Employee engagement: Why what you say and how you say it really matters

In our experience, where internal and employee engagement communications have fallen flat and left employees in the dark, is when they’ve failed to connect with their audience. And it’s an easy trap to fall into, ­ sleepwalking into communicating with staff as though they’re part of the corporate machine – rather than people who need to be listened to, understood and given a tangible and meaningful reason to believe.

When you create campaigns that aren’t simple and easy-to-understand, you can cause all kinds of conflict and confusion for your audience who’ll just switch off. When it’s not done well, comms can become like wallpaper. People just won’t engage with you.

Steve Gill, Director, Forepoint

How to earn employee engagement

Some of the most successful internal campaigns we’ve been involved with have done just that – acknowledged that employees are human beings. And addressed audiences as real people who eat, sleep – and have a life outside work.

Differentiating between your internal and external audiences, and developing personas for internal staff, as well as customers, is vital. It allows for the creation of messaging and comms that have an appropriate tone of voice for each.

The end of corporate-speak

Applying an appropriate tone of voice means banishing any corporate-speak that risks excluding and alienating your employees. The focus has to be on creating communications and content around distilled messaging, driven by a benefit, a reason to believe and a dramatic difference that is then consistent with the overall vision, mission and values of your business.

Through our involvement in a number of employee focus groups, we’ve often discovered instances where communications have previously made no sense to employees. Either people haven’t been ‘in the know’, or what’s been communicated has been too complicated for them to understand. If an audience needs a translator to try and unravel your corporate jargon and endless acronyms, your campaign has well and truly failed.

Communicating with clarity isn’t simple. We know that. So, what can you do? We suggest you try looking outside of your organisation, particularly at how consumer brands and the media talk to their potential customers.

Gone are the days of the Pathé newsreel and the use of the Queen’s English, instead people want to hear ‘regional accents’ and voices that are simply more representative of our society today.

Readers want to make an emotional connection. They want comms that speak to them – not at them, and not past them.

Keith Noble, Director, Forepoint

Then think what’s right for you, so your comms sound like you and your business and come across as authentic and trustworthy. Finding the right balance in your messaging and an appropriate tone of voice is key. So, when you launch a campaign, it resonates with people at all levels and engages them in what you’re saying.

Why less is more

It’s vital that organisations get clarity in their messaging, and for there to be agreement at the top level of leadership on this. It helps distil the key messages down to their simplest and most understandable form.

A high-level creative workshop can work to explore, validate and agree key messaging and result in the clarity that’s needed to make future comms campaigns stick.

Steve Gill, Director, Forepoint

Working in this way prevents the launch of campaigns that:

Information overload without clarity overwhelms people and risks creating impenetrable ‘white noise’ that doesn’t get the required messages through to people.

Experience tells us that well-researched and well-delivered communications campaigns not only stand out but make a lasting impact on even the largest businesses.

Ultimately, the work our clients brief us to do is based on people trying to get other people to change what they’re doing – or evolve how they’re doing it – into a better or more improved way of working.

Keith Noble, Director, Forepoint

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