Creative communications and live events agency Crown give their insights on how internal communication can unleash the motivation to drive collaboration within organisations, fostering better working relationships and maximising collective productivity.  

Seeking engagement of your employees across the business, no matter how big or small, is a constant challenge for all organisations. It has been well documented that businesses with more engaged employees perform better, generate higher returns in terms of profitability and have better employee retention (Business Week, 2012; Forbes, 2012a), but how can companies that are at the beginning of their journey replicate the successes of those that have proverbially cracked the employee engagement nut?

To sustain a company that goes beyond a lifestyle-business takes passion and focus. Commitment has to come from the top, trickling down the organisation to engender the same loyalty and commitment that will align employees to goals and values, and become a catalyst for motivation to contribute to the success of the business. The key part of this is that communication comes from senior management, the first port of call that builds trust and respect. Employees look to leadership for clarity when delivering messages, but they also need to reinforce belief in company values, mission and purpose. Replacing egos with empathy displays a level of authenticity and transparency and opens up a dialogue that employees will value far more than being talked at (Forbes, 2012b).

But employee engagement is not just about clear leadership communication. Dan Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” (2011) philosophises that employees are no longer motivated by the carrot and the stick, an approach that merely conditions behaviour. Human motivation is intrinsic, thus autonomy, mastery and purpose are key drivers that override overt extrinsic factors such as monetary rewards when it comes to motivating employees. Internal motivation is deeply rooted to an individual’s need to direct their own lives. The commitment demonstrated by leadership to reinforce belief in company values gives employees an emotional connection that can link the purpose of an organisation to their own values and beliefs. Pink goes on to suggest this is the secret to high performance. If one individual can be compelled to perform and excel by intrinsic motivation alone, imagine the impact a collective force can have.

The power of collaboration can be immense. Take for example, the Games Makers workforce at the 2012 London Olympics. Training and retaining 70,000 Games Makers was no mean feat. Whilst momentum was high to be part of the Games, it was important to sustain this in the run up to, and during the Olympics. Communication was paramount - making sure the Games Makers felt part of one team; understanding their role in making the Games a success, and delivering in their role at Games time. Crown designed a series of Games Maker Orientation Events on behalf of LOCOG to deliver engaging educational content in an experiential manner. Kick-starting their training journey for the volunteers, these events delivered the momentum to carry the volunteers through the 18 months building up to the games; drive their urge to assume their Games time roles; and turn their passion and energy into world-class operational delivery. It was clear that during this process, collaborative behaviours were forming that shaped Games Makers into team players, working together and uniting them towards common goals. Crown's head of planning and experience GilesCattle comments “the shared experience created a sense of belonging and the social experience mapped a new social network within the workforce that fostered rapid and easy collaboration at Games time”. Teams that capitalise on pre-existing or common relationships increases performance (Harvard Business Review, 2007) and a large part of the success of the London Olympics was this shared experience of the volunteers, aligning their own aspirations for the Games with that of Lord Coe, to “make a good Games, a great Games”.  This is also firm support of Dan Pink’s theory – the internal satisfaction of being part of the Games and its legacy far exceeded any monetary reward.

The emotional connection that was developed between the volunteers and the London Olympics from the Games Maker Orientation Events on a personal level is also testament to the role internal communications plays in engagement. Giles goes on to add “Internal comms engages with the most valuable audience a brand has, and the commercial value of a highly engaged and productive workforce is a clear reason to ensure the wider comms strategy considers this audience too”.

Jean Tomlin OBE, director of HR, workforce and accreditation at London 2012, comments “The events themselves had a significant impact on their motivation to continue being part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games… The most successful elements were the outstanding high level of attendance, the extremely positive feedback received, and that these events brought everyone together en masse for the first time.” Independent research from Nielsen also reinforced the internal comms aspect, with 91% of respondents citing engagement verbs to describe the best part of the Games Makers Orientation Events.

Successful engagement comes from a group of individuals that have the propensity to collaborate, truly working as a team to share their knowledge, learn from one another and broaden their skillset and capabilities to resolve a common problem. Internal communication helps facilitate the group to have an open mind and take an entrepreneurial approach in the sharing and exchange of ideas (Forbes, 2012b), where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Studies show that when employees work in teams and have the trust and cooperation of their team members, they outperform individuals and teams that lack good relationships (Ivey Business Journal, 2006). When employees work together to take on a challenge led by purpose (Harvard Business Review, 2013), the results can be nothing short of amazing.

 

This article was originally published on the Institute of Internal Communications website.

 

References:

Business Week, 2012. Employee Happiness Matters More Than You Think [Online]. Available from:http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2012/02/employee_happiness_matters_more_than_you_think.html

Forbes, 2012a. What Is Employee Engagement [Online] Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/

Forbes, 2012b. 10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders [Online] Available from:http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/04/04/10-communication-secrets-of-great-leaders/

Harvard Business Review, 2007. Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams [Online] Available from:https://hbr.org/2007/11/eight-ways-to-build-collaborative-teams

Harvard Business Review, 2013.  Employee Engagement Does More than Boost Productivity [Online] Available from:https://hbr.org/2013/07/employee-engagement-does-more/

Ivey Business Journal, 2006. What Engages Employees the Most, Or, The Ten C’s of Employee Engagement [Online] Available from: http://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/what-engages-employees-the-most-or-the-ten-cs-of-employee-engagement/

Pink, D., 2011. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us [Online] Available from:http://www.danpink.com/drive/