← IC Matters · Best Practice

How internal communications can drive employee experience – we take a closer look.

Tim VaughanTim Vaughan·

It’s hard to avoid employee experience these days, isn’t it? No matter where you turn it seems to appear like one of those website ads that follow you everywhere, after elbowing employee engagement out of the spotlight.

I must admit I’ve always had a bit of a struggle warming to ‘engagement’. Maybe it’s because definitions are so varied or even forced and contrived, but I’m pretty sure it’s also got to do with the fact that I never, EVER, had a discussion with anybody about how engaged they were with the company they worked for.

They might have used other varied and colorful words to describe their work experience, but ‘engaged’  or ‘disengaged’ somehow never figured. That said, of course, the level of disengaged employees in organizations has been a massive and persistent problem globally for many years, and it’s not improving.

But a new white paper which will be published by Poppulo next week, Driving Employee Experience: The Critical Role of Internal Communications, points out that the existing models of “engagement” are under severe fire.

“The first problem is that there are many and varied definitions of engagement, which are interpreted and actioned in equally diverse ways, with widely differing claims for ROI impact. The result, according to the Corporate Leadership Council is conceptual confusion and unclear strategic roadmaps.

“The second problem is that engagement has too often been reduced to HR surveys, slogans and, free lunches. Employees tend to see these as superficial an extraneous: manager-driven, transactional, unevenly actioned and a waste of time,” says author Deepa Reddy.

As Gallup has pointed out, a highly talented but disengaged worker may outperform his or her peers. And I have known people who felt passionate about and highly engaged with their work, but at the same time totally disengaged, dissatisfied and unhappy with the organization they did that work for.

But, ‘experience’, I really get. We’ve all had good, great, or sometimes awful work experiences as employees. How many times has someone told you “It was a great experience”? No need to ask how many times someone said: “I felt very engaged working there”, or the obverse.

So it’s no surprise that focus on employee experience (EX) seems to be everywhere at the moment, because it simply makes sense. There’s nothing contrived about experience and it goes way beyond semantics.

The experience we have working for an organization will define our attitude to it, our performance while we’re there and, importantly, how we describe it to others after we leave.

While EX might be a new construct, it has long been a reality even if under a different guise. Neither is employee experience being recognized as a key influencer of the customer experience some new revelation. In the past, people like Sir Richard Branson summed it up in a different way: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you look after your employees they will look after your clients”.

Sure, there’s a critical difference these days in the understanding and appreciation that the employee experience doesn’t just start the day you join a company and end the day you leave.

It encompasses every touchpoint along the journey from being attracted to an organization in the first place, to the hiring and induction process and every interaction through to the point you leave with a positive (or other) exit experience.

Attracting and retaining the best talent might be a highly persuasive reason for smart companies to focus on employee experience, but they also know the financial impact of positive EX is beyond compelling:

  • Studies by IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute in conjunction with the WorkHuman Analytics & Research Institute show that organizations that score in the top 25% on employee experience report double the return on sales and nearly three times the return on assets.

Of course, great internal communication is one of the key contributors to a positive employee experience. After all, two of the principle elements of IBM’s Employee Experience Index have communications at their core:

  • Belonging -feeling part of a team, group or organization, and
  • Purpose – understanding why one’s work matters.

The forthcoming Poppulo white paper – which is linked to ethnographic research  we conducted across a range of industries in the United States and Europe earlier this year, and the results of which will be published this month – points out that the “shift from traditional engagement to a more human-centered experience radically alters emphasis in some significant ways.

“A shift to EX means thinking of employees not just as workers or recipients (of benefits, instructions, tasks, etc.) but as active participants and even co-creators of company culture.

“No matter how experience is crafted or how the meanings of work are generated, each depends significantly on there being in place a robust system of internal communication built  around an understanding of how employees work. The IC role is a crucial connecting and stabilizing element in organizational communication.”


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