FREE WEBINAR FOR INTERNAL COMMS PROS

Employee Engagement or
BUSINESS IMPACT?

It's Time to Choose.

Watch On Demand in Blue

 

Watch the second webinar in our #WeLeadComms + Sparrow Connected Webinar Series.  

Our highly-regarded speakers explored why it's time for internal communications and leadership teams to stop focusing on measuring employee engagement and start measuring what actually matters – the impact that internal communications have on real business objectives.  

Watch to learn: 

  • How to challenge the “employee engagement” obsession  
  • What to measure instead and tips on how to do it  
  • Two questions you really need to ask employees  
  • How to shift to measuring business impact today  
  • ...And much, much more! 

Watch the webinar now!

Event Details & Speakers

Date: Thursday, June 16th 
Time: 11:00 am EDT/8:00 am PDT/4:00 pm BST 
Length: 45 minutes + Q&A  
Host: Julie Ford, Head of Content, Sparrow Connected

Mike Klein
Mike Klein
Founder of #WeLeadComms
Location Grey Vector Icon, HD Png Download - kindpng Iceland
Sparrow Connected - Webinar 2022 - Jonas
Jonas Bladt Hansen
Partner, ConnectMinds
Location Grey Vector Icon, HD Png Download - kindpng Denmark
Sparrow Connected - Webinar 2022 - Priya LD
Priya Bates
President and Owner at Inner Strength Communication
Location Grey Vector Icon, HD Png Download - kindpng Canada

Transcript

Julie Ford   

Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. In today's webinar, we're going to talk about employee engagement or business impact, it's time to choose. My name is Julie Ford and I lead the content team here at Sparrow Connected. Sparrow Connected is the internal comms platform that is accelerating business performance and elevating the world's communication leaders. This webinar is the second in a series of webinars we're hosting in collaboration with WeLeadComms. Today, I will host an insightful conversation with our international panel of internal communication leaders, followed by a live Q&A.  
Just a few housekeeping items before we get started. Your microphones and cameras will remain disabled for the duration of the webinar. We will be recording this webinar and make it available to you via our website and email over the next couple of days. Please go ahead and submit your questions for the Q&A at any time during the webinar. Now, without further ado, I'd like to introduce today's speakers. First, we have Mike Klein, joining us from Iceland. Mike is the founder and principal of Changing the Terms, a consultancy focused on internal communications change and social communication. For more than 20 years, Mike has worked with organizations in the United States and Europe on pressing strategic communication challenges. Mike is also the founder of WeLeadComms, a global initiative to recognize initiative, courage, and leadership across the communication profession. He is also a senior strategic advisor to Sparrow connected. Welcome, Mike. 

 

Mike   

Thank you very much. 

 

Julie Ford   

Next, we have Priya Bates. I believe we may have lost her for a second but hopefully, she'll be back soon. Priya is the president and owner of Inner Strength Communication. She's an award-winning professional communicator with a passion for driving robust performance from the inside out. Priya builds strategic internal communication engagement, branding, and transformational change plans that help connect the dots between business strategy and employee delivery. During her 20 plus career, Priya has led communication for organizations including Loblaws, HP, Canada, and Compaq Canada. Welcome, Priya. And thank you for joining us from Canada today. Finally, I'd like to introduce Jonas Bladt Hansen of Denmark. Jonas is an award-winning consultant and top internal comms leader from Denmark. He is also a partner in a global peer learning organization called Connect Minds where he facilitates peer learning groups focused on employee experience and internal communication in Germany and Denmark. He has been in internal comms for close to 20 years now and has worked for some of Denmark's largest companies. Welcome, Jonas. And thank you for joining us as well.  

 

Jonas 
Thanks for having me.  
 


Julie 
All right. Well, we'll wait for Priya to join us. But we're going to jump into the conversation - The conversation about employee engagement versus business impact, it's time to choose. There's a lot to unpack in that statement. I'm curious to know what is the first thing that comes to mind for each of you, Mike, you recently wrote an e-book on this exact topic. So, Mike, If you'd like to start off the conversation. 

Mike   

I would be very happy to start off the conversation. And I'll give you the first two things that come to mind. I think the first thing that comes to mind right now is that we're moving into a time of potentially limited resources. And that means we need to question not only our own activities as internal communicators but also, we need to question everything else that is going on in space, particularly from a budget and a bandwidth perspective. And that means the whole concept of employee engagement also needs to be on the table, we can't afford to treat it as sacred. Second, the reason there are a lot of ways that internal comms can drive business impact, is because internal comms can work directly on issues of importance to the business, and cost-effectively impact the business in a way that a roundabout approach, to trying to get the whole enterprise engaged is never going to be able to do. I mean, think of it as a flight, you're trying to get the business from point A to point B, say, from London or New York, the pursuit of employee engagement sometimes goes by way of Iceland might even go by way of Beijing, because a lot of things that are done in the name of employee engagement are counterproductive in terms of immediate business impact. 

