How do you create powerful employee engagement campaigns?

By Nancy Dennis

Engaging employees can be challenging. Reaching disparate workforces, overcoming barriers of remote working, and operating with variable budgets are all factors that make it difficult to reach teams effectively.

But done well, internal communications campaigns can be powerful in how they connect with employees. This could be through recognising and rewarding their achievements, sharing knowledge, building pride, and more.

At Forster, we’ve been reflecting on what makes an internal communications campaign truly inspire employee participation, and found three main takeaways for us all to consider when creating internal engagement campaigns.

1) Authenticity

A big creative concept is great if you’ve got loads of budget to throw behind it – but also a simple idea delivered authentically can have huge impact.

We loved an example from KFC, who created a Chief Chicken Offer (CCO) role for the launch of its new cook certification programme to help maintain food quality. An employee who had cooked for KFC for 25 years was appointed as CCO from a pool of 5,000 nominees. They served as the spokesperson for the campaign, showing other chefs the secrets of how to make the great fried chicken that had made their own restaurant a success – something at the core of the business and taken very seriously.

The campaign idea was simple and executed authentically, delivering in two ways: as an effective model for engaging staff in the company’s values, and providing KFC with a strong story to share externally.

2) Meet colleagues where they are

A key element of any internal communications campaign is ensuring that we’re not giving busy employees an additional job. The rollout approach must be tailored, to integrate with their day-to-day.

The default can sometimes be to only consider employees working on laptops from 9-5 – like we are – but when reaching disparate, deskless workforces we need to think differently.

One of our favourite campaigns is Ocado Group’s ‘Scan and Deliver’ podcast. Its USP was being for delivery drivers and by delivery drivers – hosted by two of Ocado’s own driver workforce. They tell funny anecdotes, share advice and keep drivers updated on the goings on at Ocado. And best of all, the podcast could be listened to while on the job.

 3) Tone can make or break

Lastly, tone of voice is critical to the success of a campaign. The best examples don’t feel top-down in the way they communicate their messages and calls to action. Those that are most powerful are delivered for employees, not to employees.

The NHS’ #jabdone campaign was serious in its intent: getting thousands of NHS workers to have a free flu jab to prevent the spread of infections in the workplace and to patients. But it was delivered with a light-hearted and humorous tone and was hugely impactful as a result.

A mix of different content types from fun, short instructional videos and spoofs to simple visuals that used puns and gentle sarcasm created a buzz that helped to encourage and include staff in the process – and led to one of the best performing years for staff flu vaccination uptake across the NHS.

Great comms create communities

While internal communications can take many different forms, a powerful campaign is one that fosters a strong sense of community. By forming connections across what could be a large and diverse workforce, and bridging gaps between leadership, management and employees, everyone throughout an organisation can feel seen, heard and valued.

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