Employee Engagement Begins with Listening

Employee Engagement Begins with Listening

Robyn Quinn, President of Big Bang Communications, digital communications consultant and champion of meaningful corporate culture.

Originally published in Douglas Magazine February 2019


No Employee Engagement? Dang.

Ask any corporate leader and they will tell you one thing keeping them up at night is not only recruiting, but keeping, talent. That’s where internal communications becomes a must-have strategy to engage (and retain) today’s workforce. Unfortunately –  internal communications or engagement, often gets done badly, if at all. Here are a few basics to connect with any size team:

Listen. Yes, I know you want to know how you can engage employees better – listening is the first step. Listening helps you stop making assumptions. Consider having anonymous suggestion boxes, check in during staff meeting or scrum meetings – how are you doing? Anything we should be paying attention to? Meander a bit off the agenda when a good discussion erupts.

Be transparent. Often internal communications default into bulletin style information – shared only when management deems it worth communicating. This approach leaves employees in the dark around potential issues – and you know what happens when there is a communications gap? It will be filled – and not necessarily with correct information either.

Communicate often and consistently. Email is still one of the most effective means of communicating but keep in mind how much email your employees are receiving and look for alternative ways to share valuable information. There is a communication Newsletters are fine, texts, internal hubs, platforms like Slack or Jira, depending on your industry, are also good means to connect with staff. Create a consistent schedule and dependable communication policy so people will expect connection, appreciate the inclusion and know what is expected from them too.

Have a conversation. A truly effective employee communications strategy includes in person conversations as well as using one-way channels. One-on-one coffees are ideal or brainstorm session with your team because different personalities respond to variety of situations. Look for the quiet people at the next meeting – they may have insights to share but are uncomfortable in group settings.


Walk the talk. Announcing the value of a framed mission statement and pointing to it at meetings is just lame. The very best way to communicate a cultural norm to the internal community is to demonstrate in how you work and reflect that mission.


Mistakes Made

Focusing on “fun” stuff. If your organization is hosting numerous social events and recognizing accomplishments that are just business as usual – its problematic. Fluffy internal communications are all about those stock photos of people jumping in the air with giant grins – feels a little forced.

Yes, people care about their co-workers growing their families and local charity activities but it is critical to invite their participation and active understanding of organizational goals and challenges – not just in their department – think big picture.

When people feel respected and given opportunities to hear and respond at work – you’ll activate a powerful engagement tool.

Book review suggestion: Fit Matters, Moe Carrick & Cammie Dunaway 2017

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