shutterstock_94957648.jpg While organizations are recognizing that they no longer control the message in the social web, and a lot is written about how consumers shape perceptions about brands, products and services, the role of the employee is often underrated.

An engaged employee is a great asset to the company for all the traditional reasons of productivity, but they are also a communication channel of the company’s personality and culture. They can create buzz, brand awareness and also attract like-minded folks to aspire to work there.

Fostering an engaged employee is a multi-disciplinary business practice much like creating an engaged consumer, and there are lots of reasons why people become advocates of a product or of their employer.

There are of course lots of elements that form employee experiences including compensation and physical working conditions, but there are also technical elements that support positive employee experiences.

The good news is that unlike general consumers, we can assume that all employees are engaged with their companies at some level through their commitment to the job. Commitment to a job is way more important than choosing a brand of detergent, after all. The bad news is that a negative employee that explodes on YouTube can create way more damage to a brand than a disgruntled consumer.

For some organizations the answer to the potential communications faux pas is to build governance and rules for employees; a couple of year ago for example, it was widely reported that Forrester analysts were not allowed to have personally branded blogs and that IBM created 2,814 words of “social computing guidelines” for their employees. Large organizations will always have a need for good governance, but the truly engaged employees naturally follow these rules and naturally do the right thing.

How Do Companies Create These Engaged Employees?

Perhaps we should consider some of the strategies that are being deployed to engage external consumers through Customer Experience Management (CXM).

CXM is essentially delivering multi-channel messaging that’s made relevant by its foundation in listening to behavior and measuring these interactions. A worthy aspiration of consistent, multichannel, relevant content delivered to the device of the consumer’s choice.

Yet, how many internal business systems have that same aspiration?

The first that comes to mind is the intranet. The intranet is the first step for the engaged employee -- it’s where they go to get the job done and where they hear the message their company wants to send them.

Most businesses are knowledge based; employees innovate, they add value to products, and they consult, serve and engage with customers. The sum of the employee’s knowledge is the value of the company to its customers.

The intranet is the front of this crucial knowledge, but most intranets don’t truly engage with employees. How many employees would consider the intranet a positive experience when they can’t access it from their iPhones on the train?

Most intranet homepages are seas of links, each lobbied into place by competing departments that believe their content should be on the home page. How much content is created with a departmental inside view out, rather than an employee view in? Is anyone thinking of employee engagement?

Forbes columnist Eric Jackson observes that “top talent leaves an organization when the organization is confusing and uninspiring,” and there is no better place than the intranet to provide inspiration and clarity.

While Facebook and other social media channels define user experience expectations outside of the office, business tools like Salesforce, Yammer and Dropbox have set the expectations in the workplace. Compared to the traditional intranet, these relatively new tools bring elements of social collaboration that foster engaged employees.

What is Stopping Our Intranet?

Can we apply the same CXM business principals to our internal communications?

If we think about experience and relevance, an intranet is a customer engagement professional’s dream because it is packed with content. But even better, it serves an audience that we know a lot about. We know how we can segment them and what content they might be interested in through their role, the language they speak and where they are located.

We can also track their behavior on the intranet since they logged into it through their corporate (probably Windows) account. No privacy concerns and controls here -- we can map content consumption to individual employees and we can measure and analyze the results. In fact, if we are smart, we can do that across all of our web based business systems.

We can even consider a parallel to the marketers targeting "life events," in that an organization knows that a new employee will need to understand the expense policy and help with completing the form, so content about that should be promoted on the Intranet for them, yet buried for the more seasoned employee.

In a broader sense of employee engagement, we can also learn from the practice of CXM that listening is a key part of the engagement process. Employees are out there experiencing the company’s message and brand, and they’re getting feedback. Not listening to this is a sure fire way to turn off your employee, and to also miss a trick when it comes to engaging with customers.

The engaged employee should be, like much of what people are realizing about social media today, business as usual. We need to engineer and implement our business systems while thinking of employees as we do our customers, a valuable commodity to be cherished and engaged. And an engaging Intranet sounds like a great start.

Title Image courtesy of Sweet Lana (Shutterstock).

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