been learned from employee feedback. It also defines ownership: who is responsible for communicating what, and how. An effective strategy is centered on flexibility and responsiveness.

Culturally relevant. Your communications strategy needs to take into account a culturally diverse, multi-generational workforce. This diversity needs to be reflected in what you emphasize in your messaging, and how you deliver those messages. Younger workers tend to prefer very open, highly social forms of communication while older workers tend toward more traditional.

Delivered appropriately. Millennials expect to be communicated with on their mobiles, Boomers are more tied to their desktops. Look at the make-up of your workforce as you determine channels. Although workplace social platforms are highly effective, their use can be disruptive. A constant stream of messages can at times be distractive and annoying.

Evolving. We’re in a time of accelerating change; our workforce is changing, and the tools we can use to communicate with our workforce are changing. As you create your communications strategy, build in flexibility so that your internal communications can respond with speed and agility.

Maybe it’s time to step back from your communications program and take a look at how it’s playing out in your organization. To quote George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Are you looking to increase employee engagement in your organization? Contact a Marketing Innovations Solutions expert to see how we can help.


“How Do Online Social Networks Drive Internal Communication and Improve Employee Engagement?” Eunjung Lee, Cornell University ILR, Spring 2013.

“How Virgin Atlantic Airways Connects Employees With Innovative Employee Communications Tools,”, April 23, 2015.