 

Julie Ford   

Interesting. Jonas, do you have anything to add? 

 

Jonas   

Yeah, I have. The first time I heard about the statement I was like, don't they go hand in hand? But then I thought about it, I think it was really great statement because it forces us to think about, have we taken employees, our work with an internal comms, we've always, a lot of us have thought about employee engagement as being the thing that we deliver, right. And we might have been focusing on this, because during the last 15 years in internal comms, most of the things we worked with were content in different channels. And now, I think the world has moved forward. And we have so many new opportunities for us in the digital space that enables us to do a lot more than we've done previously. And it is the time to think about how we can become even more relevant in the business? And that's where it becomes interesting to discuss the difference between business impact and industry engagement. And that's what I'm looking forward to today. 

 

Julie Ford   

There are some who say there's a strong correlate of relationship between employee engagement scores and organizational performance. Is that reason enough to embrace the pursuit of improved engagement scores? If not, why not? Jonas, do you want to take this one?

Jonas   

I would rather look at it a different way. Because for me, engagement is not so much about engagement. It's more like, what do people do? What do our colleagues actually do with all this energy that they might have? And so on? And how can we convert engagement into action? How can we inspire people into action to do the right things? And that's important. It's not so much about creating the next engaging event or TV show or whatever we come up with, it's more thinking about - If it's sales, we're focusing on what people need to know, in order to do the right things? If it's onboarding, what do we need to do in order to make people feel that they belong here, that they know what they need to do, and so on. These are important measures, I would say, not so much about engagement scores in general, because in everything about how the scores are done, I would say, we don't really know what is actually, what's making up the score? You know, 80%, what does that mean? 

 

Julie Ford   

So, Mike, do you have anything to add?  

 

Mike   

I think we need to look at this question from a number of different angles. One is, as Jonas said, the relationship between engagement and engagement as a driver of activity. And I think it's all well and good to look at it from that perspective. But when there is a belief that there's some kind of ironclad relationship between focusing on employee engagement, and some bottom-line results that you're going to get at the end of the process. That's another thing entirely. There's a whole industry that has been built on the idea that higher engagement scores improve organizational performance. And there's a strong correlative relationship between the two. But there's also a strong correlative relationship between happiness and sunshine. And if you think about it for less than 30 seconds, you can realize that they're related, but you can see which one causes the other was employee engagement, it's not so clear. But if you're a sports fan, for instance, if your team is winning, Dan improves the fan engagement a lot more than the fans engagement improves the team's performance. So, we need to start uncoupling this idea that there's any kind of substantive relationship between engagement scores, and performance A. B, the other thing we need to look at is the extent to which people are measured against engagement scores. It's very easy to throw a KPI at an HR director or an internal comms director, achieve top quartile engagement this year, as an achieved top quartile engagement that you're or you're fired. Because if that's going to be your KPI that's going to put you in a straitjacket in terms of being able to support a lot of tactical but very important initiatives in the business. 

 

Julie Ford   

Interesting, we just got a question that is actually a very good question, because we've jumped ahead into a conversation about employee engagement, but we never really defined it. And from what I know about employee engagement is that there are millions of definitions. So, I'm curious to know, Mike and Jonas, how would you define employee engagement? 

Jonas   

Yeah, I was actually thinking about it today when I drove home from work. And I was coming up with a lot of different definitions, no something in terms in line, the sense of belonging, and that people feel connected. But in general, I've had many ways of defining engagement. And that's the problem with it that it has become so fluffy right now that we have many different ways of understanding what engagement is. But we don't really speak about it. When we work together. For instance, when we work in a team, we talk with the CEO, and so on, we all talk about an engagement, everybody's nodding, but maybe we have like 20 different definitions of what that is. 

