Engagement, engagement, engagement

– and not the diamond ring type…

Engagement has been around for a while now as a buzzword; it appears on lots of conference schedules and is subject of many a journal and article. But what does it mean in reality? Whose definition is correct? Why does it matter and what is the role corporate communicators play in helping to increase, measure and gauge engagement in companies?

All this and more were subject of the second roundtable hosted by the lovely people at Able and How in London this week which was called ‘Engaging your employees with your strategy during a recession’. I was sat with comms professionals from a variety of companies including GE Healthcare, COI, Royal Mail, the FA, Sony Ericsson and Abbey.

Able and How MD Paul Arnold introduced six factors that affect employees’ willingness or ability to engage with and deliver the strategy during a recession:

1) Workload – having too much, or too little to do
2) Fairness – perceptions of how decisions have been made, people treated
3) Organisational support – eg supporting the work/life balance
4) Supervisor support – the frequency and quality of interactions
5) Involvement in decisions – particularly in decisions directly affecting the employee
6) Reward and recognition – reduction of, opportunities for, effort may have not delivered results – how can the organisation recognise effort?

This then led to a discussion about ways in which communications engage employees with company strategies and points that were raised included: When involving employees in decision making, it’s what you involve them in that is key. Employee commitment and engagement can be developed by empowering them to solve local problems that have a direct impact on their work. How do you get people to even listen to strategic messages when there is a black cloud of uncertainty, or future change, hanging over them?

I’d love to say we came up with a magic formula and concrete answers to all the questions and ideas, but sadly that would be fibbing. However what I did take away from the discussion was just how valuable sessions like this are. Being able to share ideas, suggestions and war stories with peers in the comms industry is incredibly useful, from sharing credit crunch comms ideas to practical tools and techniques for breaking down strategies to make them realities. After all, we are in the business of communicating so makes perfect sense we practice what we preach and do so ourselves.

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