Best Practice

Improve the Employee Experience by helping workers feel pride in their job

For many people, the work they do each day feels like drudgery — just something to get through before they can go home.

When employees feel emotionally detached from their work, and see it simply as a means to a paycheck, they’re unlikely to be engaged in what they do.

Employees that care about the work they do each day and feel genuine pride in their contribution will both do better work and stick with the company for longer.

But how do you take an employee that just shows up for the paycheck and turn them into someone who feels pride in the work they do? 

In a Poppulo webinar on employee experience management, Ananya Roy from Human Factors International talked about the importance of helping employees find meaning in the work they do, and how internal communications professionals can work to make that happen. 

She cited the Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace which found that only 15% of the global workforce is involved in and enthusiastic about their work. 

“That sounds like a shockingly low number, right?” she asked. “But it’s no surprise given the fundamental issues with the existing models of internal engagement.”

Namely, most employee engagement initiatives still center the company and what executives want from employees, instead of taking an employee-first approach.

Roy emphasizes the importance of shifting away from “HR surveys, slogans, and free lunches“—strategies that employees find superficial—in exchange for taking a real look at the everyday employee experience and looking for ways to make it more meaningful. 

What Pride in Work Looks Like

To illustrate the difference employee pride can make, Roy shared a few examples of what employees that find pride in their work look like.

She painted the picture of “a product builder at a health care component manufacturing company, who sees advertisements on his way home, which show how the device he makes saves lives.” Even though the ads aren’t targeting him, they provide him a reminder of the real value of the work he does.

But what about all the companies whose work doesn’t literally save lives? She also described “a worker at a supermarket distribution center who receives automated work orders from a speech-activated headset.”

That sounds a bit less inspiring at first. But “being directed by artificial intelligence in this manner works better for her than being bossed about by a boss. This week, she gets work instruction while at the same time enjoying her autonomy.” Having work that’s more self-directed gives her more ownership over the role and makes her feel more of a connection to it. 

These stories and a couple of others she shared demonstrate that what meaning looks like varies based on the employee and what matters to them. But if you can find the thing that matters to your employees, you can help change the perspective they have when they show up for work each day. 

Roy recommends three steps IC can take to accomplish this. 

1. Work to understand your employees

Businesses are starting to think and talk more about the value of understanding and improving the customer experience. Roy suggests that you can apply a lot of the same principles used in CX to improve the employee experience at your company as well

First and foremost, you need to make getting to know your employees a priority.

“Internal Communications must become a source of foundational knowledge about its own target: the employees,” said Roy. “That means listening to employees and staying attuned to their needs.”

She recommends collecting all the details and data you have about your employees to start. That probably means accessing HR records and getting in touch with managers in different departments to better understand the day-to-day of the jobs employees do. 

Borrowing another concept from CX, she recommends using the information you learn to create an employee persona— a “snapshot of the behaviors, motivations, emotions, interests, and values of a group of similarly minded employees.” 

This will help you get inside the heads of different types of employees and start to better understand their values.

2. Find out what matters to them

Getting to know your employees will help with this, but it’s a unique question you need to work out. What motivates them? What do they care about?

“This question goes wider than just work and communications,” explained Roy. “It focuses explicitly on identifying moments of meaning-making.”

There are a couple of aspects of this she explores. First, you want to understand what your employees’ expectations of the company and what their role there is, and examine how well the company supports those expectations.

Any distance between their expectations and the reality of how the company treats them will affect how they feel about the job, and how they think the company sees them. If you can recognize that distance, you can start to do something about it.

In addition, you want to examine employees’ relationship with their work on three levels: intellectual, emotional, and social. 

Roy elaborates, “There’s the employee’s intellectual or rational understanding of their financial, developmental, and professional well being. Then there’s the affective or emotional valuation and enjoyment of work in all its aspects.

Finally, there’s the social side including the interdependence of job roles, feedback from others, opportunities, or support from co-workers.”

You want to try to understand what an employee’s experience is like now on each level, and figure out which of the three they’re likely to value most. Then you’ll know what to prioritize in your efforts to bring more meaning into their relationship with work. 

3. Use storytelling

If listening gives us the employee point of view, the moments that matter, and the prevalence of ways by which work acquires meaning and significance, then storytelling is the synthesis that…feeds these insights into other internal processes,” said Roy.

Use the information you’ve gained to build connections between different people, departments, and initiatives. IC doesn’t have the power to single-handedly create the ideal employee experience, but you do have the power to gather the right information and start connecting the dots to develop of the story of what needs to happen to get there. 

“For example, [IC] can connect the dots between company strategy and the employee’s daily tasks, or build the connections between support services and the customer,” explains Roy. “And by doing that can help reinforce the values, commitments, and thinking that matters.”

Help Create an Employee Experience That Inspires Pride

“For the workplaces of the future, it will be important that people can clearly see the value of the work they do,” said Roy.  For employees to be truly engaged with the work they do, and proud of their role in the company, they can’t feel like cogs in a machine.

IC can play an important role in helping a company shift to a more human-centered approach to managing employees. By focusing not only on engagement but a holistic employee experience that gives priority to what your employees value, you can help build a company culture that helps your workforce find pride in their work.

Click on the image below to watch the Poppulo webinar Employee experience management – The critical role of internal communication”.

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