 

Mike   

There were, I believe, 21 different definitions that we identified and published in the e-book that came out a few weeks ago. And we identified four categories of employee engagement definitions, one of which was feelings or attitudes, one of which was like activities, one of which were measurements, and what and I don't remember the other one, but I mean, that's indicative of how this term has become systematically, Not necessarily abused, but certainly made to represent whatever the agenda is of a person using the work. So, it may mean the score to the CEO, it may mean the extent to which the team is performing to the manager, it may mean how the employee feels. And it may mean an event where managers and employees engage, for example, at a large Anglo-Dutch petroleum company, they use the term engagement to mean a meeting between management and staff. And so you get all of these people around the table talking about employee engagement, talking about different things. And then you get vendors who are trying to sell their tools as employee engagement, enhancers, or boosters. Gallup says increased employee engagement means 20%, better performance, and we give you better employee engagement. What they're not saying is that Gallup says their score is the increase on their Galaxy 12 score produces this financial result, the tool is saying, we'll get people to engage with your content. And that's being made into the same conversation. So, there's a lot of sleights of hand that's going on in this conversation. 

 

Julie Ford   

Definitely. Interesting. So, it seems that there are many different ways to look at employee engagement and definition. But if we're going to shift our focus from employee engagement, can you guys share some other business metrics we could look at instead? Jonas, do you want to start on this one? 

Jonas   

Yeah, and I think this luckily, no silver bullet here, not an easy answer to this one. And that's good because instead of tracing a specific metric, it's about going out and speaking with the business and identifying what challenges that. And then be curious and start trying to have all these conversations we need to have in business to understand how we can help. Also, sometimes dare to ask stupid questions, use five times why approach or whatever from Toyota? I don't know if you know that. But I've had some success with just being the guy who asks why is this important? And then ask him why again, and again, again? And then finally ask him? You know, if people do this, what is the value to business? How would you describe the value for the business, if we succeed with this, and then you start building your business case, basically. And you start to define how you can help to define the barriers that you see, and how internal comms can make a difference. That's important, then you can end up with metrics, like increased sales, or improved onboarding, which leads to higher retention or attrition rates, and so on. But it is actually about starting out somewhere, having conversations, and trying to identify these areas of improvement where we can help. And when I think, both in the network that I sit in, that I moderate and facilitate, and in my career, we were not really good at being out there in the business and trying to understand what their challenges are. It's too convenient for us to sit in the head office close to the CEO and do what he or she says. 

 

Julie Ford   

Yeah, Priya, you're back.  
 

Priya   

Oh, There we go. Today, Trudy Lewis is with me. I am in London, England this week. I apologize for the background noise. But I have been listening and trying to get in. And I've been following the conversation. When I think about engagement, I know you had a few questions that went on before, I'm probably in the camp that it does give, it is an indicator of how organizations compare. And a lot of organizations use Gallup 12 to compare and benchmark themselves against other organizations. But, when I think about how I define engagements, probably close to some of the things that Jonas was saying, I refer to the four Ps – “Performance,” which is when executives ask you for what engagement, why engagement, they want to see the business performance. So, I want business performance. I want to know “Participation” - what do the employees need to do to help us achieve our goals? I want to look at “Promotions” - what are they saying? Are they saying good things about our organization and finally “Pride” - just kind of that softer piece, which is, what do they feel. And when you get all of those pieces together, for me being able to measure that is what you need to that gives you information on what you need to do to change to drive true engagement, versus I think the engagement scores from Gallup 12 is an outcome of what they've already done. It doesn't really give you new information. It's an outcome, not necessarily something that drives change behavior, and plans. 

 

Mike   

I agree with Priya on those four P's, but I would not put them together. Because there's not really much point to have their aggregate to 80%. But have one of them be completely out of kilter from the rest? I would break them apart. I'd even look further. I mean, the key thing about measurement is the power of measurement is not in the aggregation. It's in the specificity. So that you can identify the individual issues, you can identify the drivers and then address the drivers directly, rather than trying to take some holistic truce dominance and attack the entire problem. Jonas says that there are no silver bullets. I agree. But there's some bronze bullets out there. You can measure actions that people take, you can measure the knowledge that they can demonstrate, you can measure the attitudes that they share, and most particularly, you can measure in various forums, what people are saying the words they use, and the sentiments behind those words. And the key thing here is the ability to baseline rather than benchmark. It's much more interesting to look at how your organization's journey is going from day to day, week to week, month to month, then how, say you as Petro Canada Oil Company compared to Aramco, compared to Total, compared to a company in Paris, France, or a company in Paris, Texas, you've got so many more variables, right now you've got, work for a strategy, in the oil business, what kind of energy you're focusing on? What kind of mission the organization has, I just don't think benchmark employee engagement survey numbers really have any value except as a cheap throwaway KPI. 

 

Priya   

But at the same time, I've often said that employee, that executive communication and executive management is really ego management. And the reason engagement scores work, is because it gives them an eye on the competitor, which is what they do every day and says it gives them a comparative number that tells them they're doing well or they're doing not, right, because it is an outcome measure. So, and that's the reason it's worked. That's the reason HR has the ear, and Gallup has the ear of those organizations because what they're managing is eagles. 

