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Defining ‘employees’ – And how to engage them

Kevin Liebenberg

Over the past twenty years, everything that companies have deemed to be ‘the norm’ for workforce behaviour has changed. Employees no longer sign up for a lifelong career, and competitive advantage is driven by continuous innovation. If the natural state of business is a continuous flux, how can companies rely on their employees to drive their vision - if employees see their positions as temporary?

It is no longer possible (or desirable) to create ‘jobbers-for-life'. This has driven the evolution of new tools for leadership in its struggle to find ways to engage and utilise the resources that employees offer. This has included internal marketing. The discipline is no longer a blunt retention tool. Rather, it is a precision sabre that should be focused on escalating employee engagement quickly and creatively.

So, what does the average employee in 2012 expect as a basic pre-requisite?

Firstly, communication is not an end in itself – it must be effective communication. In an instant, interactive and visual age, the medium of communication has become critical in order to cut through the clutter.

Attempting to stay ‘in the loop’ and fully comprehend a company’s communication can sometimes make employees feel as if they are reading a book written in a foreign language. They may feel tempted to throw in the towel and lose focus. Organisations need to take responsibility by encouraging their employees to understand the information they receive by incorporating simplicity and structure to ‘messaging’. This may be done through:

  • Media audits

  • Communication campaigns within the organisation

  • Media strategies

  • Product launches

  • Sales/services drives

  • Training packaging and toolkit development

The regularity and nature of communication emanating from leadership is essential. The biggest reason for the changes in hierarchy is that everyone - not just the CEO - has access to information and knowledge. This means that the authority of the executive team must come from different sources. These include authenticity, honesty, insight and timeliness.

The opposite is also true. Organisations that are not democratic about their information will lose the loyalty and respect of employees. Keeping information to themselves leads organisations to their own demise which forces employees to trust external sources.

Employees want companies that are engaged not only with them but with the society in which they live. According to, 83% of 20-somethings and young employees will trust a company more if it is socially and environmentally responsible. Internal marketing that supports the employees’ own views of the world and their value systems are far more likely to create lasting, productive relationships with employees.

Internal marketing is no longer optional. But to make your employees a differentiator requires the following: a sound strategy; that the company stipulates a financial commitment to engaging employees as a cost-of-doing business and not simply as a PR exercise; that employees are engaged on a continuous basis and not only at crunch time; and importantly, that different platforms and mediums are used not only to communicate, but also to connect with employees in new and creative ways.

Using every platform possible and engaging with employees builds excitement – it not only motivates them but gets the employees to really sell the company. One of the simplest ways for any company to engage with their employees is to facilitate experiences (not just work experience but life experiences) and to share the wealth of knowledge inherent in an organisation. Organisations that allow the employee to share the value generated in terms of knowledge, technology, experience and exposure through strategic and tactically-clever internal marketing, will be rewarded with employees who don’t just fill seats - but actually apply their minds to their jobs.

Author: Kevin Liebenberg is the director of Actuate - internal marketing specialists.

Kevin has been endorsed for his expertise in marketing strategy, business strategy, coaching, banking, leadership development, change management, organisational development and executive coaching.