By Anne Bleeker
It amazes me how few organizations see the immense benefit that internal communications and strong employee engagement can bring to the table, and the bottom line. There are far too many organizations out there that still see internal communications as they used to see public relations: as a fluffy, soft-skill, nice to have department that sits anywhere but around the boardroom table.
In my view, there’s no such thing as internal communications: it’s communications from the inside out. Not using your most credible colleagues, your most passionate people and your most active advocates to reach out to your audiences seems ludicrous. It’s a lost opportunity, and a costly one.
Companies spend millions of dollars on sales, marketing and public relations to reach new clients and engage existing ones. The one marketing tool they don’t seem to spend enough on is their own employees, who collectively, may well have the widest marketing reach of all.
Let me paint you a picture. I love eating out; it’s one of my passions in life. A few weeks ago I visited one of my favorite restaurants in Dubai, my hometown. I had a great meal and great service, but that wasn’t the most memorable part of my dining experience. The waiter, passionate and excited, proudly told me about a new sister restaurant that opened in the city. He eagerly told me about the restaurant’s décor, the menu, food and atmosphere and with such knowledge and fervor, that I decided to book the restaurant the next day for our next evening out. Had the waiter just ‘done his job’ and followed the standard operating procedures of the restaurant, he would have never shared this information with me. Instead, he had the knowledge, affinity and confidence only truly engaged employees have, and as a result he sold me a second 150-dollar meal on the spot. An expensive evening for me, but he generated incremental revenue on the spot. Now that’s adding value.
This waiter is a walking sales person, a marketing mastermind and all he does is infuse his customers with his passion and engagement. How wonderful and cost effective is that? How many employees do you have on your payroll? Exactly.
There’s plenty of research out there that proves that a highly engaged workforce easily adds another ten percent to an organization’s bottom line. You’re hard pressed to find such ROI on any of your other communications channels, so why not use it more?
It’s time for organizations to realize that it’s not just about communicating internally, but about communicating from the inside out. Give your employees the information, empowerment, tools and channels to transform themselves into genuine marketing geniuses. They love what they do – that’s why they work for you – so let them spread the word. Guess what, your communications team has just grown exponentially.
The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that the credibility of ‘regular employees’ in an organization has seen a dramatic rise of 16% over the last year, representing the highest increase of this stakeholder group since 2004. They are now in the top four of the most trusted sources people go to for credible company information, well above company CEOs who saw the biggest drop since Edelman started the Trust Barometer.
So why not put that credibility to work? Actively engage your employees in the development of your vision or ask them to help drive innovation for the business, and you will be amazed by the outcome. We recently experienced some very powerful results when we worked with an organization that engaged not only their employees but also their customers and partners in shaping the organization’s direction for the next decade.
Employees were asked to give five percent of their time to this project over a given period and we were astonished to find that most of them gave double that. Why? Because they cared. They were given the opportunity to be part of the company’s future and to shape its direction. Work doesn’t really get more inspiring than that. And they did a great job; they came up with amazing insights, perspectives and solutions that will undoubtedly help the organization succeed. Your employees are the ones that work on the frontline, they are in many ways your company’s business card and they speak to your customers, suppliers and other stakeholders all the time. That feedback is priceless and should be used more. Want to improve or innovate? Start with those that are truly in the know: your employees.
I ask you to imagine the amount of time your front line employees are spending with current and potential customers, today and every day. If you start using these moments of truth as marketing moments, you’ll know what I mean about doing more with less. Turn on the internal flame and expect fireworks. Doing more with less has never been so easy.