 

Julie Ford   

Jonas, do you have anything to add here? 

 

Jonas   

No, I agree in some way it is a bit unfortunate that this engagement score has been institutionalized in organizations. And on the other hand, it might also have helped us in kind of becoming a bit more get more influence in the organization. So, in some way, it's been a positive driver, But now it's time to rethink how we can actually use some other metrics to deliver more impact, I would say, and because as we already talked about, is that it's really difficult for us to understand. Now, what does this actually mean? What does it mean, when people say that they don't trust their leaders, do we know that? Often, we just make stuff up? And we say, oh, then we need to do one more Townhall. But is that solving anything? I don't know. I'm just guessing. Right. 

 

Julie Ford   

I think we've touched on this briefly. But if you could summarize. Why do you think? Or what do you think the limitations of measuring employee engagement scores are? If we could just summarize those, I think that would be helpful for the audience. 

 

Jonas   

Limitations of what did you say? 

 

Julie Ford   

And relying on employee engagement scores? 

 

Jonas   

yeah, I think a few. I mean, actually, one of the things we haven't spoken too much about is that it's often it's only measured once a year, or two times a year, which I think is really difficult to work with. And then we often we as a functional internal comms, we're not very often in charge of defining the questions. So, we have to rely on someone else asking the questions, because it's part of a methodology that we might not understand a scientific model, or whatever we call it. So, we don't really understand the crusade the algorithm behind. So that leads us to make, I would say, assumptions and leads us to make some conclusions that might be wrong. So, I think these are some of the flaws or limitations that employee engagement scores has. And then also, as I said, that we are just chasing this metric because we might be rewarded by it.. 

 

Priya   

Also limitations is, extending on what you said, definitely the once a year versus a conversation, so it's treated like a campaign once a year for organizations to talk to their employees, and they really should be having those conversations regularly. The big limitation is it isn't directly connected to business results. I use it for correlative for sure, just like you get a lot of correlative information on diversity, equity inclusion, but it really is that when I think about the Midas touch guide, the gold quilt process, if you will, for IABC, and the fact that every project starts with a set of business goals, what's the business goals and what is the business strategy? And then what are the communication objectives and the communication strategy that's going to drive those business goals? Right, and that's a key tenant of that program, the successful programs we see that we admire and hold up to that gold standard, make those connections. And so, there is nothing that comes out of those surveys, the engagement survey that creates the alignment to the business strategy. And that's the big opportunity. So, what I would say is we're trying to have an argument or conversation around either or. But when this is a key tenant of what HR is focused on, it has to be a build for me, because we do a disservice to start with saying, everything you do is wrong. And then you turn off your organizations and clients who have been, they have gotten a lot of attention from their leaders, because they've got a measurement. And they've got measurable data that they can talk to their leaders about. So, we talk about measurable data as well, we need to create that measurement within internal communications in order to drive the numbers conversation because the leaders understand the numbers. 

 

Mike   

But there's, but there's two really baked in limitations of the continued reliance on this number as a context setter for our work, one of which is that the annual or semi-annual campaign to drive up employee engagement survey participation, because one of the tenants of employee engagement surveys is that they must have extremely high participation is that it sucks a lot of the energy and certainly the budget out for any kind of other research that you might want to do with employees during the interim between those employee engagement surveys. And also, there might not be the leverage to get at least one or two decent questions into the survey itself. There's two questions that I like to use all the time. One of which is, what are the three biggest issues facing the organization? And what are the three most important things you're doing in your job? If you want to look at the alignment, you look at those two questions, and you can see very clearly, are people focused on the same things? Are they using the same sentiment to describe those things? Or perhaps, is there something getting in the middle between where the organization wants to go and where the employee thinks they have to do? The second piece of it is that employee engagement numbers inherently are all employee numbers. And most change in organization doesn't involve every employee being equally engaged. So, say, for instance, you're a hotel chain. And your McKinsey has told you that the check in process is where your real customer experience advantages, do you really need to engage the waitstaff and the housekeeping folks in exactly the same way as you engage the people involved in the checking process and the IT folks behind that? Employee engagement surveys have some really severe limitations, that merit some serious questions in a time of limited resources. 

