There is a distinction between employee experience and internal communication, writes Dan Holden.
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Employee experience is the journey and the interactions an employee has throughout their time with an organisation. This starts at recruitment and continues through the workplace culture to the exit process when they leave or retire. Understanding the different interactions an employee has, such as conversations with managers, peers, customers and their physical working environment all create the employee experience.
Internal communication is about creating a shared understanding, helping employees feel aligned with an organisation’s goals and purpose. This includes strategic thinking and the tactics, or channels, that will be used to communicate with colleagues. Effective internal communication allows information and communication to flow between the different employee groups, creating a shared understanding and meaning.
Employee experience and internal communication often overlap. Employee experience as the wider, overarching employee journey and internal communication as the way we help colleagues feel informed and engaged during their journey.
Creating a positive employee experience
Leaders play a critical role in enhancing and reinforcing employee experience. Activities include recognising colleagues’ reality, maintaining open and honest communications and having listening methods and providing feedback. Creating opportunities for two-way conversations across all levels of an organisation helps colleagues feel valued and appreciated. With more employees working remotely, leaders need to be more accessible as they aren’t as visible as they might have been in the past.
Leadership teams must be genuine in their approach, truly wanting to create an inclusive workplace culture. The expression ‘actions speak louder than words’ applies in this instance, with employees needing to see leaders demonstrating the values and behaviours of the organisation. Recognition is a key part of this and doesn’t always mean giving a physical award. Creating opportunities for employees to share concerns and worries and receive acknowledgement for their contribution can go a long way towards a positive employee experience.
Top three priorities for employees in 2024
Every organisation will be different, but throughout 2024, we’ll need to focus on helping remote employees feel connected with the organisation, maintaining positive wellbeing and providing certainty against all the events happening throughout the world.
Remote working isn’t new, and many employees working in front-line roles have always worked remotely from their organisation. It’s now at the forefront, with more organisations adopting hybrid and remote working practices. With the reduction of in-person contact, it’s harder for employees to feel a sense of belonging within their organisation and it can be harder to build and maintain trust with dispersed employees too.
The increasing pressures from the rise of living costs, crises affecting friends, family, and colleagues and the continued pace of technology development all impact employees’ wellbeing. Looking after our employees and equipping line managers needs to continue. Employees need more than signposting to an Employee Assistance Programme, they need to feel the human connection.
An additional focus is engaging employees in terms of creating deeper connections. Companies are finding it hard to engage employees and I think organisational listening is key, to make sure you’re tuned in to what is and isn’t being said.
The main reasons employees stay or leave
Pay, place and flexibility are top of mind for colleagues in the UK when it comes to leaving their employer. The 2023 report ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ by Ipsos Karian & Box and the Institute of Internal Communication found pay and benefits, career progression, the organisation’s environmental and social responsibilities and flexible working are key drivers for considering a new role.
Recognition and support from line managers are also key considerations, with colleagues wanting to feel valued and appreciated. This doesn’t need to be big gestures, but regular acknowledgements go a long way. More employees are also looking for alignment to their values and beliefs, mainly around environmental, social and governance (ESG). Employees are increasingly looking to their employers to take greater responsibility for these matters and the ethics displayed by their organisation.
Focus on EX as much as CX
Employee experience and customer experience are two sides of the same coin. What happens inside an organisation will be reflected outside, whether during conversations with customers, suppliers or the public. High customer satisfaction helps drive sales and, understandably, is a key focus for organisations; by improving the employee experience, retention rates can be improved. So greater knowledge is kept within the organisation, which customers will benefit from.
Workplaces where a culture of openness and creativity exists help employees feel motivated and inspired, creating the right conditions for them to thrive. They’ll seek new product and service offerings, looking for improvements for the customer journey and reducing any frustrations customers experience through ineffective processes.
An aligned employee experience and customer experience will result not only in benefits to customers and employees but also to the wider organisation. By monitoring the developments of both customer and employee experience and identifying continued opportunities for improvement, the results can help improve business performance.
Dan Holden, All Things IC
Dan Holden is a chartered PR practitioner and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and a certified member of the Institute of Internal Communication and has focused his communication career on internal communication. He’s worked in various sectors, including aviation, defence, charity, manufacturing and is a communication consultant at All Things IC. His passion for supporting individuals within their internal communication career extends as an accredited practitioner in coaching and mentoring.
His dedication to internal communication extends beyond the workplace. He’s the former chair of the CIPR sub-group, Inside and volunteers for the Royal Air Force Air Cadets as their internal communication lead. Holden also runs The Internal Communicators’ Community, an online group providing internal communicators from across the globe a space to connect and share ideas and solutions.
Connect with Holden on LinkedIn and Guild or sign up for the All Things IC newsletter, The Water Cooler for the latest internal communication news, jobs, events and best practice insights on internal communication.
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