Should Internal Communications take over Employee Engagement?
I was interested to read one of the topics at the upcoming Internal Communications Conference, “How Internal Communication is taking over the Employee Engagement role from HR” because, although we often initially speak to HR Directors at Peachy Mondays, our main point of contact is increasingly the Internal Communications team.
My suspicion is that Internal Communications is still very focused on downward communication (news and views from the industry and company to employees) but to ‘take over’ Employee Engagement successfully they need to own the upward communication as well – the Employee Feedback Strategy.
People often think of this upward communication being addressed by engagement surveys, pulses and other tools, but it goes far beyond that. Employee feedback concerns anywhere there’s dialogue between employee and employer. That isn’t to say Internal Communications should sit in on performance or team meetings, but they should know where feedback is happening and make sure it is captured holistically and actioned, within the organisation’s constraints and objectives.
The ideal team would likely contain a blend of Marketing and HR experience – with marketing experience they would be able to create and distribute a compelling story, but the challenge comes when they need to understand the implications of the feedback from employees.
The number one requirement for Employee Engagement is acting on feedback. Someone needs to be empowered to make changes, or the very least needs to be in a position of strong influence. Passing reports with a list of problems to busy line managers, without helping to fix the problems, is a recipe for stagnation, frustration and cynicism. Can the traditional Internal Communications specialist drive this change?
David Parry has 15 years’ experience working in Internal Communications; I asked him for his thoughts:
“Awareness of the value of Employee Engagement and dialogue has spread from the pioneers of strategic internal communications to become best practice across the profession.
I agree with Gordon that the ideal mix of skills for Employee Engagement should include people with HR and PR/Marketing backgrounds – all with equal access to the tools of engagement. A good communicator should be willing to work cross-functionally to make this sure that action on feedback happens in a structured way that addresses the concerns of employees.
Most importantly, regardless of the professional discipline, it’s people with a genuine passion to make sure employee’s voices are heard and responded to who make the difference in how engaged employees feel with the place where they work”
So where does Employee Engagement fit in?
Every organisation is different and no single structure is best. But whoever or whichever team takes on Employee Engagement needs to have a sufficient level of control and/or influence across the organisation to make sure change happens, whether it’s incremental and localised, or globally. Employee Engagement is fundamental to the success of organisations and whoever owns it must be capable, have the full respect and support from the top and throughout the business.