 

Jonas   

In an employee engagement survey, you ask like, often you ask that kind of questions, which actually invites us to make a lot of different conclusions and end up with 1000s of activities. And then we end up making actually, doing nothing, that improves the business, or we risk focusing on 1000 things instead of two things. So, to your point of asking a few questions, that can be quite helpful sometimes, instead of asking 100 

 

Priya   

And often what we're changing is the easy things. Right? The easy so you see a lot more football tables and picnic tables, because it's easy for capital expenditure, versus making the real changes the employees are asking for that would really drive the engagement and, and programs for organized for those employees in the first place. So, we tend to stick to the low-hanging fruit to check a lot of boxes, versus actually make the long sustainable, change that needs to be happening in organizations. So that tends to be the fallback and then what it leaves - it creates a sense of distrust and a lack of credibility and usually results in lower participation. 

 

Mike   

It also distances us from specific business activities that again, actually help the organization make more money.  

 

Julie Ford   

All right. Well, let's jump into the next conversation here. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about technology. Um, how can technology help internal comms teams measure business impact and become more strategic in their organizations? 

 

Priya   

I mean, the bottom line for me is that the reason engagement scores have taken off, is it, you've got the benchmark, but you simply have numbers, and that's the world that is the language of leaders, right? Having worked in the retail industry for most of my career, it's all they know everything about numbers week, over week and year over year sales. They know, all the minutiae, like, the details, the numbers matter. And we need numbers to talk to leaders about and our organization about in terms of what works and what doesn't consumption, attention participation, are we actually getting the outcomes? And are we getting the people listening? Are they interested in what we have to say, what works and what doesn't, without having those numbers behind us, it's really hard to have a real conversation with leaders. 

 

Mike   

We need numbers, but we need our numbers, we need numbers that reflect the actual work that we do, and the actual impact that employee participation has on specific business activities. We can develop these numbers, I mean, we can develop these numbers, not only out of survey results, but we can develop them out of the words that people use in response to questions in the dialogue that they engage with on the communication platforms in a whole variety of places. The key thing is, that we need to maintain, in fact, intensify our belief in numbers. But we need to question each number that we use to burn to be represented, again, because the employee engagement score ultimately does not fully reflect the influence of internal communication. I mean, I did a takedown to the cute wall study. And I went through each of the questions and looked at, realistically, how much does internal comms, for instance, have to do with? Do you have a best friend at work? I mean, yes, we could start a speed dating program and a company, in fact, that might not be such a bad idea. But barring that we have very little influence on - Do you have a best friend at work? And that's a percent of the key 12 scores. So, I looked at and we had about influence over 40% of the Q 12 numbers, do we want to be driving ourselves to such an extent they have such a limited influence over since this almighty score? Or can we make that score less Almighty, and bring in some alternate measurements that actually reflect the impact that we have on the business? 

 

Jonas   

Maybe I should share a good case from Denmark actually, that nice illustrate what this is about a phone company called Hi3g, in the US. And they had a challenge, or they have oh, they always have a challenge with young people in the stores. So, they might be in the company for 10 or 12 months, right? So, onboarding is extremely important. Making sure that they know what phones are capable of, what one of the unique selling points for the phones is, and constantly knowing what's the right thing to do. And that was the challenge actually. So, they actually invested in a tool and internal comms tool that was able to send out communications on these phones. And when they tried when they didn't know enough about the concept that they should be pushed in a training video. And that you could see it would see the results about the knowledge scores in the different stores. And also you could send out SMS for instance from the CEO telling them that it was so important that they would, for instance, make sure that people would pay upfront so that they would not become, charged for something afterwards, and so on. So, all these kinds of small, small things, pieces of information was really, really important. They actually ended up they could see that sales increased, customer satisfaction was increasing and retention increased by a couple of months. That was really that was a great business case. Unfortunately, it was the sales department that invested in this tool. And this wasn't the internal comms department. But the point is that this is something we should be aware of that we actually should understand the business and see their needs. And it says there's so much technology out there today that can help. So why aren't we the ones who actually being the people, who are helping out here? 

 

Priya   

I love that story Jonas, because the truth is, we should know about them. There are investments that are being made by HR and IT and sales. There's data and information, there is like a mine on what to buy, a diamond mine of data that's available that we as communication professionals need to understand, to drive some of the changes and how to use those tools and meet people where they are. There are real opportunities. Whenever we're talking about employee engagement, or we're talking about tools, it's not an either-or, and it shouldn't be a competition. But it should be, how do we build on what's there to be able to demonstrate what adds value? So, I really like the idea of really understanding what's there and not having such a competition, because what I've often said to the very competitive organizations I've worked with, is if we're competing with ourselves, we're losing our focus on the competitors that we should be competing against. And there's just too much internal competition going on. We're more important, the little internal Olympics going on and that is actually impacting engagement. And if we're fighting amongst ourselves, we're not working together collaboratively with HR and IT and sales and marketing, and all those groups to actually drive that bigger opportunity because that's when we get the magic happening. 

