Investing in Greatness: HR Communications

The employee engagement and customer satisfaction literature loves to simplify the topic by giving the impression that creating engagement and loyalty are easy. Just stop doing what your customers don’t like, and make your employees feel trusted and empowered and the profits simply flow into your bank accounts. However, Greg Apirian argues otherwise in his aptly titled Forbes article, “Making Your Business A Great Place To Work Requires More Investment Than You Think.”

And he’s right. Improving employee engagement and customer satisfaction means changing the way you do business: your processes and your people. And change is hard.

Let’s look at the current business environment. It’s difficult, without a doubt. As Apirian writes, “Customer expectations are high, rising and evolving. Sure, it makes sense to extend investment to keep customers happy and outsmart the competition. Every dollar that’s spent on attracting customers drives them to one of three places: your store, your retail partner’s store or one of your sales or service representatives. But who is behind every single one of those destinations? Your employees.”

But currently, investment in HR and communications are lagging compared to investment in marketing to customers. Essentially, most companies over-prioritize customers at the expense of employees.

But wait, isn’t that what we should be doing? Shouldn’t the people who pay us have more importance? Sure – to an extent. But over and over, successful businesses have demonstrated that employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction. Bill Marriott Sr. is extensively quoted as saying “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your guests.” Apparently, it’s still working. In a recent Infosurv Insider blog, we quoted Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines as saying, “…it’s our people who drive our success, so we strive to maintain a healthy and happy culture, and create environments in which everyone can flourish.”

In a recent report from Newsweaver, based on a survey of 700 human resources and communications professionals, more than a third estimated their employee experience budget at $10,000 or less per year, and the average internal communications budget of an organization with more than 500 employees was reported at $185,000 per year. Obviously, that pales in comparison to the multi-million-dollar marketing budgets of these companies. To get the most out of your employees, you will need to invest, and probably invest more than you think.

HR or internal communications budgets are woefully inadequate to support the kind of employee experience needed to drive customer satisfaction and profitability in today’s business environment. Internal communications are needed to drive the delivery of a unified brand story: why are we in business, what are our values, and how do we want to behave? Understanding these core beliefs lead employees to commit to the organization, and creates behavioral standards that drive appropriate – and successful – behaviors.

This shift in resource allocation to increase HR communications budgets will be a tough sell because it goes to the heart of change. But, continuing with Apirian, “Companies that get it are now investing a healthy number of resources to support the employee experience — i.e., the sum of all of the experiences that an employee has with the company –because being viewed as a great place to work could be the difference between success and failure, where success means attracting and keeping top talent.” Which kind of company are you going to have?

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