Listening – The key to activate employee engagement

By Roger Bolton and Ethan McCarty, Global Head of Employee and Innovation Communications, Bloomberg

In a dynamic discussion a few weeks ago, a small group of Page and Page Up members meeting in New York City explored the challenges of engaging employees in support of the enterprise.

In this era of radical transparency and low trust in institutions, employees have a lot more impact on public perception than ever. Engaging them in building and telling the company story thus is critical to building stakeholder engagement and trust.

The discussion was off the record, so we won’t reveal names or specific examples, but the key takeaways are worth sharing.

  1. Listening is the key to getting the story right. To make the company’s narrative really resonate, it should reflect the mission and purpose of the enterprise and relate to the actual work employees do. The best way to build the story is by listening to employees at all levels, not by huddling with the old guard at HQ. Everyone in the room described elaborate listening programs that were not just inclusive of the execs.
  2. Make it easy for employees to get access to shareable content. We had a great discussion of available platforms. Of course, the content must be authentic to their experience or it won’t resonate. See point 1.
  3. Motivate middle management. No surprise here, but middle management can be a blocker. Some in the room actually seemed to activate the very top and the bottom of the organization, but this could be a perilous end-run around middle managers. A better approach might be to engage middle management in message creation (see point 1) and find champions who love living, modeling and telling the story.
  4. Encourage employees to tell their stories on Glassdoor. Disgruntled ones do it anyway, so actively encouraging all to participate can help to present a more balanced picture. That’s assuming, of course, that you’ve observed point 1 already and have listened and responded to their concerns in a meaningful and material way (not just messaging).

One more thought: A lot of this listening and sharing is enabled by technology. If used thoughtfully to enable authentic human connections, digital engagement systems can be incredibly effective. All of us must remain diligent, though, about resisting the misuse of technology that has plagued the social media environment, where fake news and fake personas distort authentic dialogue between real people.