Internal communications is evolving: a good internal communications framework will be the foundation to increasing employee engagement. A business that is looking to increase engagement should put communications at the centre of its strategy.

Increasing employee engagement in an organisation is something that takes time and patience. Depending on your starting point, an engagement strategy can take between 18-24 months before you begin to see the green shoots of progress.

Many leaders may not always recognise that there is a hybrid of factors that contribute to increased engagement; and often good communications at the top level of an organisation is the fundamental building block for an engaged workforce.

Employee engagement can essentially be translated into the relationship between the business and its people. The ‘business’ can be categorised as the leaders that define the strategy and direction; and for those leaders that embrace communication it is a strong foundation to a culture of high engagement.

In businesses where there has been significant change a culture of mistrust and negativity can exist; and to turn that around so engagement is going upwards you need to win back the hearts and minds of your people. Employees are a very cynical audience, and will see through a gimmick as a tool to increase engagement. To build a culture of high engagement, it is essential that you build sustainable foundations within your business.

To identify the barriers to engagement you need an insight. There are many ways you can go out into your business and speak to your people; either through a survey or focus groups. But you cannot begin to influence engagement without that first step of beginning the conversation.

The trap that some organisations fall into is to leave ‘engagement’ to the HR function. HR has a key role to play in driving engagement, but ultimately the real influencers to engagement will be the leaders within the business. That is why it is critical that engagement should be owned by a CEO; pulling in expertise from HR and Internal Communications when needed and using these functions to drive the strategy.

I think it is interesting to look at engagement from a strategic perspective; it needs to have the buy in from a senior level as a long term plan. Increasing engagement cannot be a tick box exercise or be perceived as something that can change overnight. Once you have a structure that is suited to increasing engagement the expectation should be that you will begin to see progress as part of a 2-3 year plan, dependant on your starting point.

It is interesting that more organisations are recognising the link between high engagement and good communications, and are aligning the two strategies. Increasing engagement is dependent on a multitude of factors that can be mostly associated with change. All organisations are on a journey; and the key to engaging people is how effectively you sell in that journey and take your people with you.

Internal Communications is slowly evolving into a broader concept around employee engagement. As a function it can have a critical role to play in shifting employee attitude around change and building and managing the channels for employees to interact with the business and its leaders; managing the core relationship that influences engagement.

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