Often, when we think about the employee experience (EX) journey, we put internal communications into one of the phases. Usually engagement. But why is that? Yes, engaging with our people is a key priority for internal communications teams, but why are we leaving it to the engage phase to start?
Now, I may have a slight bias toward internal communication given that my experience is rooted in it, and it is my first love when it comes to my career — you never forget your first love! I always tell the companies I’m working with that great internal communication is what will make your employee experience journey a success.
First, let’s look at why employee experience is such a hot topic at the moment.
I’m sure many of you are sick of hearing about the war on talent, the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, but all of it comes down to employee experience. Up until quite recently in history, employees were expected to be happy to have a job that paid them an OK wage. When I started my career 20 years ago, it was extremely common to find a company and then stay in that company for a long time — if not your whole career!
Things have changed. It’s now much more common to view your career as a series of “projects.” Each project will usually last one to two years and give you the skills you need to get to the next stage. As an employee, this is great. As an employer … not so much. First, it costs a company money each time they lose talent. Second, it can weaken the culture if people keep leaving or if teams have to pick up additional work due to a lack of resources. A great employee experience is how organizations can reduce this cost — by retaining great talent and developing a robust pipeline of talent for future openings.
How does internal communication fit into this journey? For me, it’s there at the very start. Creating a positive employee experience means that we start communicating with our new people the moment they sign their contract. Imagine if people join your organization — which we all know can be terrifying — already armed with information about the company, its strategy, its goals, the part they play, and even simple things like what to expect in their first week or month. It’s great for people to feel secure and excited when they join, but it’s also great for the company as we get new starters who are engaged with our purpose ready to hit the ground running.
It doesn’t stop there. One of the things I get asked about most is how to communicate to its talent what a company is doing from an employee experience point of view so we can showcase the great work that is going on. The answer is always communication.
Once, I was working with a client who had a huge issue with attrition. After holding focus groups, 121 conversations and looking through all the exit interviews, I found that one of the biggest reasons for people leaving, or just being generally unsatisfied, was that they felt that they couldn’t develop within the company. Not only that, but there was no appetite from the company to provide training, career paths or mentoring. Simply put, the “develop” stage of the employee experience journey just wasn’t there. Except it was. All of this was going on, but no one was talking about it! Promotions were high, there was tons of training going on, they had set up mentoring, you could move teams, request to work on projects. It was one of the best development initiatives I’d ever seen. So, what was the fix? Communication of course! We used employees to tell the story of how they developed, showcasing all the great things that the company had done to support them. Through articles, videos, Slack messages and stand-ups, we wove in the story of how the company had made development its priority. The result? Attrition dropped by 23%, and there was a flurry of internal referrals.
That’s just one example where weaving in communication moments and tactics throughout the employee journey can help support it at every stage, which in turn creates more engaged people who want to listen to what you have to say. It also allows us to listen. We all know that the return on investment in internal communication can be hard to measure. By working with your employee experience teams, you can add moments of listening at each stage so that we can see what works and what we could improve.
Communication is an essential part of delivering a superb experience for employees. A good employee experience gives internal communication what it needs to be successful. Who would’ve thought that my first career love and my current career love could be such good friends?
Lucy Kemp is employee experience strategist at Redefining Communications. Lucy works with organizations to tackle strategic employee experience challenges to map out their employee experience and communications journey.