Are you engaged at work? A 2015 Gallup poll says your answer is likely not, but you’re not alone: as many as half of those surveyed were “not engaged” and another 17.2 percent were “actively disengaged.” And if you’re an employer, you may be panicking — low engagement could mean low productivity or high turnover.
Neil Bedwell and Andrew Osterday, co-founders of Atlanta-based consulting firm Local Industries, believe that low engagement and other company culture woes stem from a communication problem. Their remedy? Taking an approach drawn from consumer marketing to improve internal communications and processes surrounding change within the company. They believe this raises employee satisfaction and engagement.
Coming from similar backgrounds within marketing agencies, the two saw a disconnect in how ideas were developed and executed in large, bureaucratic companies. These ideas might be strategic, highly creative, or focused, but despite good intentions, often faltered with lazy follow through’s that got lost in bureaucracy and lack of ownership.
Now, Local Industries creates custom plans that look at the human side of change. While these plans are personalized and complex, here they share their three core concepts that can help businesses plan for resilience and bolster a feel-good culture in the face of change.
Let’s start with an example: imagine working at a company and always having to input your time through a certain system portal on a certain day. Then one day, HR sends out an email: there is a new software, this is how to use it, and all timesheets must be submitted one day earlier.
You would likely ask, “Why? Why do I have to change my habits? Why does this change benefit the company?” And without knowing those whys, you may start to feel inconvenienced, ignored, and resentful of the extra work.
You would never see Apple roll out a new product to consumers like that. Bedwell and Osterday believe there is a lesson to be learned there that the corporate world often ignores. In consumer marketing, you first tell the customer why they need your product, how it makes thing easier for them, and how it can help them be better at what they do. Preparing employees with teasers and giving them context as to why can pay off builds psychological resilience to the change, which in turn, boosts their engagement.
Ultimately, great new tech, beautiful plans, sharp strategies — none of those things make the change. The people do, so their buy-in is important.
Integrate the change
Many corporate environments will roll out new programs to managers and expect them to take it from there. However, a holistic implementation strategy involves every part of the corporate workplace, from the practitioners (those doing the work) to the managers implementing day to day, week to week, to the executives at the top of the chain.
Bedwell and Osterday acknowledge leaders may have disproportionate volume and voice, but ultimately, its practitioners who set the culture. They recommend designing programs to reach those doing the work.
This is more than putting a poster by the bathroom or sending a single email, though. Much like a consumer campaign, the information should be released over multiple mediums, and consistently. Creating content to following up with employee stories about their experience on the ground floor can be powerful reinforcement that keep employees excited and engaged about where their work is headed.
The final concept is a big, albeit simple, one: give employees the chance to own changes and realize the opportunity in doing a process more efficiently or more productively. People like to be heard and feel their work has a purpose in contributing to the greater good, and it’s important to recognize that it does. Ultimately, consumer marketing is so appealing because it speaks to the core needs and wants of a person’s psyche. Using its feel-good principles can boost engagement, productivity, and make your workplace culture a positive one — even through and beyond a change event.