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The Truth About Employee Experience: Insights From Internal Comms Leaders

By Alex Graves, CVO

The Truth About Employee Experience: Insights From Internal Comms Leaders

Employee experience (EX) certainly feels like the buzzword of the year, but what does EX look like for organisations in the real word?

At a recent lunch event with our friends at The Surgery, we hosted a group of internal comms leaders to discuss exactly that. Through our conversations, three things became clear:

  1. We’re all in it together – everyone is heading to the same destination
  2. No organisation’s EX challenges are unique – we’re facing the same pains
  3. Sharing stories and experiences with peers facing the same thing can be very cathartic!

So, what do internal communicators really think about EX?

The State of Employee Experience Today

Today, organisations find themselves at various stages of their EX journey. While some have dedicated employee experience teams, others are integrating EX into existing HR or communications departments. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. This diversity is both a strength and a challenge.

Shared EX Challenges

1. Silos and Lack of Vision

A fragmented approach to EX is common, with many activities but no clear, unified plan. Largely due to organisational silos and constant firefighting, the holistic view of employee experience gets lost. A lot is happening, but without a clear plan, these efforts can feel disjointed.

2. Leadership Engagement

One of the most prominent challenges is getting leaders to actively engage with and lead on employee engagement initiatives. Leaders must guide the way and lead by example. Competitions and other initiatives have been tried but often fall flat, with the usual suspects either over-committing or staying completely disengaged.

3. Managing Digital Channels

The debate over digital channels continues – even in 2024. Internal comms teams often find themselves at odds with IT or HR over the control and rollout of communication tools. Aligning these departments and gaining mutual trust remains an uphill battle.

The other common digital worry is the impending rise of AI. Most recognise how AI tools like Copilot can help speed up content creation but are worried about the impact on quality. IC teams still want to be in control of the messaging, but don’t want to become a proof-reading function for AI-generated content.

4. Recognition

We talked a lot about the Praise function in Teams – and almost unanimously deemed it ineffective. Many feel it comes off as forced, insincere and sometimes even cringeworthy. Genuine recognition tailored to the individual’s preferences is more effective but harder to standardise.

5. Fear of Uncontrolled Comments

There is shared concern about allowing employees to freely comment on internal platforms. When to intervene, when to delete, and how to create a safe space for all remain contentious points.

6. Personalisation

There’s a growing need to personalise communication to each employee. A one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. The goal is to move beyond broad customisation at a group or persona level to a more refined, tailored form of personalisation

Steps to Move Your EX Journey Forward

Establishing a Unified EX Vision: Begin by mapping out a clear vision of what you want to achieve with EX. Break down departmental silos by collaborating cross-functionally. A collaborative workshop can help define a shared vision and develop a cohesive plan that aligns activities across departments.

Leadership Engagement: Creativity is essential when it comes to engaging leaders. If traditional methods don’t work, consider smaller, incremental actions that build proof points over time. Demonstrating the positive impact of leadership involvement on employee engagement with data and case studies can help win over sceptics. Engaging a board-level sponsor who buys into the change you’re advocating can also make a significant difference.

If persuading leadership to write content is too challenging, try using tools like Viva Engage for quick video updates or Q&As.

Embracing Digital Channels: IC professionals should seek better alignment with IT, HR, and other departments. Regular check-ins and joint planning sessions can ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the tools and platforms in use. Trust needs to be built, with leadership supporting the channels adopted to ensure their proper use and adoption across the organisation.

“We can’t switch it on because X department said no” will cause more problems for organisations in the long run.

With AI, it’s essential to maintain a balance and ensure that IC professionals don’t become merely proofreaders for AI content. Instead, use AI to enhance your efforts, not replace them.

Improving Recognition: Ditch the one-size-fits-all praise functions. Instead, develop customised recognition programmes that speak to individual employees’ preferences. Nothing beats the personal touch – whether it be a meaningful handwritten note or a thoughtful, unexpected gift. This may be an instance where tech isn’t always best.

Fear of Uncontrolled Comments: Establish clear guidelines for commenting on internal platforms. Encourage transparency and honesty, while also making provisions for anonymous participation where necessary. This approach supports neurodiversity and creates a safer space for everyone to share their thoughts.

Personalisation: Leverage AI and personalisation tools to tailor communications according to individual engagement data. Microsoft Viva and similar platforms are introducing capabilities to align comms with user behaviour, easing the workload for IC teams and ensuring messages hit the mark for each employee.

Final Thoughts

Employee experience is the destination, and each activity along the way builds the roadmap. From engagement surveys and recognition schemes to meticulous communication strategies and cross-departmental alignment, each step is significant. Internal communication professionals are not alone in their challenges. We’re all on this journey together, facing similar obstacles and learning from each other’s experiences.

But no matter how tricky the journey may seem, no challenge is insurmountable. By fostering leadership engagement, breaking down silos, offering genuine recognition, managing comments thoughtfully, and embracing personalisation, we can steer our organisations towards enriched, meaningful employee experiences.

To all the internal communicators out there, you’re doing vital work. Continue pushing boundaries, experimenting with new ideas, and sharing your journeys. Together, we can transform the workplace and truly enhance the employee experience for everyone.

Start Building Your Roadmap for DEX

Join our webinar with Katie Macauley of AB to discuss internal comms’ role in the digital employee experience and how we can drive the conversation forward.

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