What do communications and human resources professionals mean when they talk about “employee engagement”? And what role can IT professionals have in this conversation?

All three share a common goal.  

Engaged employees understand and identify with the mission of their organizations. They are proud of their work, and motivated to excel. They believe that they’re making a difference and that their work matters. 

As a result, when Comms, HR and IT work together, this can translate into greater productivity, customer satisfaction and profitability. Study after study demonstrates that those departments — who previously may have been considered cost centers — have an opportunity to become actual revenue generators, regardless of whether in an enterprise or a small to medium sized business (SMB).

The Changing Workforce Dynamics

A recent report by AON Hewitt found that companies that strive to improve internal communications see a corresponding improvement in employee engagement.  Consider this, together with these facts: 

  • More than 40 percent of U.S. employees are now contingent workers — including temps, contract employees, on-call workers and independent contractors. These types of employees typically are not provided with corporate email addresses
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, telecommuting has increased 103 percent since 2005. Currently, there are 3.3 million workers in the U.S. who work from home full time. And this number is expected to grow
  • According to PwC, Millennials will make up over 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. These are employees who not only rely on their mobile devices for both personal and work usage, but they also average nearly 3 hours per day looking at their devices. 

Traditionally, employee communications programs assumed that workers were colocated in offices. Messages and information were posted on corporate intranets, emailed to employees’ work email accounts, or buried in newsletters distributed in the office.  

However, given new workforce dynamics, something has to change — and it is, especially when it comes to technology.

Technology is making it easier to both disseminate information and measure its effectiveness. By incorporating several internal communications trends into an employee communications program, a company can improve its chances of success in what is now being referred to as the Digital Workplace.

A Growing Dependence on Mobile

Communications, HR and IT professionals have the opportunity to work together here.  

Pretty much everyone has an iPhone, iPad, Android mobile device — or several of them — and that these pieces of technology most often can be found on their person or very close by. Doesn’t it make sense then that these devices should take on a more important role in the way in which businesses communicate and distribute content to their employees? 

Mobile-friendly and mobile-centric communications mechanisms can provide news and information to employees wherever they happen to be, in real time. While desktop computers won't disappear any time soon, an opportunity exists like never before for companies to get information directly into the hands (and pockets) of their employees, instantaneously.  

App-based products are in the market right now that make it easier to deploy mobile-based communications systems. They’re designed for the communications and HR teams to implement quickly and cost-effectively, without the need for heavy duty development. But, of course, IT will need to be there to consult and assist. 

With Communications, Show, Don't Tell

PowerPoint, much like email, is seen as old school. On the other hand, video is on the rise and becoming increasingly popular as a result of the expansion of bandwidth services, the fact that video costs have decreased and because the video experience on mobile devices is excellent, not to mention convenient.  

Whether for training purposes, explanations, culture reinforcements or announcements, companies are finding video to be a great internal communications strategy since it can be more engaging, delivers tailored content in short, dynamic ways (let’s admit it — people prefer not to have to read on their phone) and, given the nature of video analytics, is highly measurable.

Create an Employee Feedback Loop

Employee engagement improves when mechanisms for providing feedback and suggestions, such as surveys, are readily available. Millennials especially expect outlets to voice their opinions — they grew up with their viewpoints being valued and solicited. 

Mobile-enabled communications tools can actively facilitate this two-way communication between employees and management.

Communications: It’s All About Results

Between increased accessibility to employee survey data and the use of digital technologies, it has never been easier for communicators to measure the effectiveness of their work. The metrics can be as simple as video views, time on-site, intranet website analytics, opened emails and click-through rates. 

Establishing a baseline and then learning from your successes and failures will allow you to create stronger communications for your employees and also enable better communications with your C-Suite regarding the value of strong internal communications.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant is change.” 

Well, here we are in 2016, quickly approaching 2017. For communications, HR and IT professionals to succeed, they need to recognize and embrace change. Mobile technology presents a significant opportunity for them to do so.