Chief Executive, the research and media organization, surveyed CEOs earlier this year and their top priority surprised me! 60% said “retaining and engaging employees”— ahead of priorities you would expect to hear from a CEO: Improving cost structure (56%), gaining market share (51%) and achieving target profitability (50%). Keep in mind: “Retaining and engaging employees” was also the top priority last year, but it’s up three points.
This is useful data for internal communicators—helping you build your strategic advisor role while demonstrating how you can support the business. It’s an opportunity to check in with your CEO and senior leadership team: How do your priorities compare with the Chief Executive survey?
Let’s assume your CEO agrees with the Chief Executive’s data. What role can Internal Communication (the function) play? Here’s how to dig into any C-level priority and make a difference—gathering the right stakeholders and orchestrating a cohesive effort.
1. Set real objectives
Don’t be satisfied with a priority like “retain and engage employees.” Put your detective hat on and articulate objectives. You’ll likely need to partner with stakeholders, such as HR to gather the right benchmark data. For example,
- What’s our turnover? What should it be? What’s optimal for our organization?
- How do we define engagement? What aspects are important to us, such as creating more opportunities for employees to be involved in decision making?
The more precise you are, the easier it will be to measure. For example, “decrease turnover by 3%.”
With objectives in hand, it’s time to understand what could help the organization achieve those objectives and what might get in the way. It’s time to speak with employees.
- Why did you join the organization? Why do you stay?
- Where are we stuck with engagement—the key elements we believe are important?
- How can we improve the employee experience so we make this a great place to work?
Now it’s time to develop a plan to address the challenges and help the organization reach those objectives, including the role Internal Communication and other functions will play. With a priority such as “retaining and engaging employees,” it’s clear that interaction and involvement will be required, such as brainstorms, workshops, prototyping and focus groups to test ideas.
And, of course, measure and report progress. Are you hitting the objectives you set? As you gather results, consider environmental factors that may influence your outcomes. For example, when it comes to turnover, did the economy grow or decline, did the unemployment rate increase or decrease—factors that influence employees’ decisions to move jobs.
How one communication team supported a company-wide initiative
One of our clients, the Internal Communication team at a healthcare company, explored the issue of improving the employee experience. As a first step, the team led research about the employee experience and identified five challenges: onboarding, people leaders, digital, technology and sites/physical offices.
Then cross-functional teams were formed to address each challenge: developing actions and reporting on progress. After pivotal moments, the Internal Communication team went to employees to gather more data: Has onboarding improved? Are we doing a better job with making administrative tasks easier for people managers?
And since this effort was led by the Internal Communication team, communication was peppered throughout the work: research findings, plans for improvement, progress and results, and feedback from employees.