 

Jonas   

Agree. So, it's about also being curious, and sometimes actually sometimes look into the customer experience or customer satisfaction service, and also the feedback that people that people share there, because that can give you some insights into how can we actually help? Sometimes it is about the people in the stores, they don't know enough about stuff, and so on. So, we need also sometimes to be proactive, and curious. 

 

Mike   

Especially with open-ended data, open-ended data can give you such insights. And at the same time, even though it shows up as words, you can turn those words into numbers with relatively limited effort. At the same time, we are moving into, there's a lot of conversation about recession in the atmosphere right now. And collaboration and building are great. But if there's going to be a competition for budget, a situation where an organization's spending x times on employee engagement surveys, as they are an internal communication technology is a situation that merits some challenge. 

Julie Ford   

Yeah. All right. Well, let's jump ahead to the next question. Does alignment beat engagement? Who wants to kick this one-off? 

 

Mike 

First round knockoff 

 

Jonas   

That's a tricky question. But in the end, engagement needs some kind of direction. So, it also alignment. It's totally fundamental to me that, also in terms of the example I just shared, if you don't align people, what are people actually then going to do in the end? I must say that, to me, a lot of the things that we do in internal comms is about aligning and ensuring alignment. And that's really important. And the way we then can do it is in different ways, right? To inform people, instruct people, inspire people, entertain people, and so on. We have a whole toolbox going into that in different ways. But alignment is one of the most important things we actually should be focusing on. I don't know what you're thinking. 

 

Priya   

Well, alignment is more important than engagement. Because in terms of the order of activity, you have to start with strategy, then you have to say, what is it going to take to align people against that strategy? And then the outcome is the business results and the engagement. Right. So, again, those are all part of the process. It's never an either/or argument. But it really is important that it's what we often talk about is if we don't have a strategy in the first place, we don't know what success looks like for our organizations, not for sending out the tactics, then it's really hard for us to do the right work. And then what we end up doing instead is set creating a lot of noise that actually hurts the business and hurts ourselves versus delivering the end result for the organization. 

 

Mike   

That's a really excellent point, Priya. And I mean, the way I would look at it is if we were looking at alignment, engagement, and targeting, I would probably say this alignment, number one, targeting number two, engagement. Number three, because you've got to look at who you're engaging in and how much effort you're going to spend on engaging them. And there's no point in doing that, unless you really know what direction you're going in and what the priorities are. And that's another reason why I resist the idea of continuing to endorse the use of benchmark employee engagement surveys. Because those surveys have nothing to do with the agenda that each organization is pursuing, or the way it's going about pursuing that agenda. It only has to do with how few people feel about it in the and the amount of money that's spent on employee engagement surveys can be put to much more sustainable use, particularly in a time where we're coming out of the pandemic, and the way organizations operate will be even more different than they were in the past. 

Julie Ford   

Right. Thanks, Mike. And for our final formal question, before we get to the Q&A, if there's one piece of advice, you could offer internal comms professionals who want to grow and evolve their careers, what would it be? 

 

Priya   

Focus on the strategy, not the tactics. We're coming out of the pandemic, first of all, it'd be interesting to see what happens to engagement scores, they're going down, they're taking a nosedive, that's aligned to the talent, retention rates, and all of those things that we're experiencing, since COVID, people are not, they are hybrid, so they're not building the cultures, they may not have a best friend at work anymore. Some of them have never actually been to work, right, and are not building those relationships that they did in the past. But what we're also seeing is internal communication professionals who are working long hours running on hamster wheels, doing a lot of stuff, but not necessarily having a lot of impact. And, and that's what makes me sad that we really need to be very, very purposeful, and very strategic about our approach so that we're creating that alignment for the organizations and ending in the results, and the impacts the organizations will see as valuable. 

 

Jonas   

Think holistic - try to see the business as one whole piece. And then also not assume that your leaders, the CEO, and so on, know everything about internal comms, ask questions. Be curious. Make sure to challenge people because it's sometimes people assume that internal comms can do specific things. But if you want to jump out of the hamster wheel, you have to sometimes, dare to ask some more questions and challenge people. 

 

Mike   

The most important thing goes completely outside of this discussion, about tactics about strategy, it's got something a lot more to do with how we connect with each other as professionals. We, in internal comms, in particular suffer from something I call the Great isolation, because a lot of us either work independently, or we work as maybe the one or two internal comms people in a small team. And we don't have a lot of peers, we don't have a lot of colleagues. We don't have people we can bounce ideas off of on a human-human day-to-day basis. And I'd like to put in a plug for, I'd like to put in a plug for something that Priya is doing something called the leader like me, have a look at her program, see if it applies to you. But she's building a great community of comms people. IABC has been building a great community of comms people, various networks, WeLeadComms, which I've started, has helped to build some more community among comms people. The biggest thing is there's strength in numbers that we share with management, but there's really strength in numbers when we're working together.  

