A new era of employee engagement on the inside

Office interior - employee communications

In A new era of charity public engagement Dan Dufour explored the changing landscape for communicating with customers and supporters. This piece will explore the changing expectations of your employees and how to approach this vital piece of the brand puzzle.

You have an employer brand – be deliberate

When an organisation asks us to ‘develop their employer brand’, we always remind them that they already have one. It may not be deliberate, but it is very much out there. We work with organisations like English Heritage to develop brands that work on the inside and the outside. It’s not enough to rely on your external brand to do the brand communication for your employees. You need to articulate your brand on the inside – what you expect people to do and how you expect them to do it.

You also need to be clear on what your employees get in return. It is tempting to short-change charity employees because ‘they are here because they love the cause’. The value exchange is no less important in the third sector. Employees may love the cause, but you need them to go all out for your brand because they love what you do and how you do it and how you make them feel when they work for you. What are you giving your employees? Development opportunities? Cutting edge tech? Big budgets? Great creative resource? Identify where your employee experience excels and talk about it.

As more commercial brands define their social purpose to attract the best talent you need to be clear on why employees should work for you, and continue working for you.

Less is more

Values, behaviours, experience principles, design principles, purpose, ambition, vision, mission, personality, expression – there can be an overwhelming amount of words in a brand architecture. Simplify where you can. Employees don’t buy brand architecture, then buy what you do and how you do it when they see the results of their own experience as an employee.

When you say everything, you say nothing

There isn’t a single organisation we have worked with in the last decade who has communicated too little. Almost all communicate too many things. As a result, they miss the things that people want to know about – leaving the big questions (what’s the purpose? What’s my role in that?) unanswered. There’s a big difference between too many and too much. Focus on the few things that are going to help people do a great job – the rest, let them find that stuff if they want it.

People are drowning in communications. So instead of being something useful or entertaining, communications become a chore. Something to ‘clear’ from your inbox. Or worse still – something to delete without a second glance. Or roll your eyes at.

We know how it happens. Intranets evolve. Communication channels evolve. They are given an owner. And then that channel demands content. And everyone wants ‘cut through’. So, suddenly, the default communication is to broadcast everything, across every channel.

A simple tactic is to be very clear on the role of every piece of communication. Is it need to know (something you need to know to be able to do your job), should know (learning opportunities, benefits), or good to know (the wellbeing offer; the latest on the bake sale).

By clearly signposting these communications, and treating them differently (push vs. pull), then you can help your employees navigate their communication landscape, and become a help, not a hindrance.

Communicating well is becoming ever more important

Employees are starting to care less about their relationship with their employer – because that very relationship between employer and employee is changing so dramatically.

More people are working for more than one employer, taking contract work – gigs – and expecting total flexibility in how and where they work.

Whilst many are striving for employee engagement, we think the more realistic goal is consistently decent communications, so that people know what they need to know, when they need to know it, and can talk about it with a good leader.

When you have achieved the nirvana of consistently great communications, then take a good look at the tools and processes you provide for your people to do their job. Nothing gets people on board quicker than being able to do what they need to do easily. If your tools or processes are broken – fix them. Another newsletter just won’t cut it when your people are struggling to do basic tasks.

People expect to be known

In a world where Amazon can suggest a book you’d like (and get it right), and Netflix can tell you if you’ll like a boxset, people expect to be known.


One size fits all has never been a good idea, but now, more than ever, people want personalisation and insight. How do you tailor communications for your employees? Beyond demographics, attitude, location or job role how do you identify the right people for the right message?

Leave the Ivory Tower

This is the single biggest piece of advice I have for all the teams we work with. It is so easy, so comfortable, to stay at your desk. To write a communications plan from the comfort of your breakout area. In HQ.

Organisations are complex. You can’t understand them from your desk. You can’t get a feel for the work your employees do, or the people they help, or the challenges they face from your desk. Ironically, organisations often ask us to head out into the field, to get immersed in their world and their employees. I love this part of my job. It means that I can really know an organisation and recommend strategies and communications that will work.

But I have started to ask – why us? Is the communications team so busy that they can’t take a couple of days a month to get out and about? Make listening and watching part of your team objectives. It is as important as telling.

In fact, go all out – turn off all communications for a week and see what happens. And in this glorious week when the chatter stops, head out into the field and talk to your people.