Sunday, May 4, 2014

Senior Executives: Mobilize your employees to solve business problems

As a senior executive, you look for ways to harness the massive creativity and brainpower of your employees to solve business challenges, like product innovation, customer loyalty, or strategic growth. As a graduate student in Marketing Communications at Northwestern’s Medill School, I have found two articles that help us understand how to mobilize our employees.

Too often your messages to employees are weighed down by impersonal and technical language that leaves employees uninterested in, unmotivated by and confused about how their work improves products, profits, or customer satisfaction. In Corporate Executive Board’s Three ways to move stakeholders to action, Dorian Cundick shares ways to get your employees' immediate attention. Cundick recommends putting your employee's perspective at the center of the message by creating a sense of urgency and "channeling your inner newscaster" to develop attention-grabbing headlines for your message.

Once you've got your employees' attention, Weber Shandwick’s fascinating report on employee advocacy titled Employees Rising outlines how to spur your employees to act. Weber Shandwick segments your employee population by advocacy willingness and potential, sharing ways to motivate your employees to be fully engaged. They note that over half of your employees could be company advocates if you value their ideas, keep them well-informed, and listen and respond to them.

Based on my insights from these articles, I recommend you take these three actions immediately.   

1. Put the employee at the center - Employees spend the day thinking about their work, their families, and their challenges. In order to get their attention, word the message in terms of their needs and business perspective. Moreover, speak specifically on their role in developing the solution. For instance, if the business challenge is financial, replace your financial vernacular with terms that the employees use in their daily work, providing examples of how their work impacts the desired goal.

2. Create an experience - Employees want to feel something, so consider how employees feel about the business challenge. Address those emotions using personal pronouns to communicate that you understand their concerns and problems. And, not every message has to be framed seriously. Find a way to make it fun - poll employees, ask them thought-provoking questions, and if appropriate, make them laugh. If your message reaches an employee’s emotions, they will be more likely to talk about it with other employees thus furthering the creative solutions.

3. Be social - Your company’s internal and external social communities are full of creative solutions to business challenges. Use this existing database to source solutions and to encourage further dialog around a problem. Personally respond to employee ideas on these communities to signal that you value their ideas. As mentioned before, put the employee at the center and create an emotional experience. Your engagement will increase their likelihood to act for the benefit of the company. Not only will your social activity help solve the current business problem, your dialog on social channels can help address future challenges.

Senior executives, think like your employees to encourage creative solutions, and then cultivate these inputs on social channels to show that you value their thoughts. Once they see that their ideas are important to you, they will be ready to go solve the problem. 


Posted by Johanna Soyars
I am a communications manager for a Fortune 50 company. I have worked in small businesses and large corporations on change management, employee engagement, and external communications. My time with Sensors Unlimited, Goodrich and UTC has taught be that the fundamentals of people, communications and networks remain the same. I plan to continue on in marketing communications after graduation seeking fresh ways for businesses to gain customer and employee trust. Questions? Contact me through Twitter at @jgsoyars.

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