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Sticking to New Year’s Resolutions: Sustaining Employee Engagement Momentum All Year Long

The blur through the start of each new year is a common phenomenon, and the pace only picks up as the calendar flips to February and beyond. It’s common for us all to make New Year's resolutions that seldom last into the spring. 


Similarly, January is a time for many organizations to act on new and revised strategies, budgets, goals, and processes. You may have launched new employee engagement programs in Q1, and while those can easily wane as the end of the first quarter approaches, you must sustain those efforts and commitments all year to build trust and credibility with employees to grow and retain the talent you have. Time for some New Year’s employee engagement resolutions! 


What’s the Big Deal with Employee Engagement?

It takes more than periodic mass emails or newsletters to keep your teams invested in the mission and aligned with leadership. One 2023 Axios HQ  workplace communications study revealed that 66% of leaders think they're aligned with employees, while only 44% of employees feel that same alignment.  No employee engagement strategy can be effective if it lacks consistency and the volume of fizzled-out ‘quiet quitters’ in the post-pandemic normal remains high. Understanding how to engage a diverse workforce sustainably and ensure they value your communication isn’t always straightforward. 


Leaders need to be creative to cut through the sheer volume of email, Teams/Slack messages, and other communication (not to mention distractions from personal social media like TikTok, Instagram, X, and Facebook) to reach employees. With so many distractions, employee engagement – like the commitment to personal New Year’s resolutions – can fall off quickly and subtly as operations move beyond an initial surge of excitement at the beginning of a year. 


Consistency, authenticity, credibility, and a track record of trust are the keys to the most effective employee engagement. But what can you as a leader do today to ensure your employee engagement program is up-to-date and can be better sustained throughout the year? 


As you’re navigating the beginning of your calendar year, here are some quick actions you can take to keep the momentum going:


Conduct a Quick Communications Assessment at the Beginning of Each Year

A communications audit is a process that can help you understand the cultural topography of your organization and the types of messaging and channels that will be most effective in reaching your team. Making a habit of assessing your two-way communication channels in Q1 each year ensures you know your channels intimately. Audits provide a helpful guide as you consider removing any channels that aren't effective and give clarity as you investigate new channels that may be worth adding. I recommend sources like Ragan or Axios Communicators to stay abreast of the latest communications channels and technology.


Gaining and holding employees’ attention has never been more challenging, so communicating over the right mix of platforms is essential to spark engagement with your employees. For example, depending on their work location or environment, some groups may be more responsive in a company messaging app than in email, or other collaborative internal platforms. Using multiple channels to reach diverse stakeholder audiences and cover your bases is best. When using multiple channels for a message, the key is to ensure the message is consistent across all channels but true to the formality (or informality) of the chosen platform. A communications audit is a roadmap to give you and your team a working understanding of the best channels to use moving forward. 


Review & Refresh Your Key Stakeholder Map & Analysis 

Use Q1 to ensure you have the latest understanding of your key stakeholders. In the past year, did your organization acquire a group of employees, enter a new customer market, build a new factory, or reorganize? Is there a new union or workforce issue facing employees? Is there an impending corporate transition, system deployment, or leadership change? Changes happen, so taking time in Q1 to review and refresh your understanding of internal stakeholders is well worth the effort and will sharpen your employee engagement all year.


Planning content for ‘everyone’ is admirable and inclusive, but blasting out messages without a comprehensive knowledge of the needs and attributes of different groups can risk alienating audiences or miscommunicating important information. Knowing your audiences as a leader helps you and your team craft a message - and utilize a medium - that is most effective in reaching intended audiences for maximum engagement.


There are several best practices to get the most insights out of stakeholder analyses. If you have an annual employee engagement survey, schedule time to sit with HR or whoever is responsible to get in-depth insights about what employees prefer or dislike writ large so you have that in mind when communicating with them. For organizations that have conveyed stakeholder groups (from M&A or similar activities), engage the top leader who is responsible for any groups of employees who were acquired to best understand their situation, concerns, and needs.


Formalize Your Employee Engagement Strategy

Consider investing in a comprehensive employee engagement strategy if you don’t already have one (or refreshing the one you have), but above all, don’t be complacent. Many companies make employee engagement an informal or secondary priority to external, customer, or investor communications. Still, engaged employees are the foundation and catalyst behind almost everything an organization does – both internally and externally. If you are systematic and methodical about employee engagement, it will improve nearly every operational and external-facing aspect of your organization.


Increased employee engagement doesn’t have to join the neglected New Year’s resolutions list. By communicating with employees effectively, you’ll be well on your way toward elevating retention, engagement, satisfaction, safety, brand ambassadorship, and productivity. These attributes create a robust culture of engagement that will last all year - and for years to come. 


TL;DR

  • Operational leaders need help keeping their employees engaged and often find a lackluster sustained velocity on internal engagement. Early each year is a great time to refocus on employee engagement to set your organization up for success throughout the year.

  • An annual communications audit can help quickly understand and assess the communications channels you are currently using – and any that you should add or remove.

  • Stakeholder groups ebb and flow over time through organizational transition and evolution. Make sure you take at least one focused opportunity each year to update your understanding of who you are communicating with and their needs/concerns/motivators.

  • A comprehensive employee engagement strategy is worth the investment, but even starting with an annual communications channel audit and stakeholder analysis update can contribute toward an understanding of the best way to maximize and sustain your employee engagement.

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