With the holidays just around the corner, everyone around me seems to be making the extra effort to connect with friends, family and coworkers in meaningful ways. It occurred to me that this flurry of activity exemplifies “engagement,” putting forth discretionary energy toward a greater good, a concept so critical to our personal lives and also to business success.
As Ketchum’s head of communication and corporate social responsibility, I am a big believer in engaging employees. I see my role as a behind-the-scenes catalyzer of engagement and spend a lot of time thinking about how we can engage, energize and connect our colleagues in fresh ways. Doing so breaks down virtual walls and brings our employees closer to one another, creating a more vibrant workplace and ultimately making us more successful as a business.
As we seek to engage our colleagues I know that the communications I do and my team does is infinitely better the more our employees are integrated into the process. They also are better when those communicating remember that they’re employees too. I think that’s the biggest reason I enjoy engaging employees so much – because I’m one too. I want to meet, learn from, and connect with my fellow colleagues.
Reflecting on this past year, here are three ways we worked to engage our employees, and the various benefits of doing so.
Speak with employees not to them.
We know that employees who feel they are seen and heard tend to be more engaged. My Corp Comm team works to share employee stories and have conversations with them instead of just communicating to them. One major way is through Workplace by Facebook. With its casual tone and familiar network features, Workplace has become our new watercooler where colleagues can go to get the skinny on what’s happening at the firm and weigh in with their own opinions. Whatever tools you use, the important thing is to integrate as much of the daily company newsfeed, email and leadership content as possible. Consider holding live global broadcasts in which colleagues can use the message area to join the conversation. Walk the talk, use it yourself and for your team as we do for everything from crowdsourcing creative ideas to building on brainstorms. Do it successfully and you’ll see work-focused communities grow and, equally importantly, communities that focus on connecting one employee to another through more passion-focused areas – everything from book clubs to binge watching. I encourage you to join them all.
Bring employees together to be a force for good.
Our culture has always encouraged people to bring their personal passions to the work they do. This extends to the causes we support through our award-winning corporate social responsibility program called KSR, or Ketchum Social Responsibility. KSR’s employee-led approach is the reason behind its success and why it has become such a fundamental aspect of our culture. From narrowing our focus to children and education, to identifying Room to Read as our pro bono partner, to introducing causes and organizations to the agency and inspiring greater involvement, our colleagues from all over the world lead our KSR efforts. We call them “Sparks.” To see examples of how their passions around a cause have ignited into actions and campaigns that made a difference in the world, check out our KSR report.
Involve employees in defining and living company values.
What better way to engage colleagues then to have them participate in creating the company’s values! When we rethought our values as part of our shift to a communications consultancy model this year, my first instinct was that we couldn’t do this without involving our colleagues. We started with a small working group but that quickly grew to getting colleagues involved across the globe by leveraging our best in-house copywriters and creative directors – and by engaging every colleague to weigh-in by voting via Workplace. The results were a final set of corporate values that reflect who we are – Curious, Brave, Inspiring and A Force for Good – that the entire workforce is intimately familiar with and enthusiastically behind. It all started by asking everyone what they thought.
Reminding yourself that “you’re an employee too” while building out your organization’s communications approach can make all the difference to a positive and fulfilling work experience for the company’s employees. It is through the lens of sharing opinions, views, beliefs, and outside passions – alongside the daily work we do – that we are able to create a community filled with engaged employees. And that is what I find so inspiring.
A final thought. With the holidays top of mind, I encourage everyone to take advantage of the festive spirit to bring together your team members or officemates to celebrate one another and perhaps in the process of you’ll learn more about how to better engage each other. After all, we’re all employees.