Seven guiding principles for successful employee engagement

An employee engagement strategy is a powerful thing. It can help build pride in a brand, driving rational and emotional engagement with it. It can bring meaning and definition to any new brand elements—such as the positioning, the vision, the mission, or the values. And it can inspire employees to bring the brand to life in meaningful ways, whether they have a direct interaction with guests or they support those who do.

When the brand is used as an inspirational rallying cry to unite employees across an organization, the employee engagement strategy has been successful. After over 30 years of experience in creating employee engagement strategies, we have found seven guiding principles to follow for success.

1. Communicate in a way that’s highly engaging.

The communication efforts that stem from the employee engagement strategy must be fun, fresh, and inspiring. They need to break through the clutter much in the same way an external campaign would—and all communications should match the personality of the brand.

2. Streamline all messages.

Every message that is used should be meaningful. It should also add to the brand story being told to team members and do so using the brand voice.

3. Target all messages.

It’s important that messages are relevant to whatever specific audiences may be within your organization. This may mean you adapt your messages in different ways for different audiences to achieve greatest impact.

4. Paint a vision for the future.

An employee engagement strategy is a practical tool, but it should also be an inspiring and aspirational one. Because learning to live a brand is a long process, it should be treated that way, with many communication events planned to inspire over a period of many months, all with the final objective of brand advocacy—in other words, with the goal of creating a group of employees who are true brand ambassadors.

5. Ensure everyone understands his or her role in the journey.

A brand can’t be successful without the most critical people of all—the employees. They must understand they are important and feel they have a voice in the definition of the brand. If they understand the case for change and the value of redefining it, they will be more willing to go on the journey. It must make sense to them and they must be given the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to support the brand and to live it.

6. Use both a top-down and bottom-up grassroots approach

A steering team comprised of executives usually determines a brand. Ideally, during the process, other employees are asked for their input. If so, their role in brand definition should be highlighted in employee engagement communication materials. But if not, it’s not too late. It’s important to drive engagement by allowing employees to define certain aspects of a brand, even after the brand is announced in a top-down way. For example: hold a contest to allow employees to create a design or phrase for a tote bag. Or hold a contest to allow employees to define the company’s new values with photographs and hang the winning images around the office. In this way, employees will feel like they are contributing to the brand and will therefore be more inspired to live it.

7. Include a feedback loop

Throughout the process, it’s important to keep a finger on engagement so employees know they’ve been heard and you know you’ve been successful in reaching them. This doesn’t have to be a complicated thing to do—in fact, using a quick five question survey can be very effective in determining if employees are learning, are engaged, and also what things still remain unclear to them about the brand.

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