 

Jonas 

I'm sure like, I'm also having a little bit of..... 

 

Mike  

Oh, connect minds, of course. We all have our own networks. How scary. 

Julie Ford   

Great, awesome. Thank you, guys. So that concludes the formal discussion. We're gonna jump over to the Q&A portion of the webinar. To everyone in the audience. This is your chance to have your questions answered by our speakers. So go ahead and enter them in the chat box now. Sorry, the Q&A box. Any questions we don't get to live today, we will answer on our blog, and we'll send you a link by email. We do have quite a few questions, so I don't think we will get through all of them. So, I'm just going to pick and choose here are a few that really stood out to me. The first one is, what about a KPI focused on preventing or minimizing active employee disengagement? Might there be a stronger correlation between active disengagement and organizational performance? Who wants to take this one first?  

 

Mike   

You think there are a lot of definitions of engagement, wait till you see the list of definitions for disengagement. The thing that I really hate about the idea of disengagement is that it actually degrades a number of really constructive traits. People who question may be seen as disengaged when they're, in fact, the most engaged people in the organization. People who don't care about the company song, but do their work diligently every day, in certain roles are more than engaged enough to succeed in their tasks. The key thing you want to look at certainly, you want to look at the negativity towards the organization, that's a legitimate measurement to look at. But I wouldn't dismiss those who have negative thoughts as being beyond redemption. 

 

Jonas   

I also struggle with the notion that is, when you say 30% are disengaged or whatever, it is a person who is constantly disengaged. I'm not sure that it's the case that people are constantly disengaged, over the years because they've answered a survey, once, right, maybe they're disengaged today. Maybe they won't be engaged tomorrow, I don't know. But that's also one of the flaws in these surveys, I would say. 

 

Julie Ford   

Anything to add Priya 

 

Priya   

I am probably with everyone else here, I'm a big believer in appreciative inquiry, right, start from a place where people are good, they're great, or we tend to look for the people who are bad. And we seem to be surrounded by that. I believe that our employees are knowledgeable, I believe our employees are good. They want to come in and make a difference and have a job, some of them do just want to come and deliver what they need to deliver and leave for the day. That's okay. For me, as long as that's their role in, we imagine that 90% of the people are going above and beyond. But we will only give 10% of them a raise as part of the bell curve on performance management processes. There's a disconnect there for me. So, I w I would rather say what do we let's meet people, again, where they are, managed by objective. And that's something that the managers are going to have to learn as we go through a hybrid workforce. But what do we expect people to do? Are they delivering on what their commitments are? And though there will be some who go above and beyond but imagine, imagine, if everybody simply did their jobs. We have this idea that they need to be above and beyond, they don't in most organizations, if we just took them to what they need to do to deliver. And they, they were aware of what we needed from them. They understood why if they actually did what they were supposed to do, and believed in the cause, and we're connected to the purpose. Again, what is possible is incredible. 

 

Julie Ford   

Thank you. So, this one is also related to engagement, but specifically for frontline employees. So, somebody has submitted a question that says, how do you best engage frontline employees? And why should they care about your company's culture? 

 

Priya   

I love frontline employees. I worked in retail for a long time I used to Manage Job and all of the Communications for the largest nurses' union. So essential workers, those who, again, it's the same things that we talked about why should they be really excited about the company? What do they need to understand in some cases I remember, the key is the manager. If you've got a manager in the store, you really knew the good ones versus the ones who people were struggling with. there's a lot of focus on manager communications and manager training. They usually get the job because they were really good at doing the job, not because they were good at managing people, we can make a big difference there, that'll will make a big difference for those who are on the front line. But also, really helping those individuals feel like they're there more than just their job. That's what people are looking for. Through COVID and the pandemic, what they realized, because they were at home or, or even if they were on the frontline, that there they were important. And we lost a little bit about that when we did our pots and pans. But then now they're still struggling every single day. How do we make sure that we talk about their stories? And how do we really say thank you, people, talk about big rewards, but an everyday Thank you makes a big difference. 

 

Julie Ford   

Mike, Jonas, anything to add here? 

