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Defining ‘Employees’ in 2012 – And How to Engage Them

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Defining ‘Employees’ in 2012 – And How to Engage Them

Over the past twenty years, everything that companies have deemed ‘the norm’ for workforce behaviour has changed. Employees no longer sign up for a lifelong career, the leadership term for the average CEO is five years or less, and competitive advantage is driven by continuous innovation. If the natural state of business is a continuous flux, how can companies rely on their employees to drive their vision - if employees see their positions as temporary?

In 2012, it is no longer possible (or desirable) to create ‘jobbers-for-life.’ This has driven the evolution of new tools for leadership in its struggle to find ways to engage and utilise the resources that employees offer. This has included internal marketing. The discipline is no longer a blunt retention tool. Rather, it is a precision sabre that should be focused on escalating employee engagement quickly and creatively - in order to maximise productivity and innovation in short time spans.

So, what does the average employee in 2012 expect as a basic pre-requisite?

Firstly, communication is not an end in itself – it must be effective communication. In an instant, interactive and visual age where everyone has a cell phone and is on a social network – the medium of communication has become critical to cutting through the clutter.

The regularity and nature of communication emanating from leadership is essential. The biggest reason for the changes in hierarchy is that everyone - not just the CEO ­- has access to information. This means that the authority of the executive team must come from different sources. These include authenticity, honesty, insight and timeliness – as they are unique qualities that leadership can bring.

The counter is also true. Organisations that are not democratic about their information will lose the loyalty of employees because information will soon be leaked to other sources – usually via the Internet. Keeping information to themselves leads organisations to their own demise, forcing employees to trust external sources.

Thirdly, employees want companies that are engaged not only with them but with the society in which they live. According to tomorrowtoday.uk.com, 83% of 20-somethings and young employees will trust a company more if it is socially and environmentally responsible. Seventy-nine percent want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. Internal marketing that supports the employees’ own view of the world and their value systems are far more likely to create lasting, productive relationships with employees. It’s no longer about the company’s message filtering down but about responsive action to the employee voice.

Internal marketing is no longer optional. In a world of product parity and high people mobility – a sound internal marketing strategy can manifest competitive advantage where none exists. But to make your employees a differentiator requires the following: a sound strategy; the company stipulates a financial commitment to engaging employees as a cost-of-doing business and not simply as a PR exercise; that employees are engaged on a continuous basis and not only at crunch time; and importantly, that different platforms and mediums are used not simply to communicate but to connect with employees in new and creative ways.

When last have you or your workforce felt intrigued by a development at work? When last have they been so inspired as to tweet about it without prompting. When last have you seen mobile communication, flash animation, e-cards, webcams, videos and portals integrated into an internal marketing programme – something that you and your employees experience elsewhere on a daily basis via YouTube, Facebook, etc?

Using every platform possible and engaging with employees builds excitement – it not only motivates but gets the employee to really sell the company. For example, if security of tenure and a pension fund is no longer what people are working for – then let’s find new ways to reward them. And one of the simplest ways for any company is to facilitate experiences (not just work experience but life experiences) and to share the wealth of knowledge inherent in an organisation. Organisations that allow the employee to share the value generated in terms of knowledge, technology, experience and exposure through strategic and tactically-clever internal marketing will be rewarded with employees who don’t simply fill seats - but actually apply their minds to their jobs.

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