 

Mike   

Nothing to add on frontline. But I wanted to take the point about the manager because there's a lot of focus in internal communication about supporting managers. And I just want to turn that on its head for a second. Again, we're moving into a time of potentially limited resources. And a lot of what managers do is help employees navigate ambiguity in the business and between their own role and what they're supposed to be doing prioritization. If internal comms was able to do a better job of that, could we perhaps be more efficient in the way we manage our businesses? If we want to talk about bottom-line impact on the company, I heard a statistic for men advisors that about 12% of employees or management or central staff, if we could help get that number down to 10%, certainly our impact on the business could be much more positively received by the boardroom. 

 

Jonas   

I mean, in terms of engaging the front staff, first of all, I mean, my own experiences, it's people who are working in the front staff as front staff they are often the most engaged. And one of the challenges that I see as internal comms person is that we could be better at sharing their stories internally, engaging them in sharing the stories, listening to them. Give them a voice. Because I mean, still, we're still in a situation often where we aren't even able to reach them, with our channels and so on. Sometimes they are even left alone. And that's kind of sad, actually. Because it's like sometimes with we still think about no licenses, money, business case. That's mostly for the office staff. So, and that's so important for the frontline. So, that's a challenge, actually, that they have sometimes been left alone. And the most valuable information and stories are out there. And so that's a big opportunity for us to focus. 

 

Julie Ford   

Definitely. All right, we have time for one more, and this is a good one to end off on. Given the great resignation and the war for talent these days. Would it be mission impossible to get HR to drop Gallup 12? Any thoughts on this? 

 

Mike   

No. That's my thought. Everything needs to be up for grabs right now. If we if we're like rethinking the workforce rethinking the workplace rethinking our mission, but we have to keep the Gallup Q 12. No matter what I mean, that's insane. I mean, there are organizations that work very well with the Gallup Q 12. Because they buy the whole Gallup system that goes with the Gallup Q 12. And those organizations may decide to keep it, but the reality is that first of all, many organizations, thank God don't use the Gallup q 12. Or some facsimile of it. But as I said, we as internal comms folk, particularly because these tools do not necessarily put our contribution at the greatest advantage. Have nothing to lose. If we can create a better case for doing something differently. But at the same time, yeah, there's a lot of inertia, there's a lot of momentum, there's an easy-to-understand tool. And, boy, it's easy to talk about at the country club. I'm 82%, you're 80%, I'm better than you, you can't completely overcome that. 

 

Priya   

I have, yeah, my instinct is that it'll be hard to get, you won't replace Gallup 12 until there's something to replace it with. It's still something that people use, but I really am excited about, some of the focus on, like, why not individual employees that making things a little bit more personal with employee experience, and what, acknowledging that not everybody's the same. And that ultimately, we can do better if we can improve the conversations that are happening with managers and employees on what they want, that is still aligned to what the organization wants. And those things are coming, we're starting to see early indications. But it'll take a little while before people - won't leave Gallup 12 until they're making a decision on something else that replaces it. 

 

Jonas   

Yeah, and the question is, what is going to replace this? Is this something completely different, or something very similar? That will be interesting, but we can see some platforms are able to take something about correlations between your employee engagement and how many people are going to leave within a nine-month time and so on. So, that's going to come just to go small, again, focus on the small things, and focusing on the data that is able to give us some clues, that makes us able to improve stuff, right? So they are definitely out there that are able to listen to what people are doing on Yammer and so on, what their behaviors are. So that is also interesting, that's very insightful that they can help us actually do stuff. Rather than getting these 80% or 90% results that we can't really do anything about, trouble insights. So, it's also important to keep in mind that measurement is very much also about focusing on the small data points that can actually help us. 

 

Mike   

That's a fantastic point. I mean, I'd settle not for taking out the Q 12, But for being able to do the 5% additional, real research alongside it, so that we have some insights to work off. 

 

Julie Ford   

Right. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. To you, Mike, Priya Jonas, for joining us today. Because it was an amazing conversation and really insightful. So, we've seen a couple of comments that are saying thank you so much for your insights, and that people find it valuable. So, thank you for taking the time to join us today. 

 

Priya 

Glad I finally made it. I’m so glad.  

 

Julie 

All the way from the UK....Great everyone. So, thank you to all the attendees who joined today. We do want to keep the conversation going. So please follow Sparrow Connected, #WeLeadComms on LinkedIn, and connect with Mike Priya and Jonas. Also, I hope that you'll share the e-book and the webinar recording with your colleagues and your leadership team. And keep an eye out for our next webinar coming up in September. We'll be sending out email invitations for that later on. And finally, you can get in touch with Sparrow Connected for a demo of our internal comms platform. Just reach out to us via email via the website and we'll get you connected. Thanks again everyone for joining and we hope to see you next time.