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Rey Bouknight: Supporting Employees Through a Strong Internal Comms Strategy

November 03, 2022 Sponsored Article
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By SMG Events LinkedIn

The ability to deliver business objectives depends greatly on the strength of your brand. Rey Bouknight wants you to think about your brand as something beyond a logo or a catchphrase. “Brand is really about consistently meeting the expectations of your customers — and employees are the ones delivering on this. If you aren't providing a positive employee experience, it’s only inevitable that your reputation will falter.”

Rey Bouknight is the strategy director for Firstup and a speaker at Reworked's recent Digital Workplace Experience event, held virtually Oct. 12 and 13. We recently spoke with Bouknight about improving the employee experience through strong internal comms initiatives. We explored the strategic importance of internal comms terms and tools and what it takes to run a successful comms initiative and get leaders on board.

Making Comms a Company-Wide Effort

Simpler Media Group: Why might organizations have a need for better alignment between internal comms, employee engagement and business objectives?

Rey Bouknight: To start, communications is the backbone of any organization. The ability to effectively communicate to employees across the organization gives organizations the power to effectively deliver on business objectives. We see a lot about how employee experience influences the customer experience. Another way of looking at that is how internal experience directly impacts the external customer experience. Comms sits at the heart of all of this. 

SMG: What are some of the biggest challenges facing internal comms teams? How have those challenges evolved over the last three years?

Bouknight: One of the biggest challenges companies currently face is this: How do you reach a largely dispersed workforce? Granted, this isn’t a new issue, but over the past few years the hybrid model has impacted how you communicate with employees. To add to this, the number of different audiences you need to reach internally have increased. 

With a dispersed and diverse workforce you need to enable more individuals to intelligently communicate to their teams, their direct reports and their stakeholders. You can’t just lean on the comms team to handle comms for the entire organization and expect your business initiatives to be executed perfectly. Strong workforce cultures have empowered all team members to communicate effectively by enabling intelligent communications enterprise wide. 

SMG: Why is leadership buy-in so valuable in a comms initiative? How can teams gain buy-in among their leadership?

Bouknight: Simply put: culture starts at the top. Leaders set the tone for what’s the most important in their culture. You need leaders to recognize the importance of internal communications, recognize comms’ place in influencing the work culture and how that drives the bottom line.

Comms teams can gain buy-in by showing leaders how culture and comms drive the bottom line — in other words, how EX ties into CX. Proving metrics and measurement helps leaders understand the ROI of internal comms by demonstrating how your initiatives contribute to business objectives.

Rey Bouknight: "Strong workforce cultures have empowered all team members to communicate effectively by enabling intelligent communications enterprise wide. "

Ask Yourself: What's in It for the Employee?

SMG: When rolling out any new transformation initiative, what are examples of tried-and-true tactics that can improve adoption and contribute to program success?

Bouknight: I advise companies first to think about what’s in it for the employee. What’s the value proposition for your employees? It’s too easy for companies to only think about what’s in it for them and they often don’t stop to consider how the new initiative will affect workers.

You should run surveys or focus groups to understand what employees want and how the initiative could benefit them. Afterward, build an internal marketing campaign around the initiative that utilizes posters, events, contests and more and builds on the value proposition. Leverage leaders to serve as your influencers. Leverage the time of your CEO to endorse the transformation initiative; they send out a signal that this is something everyone should be engaged in. This will ideally create the same buzz you see when a company rolls out a new product externally.

But when you consider what's in it for the employees, you’re thinking about the company too. Your desired outcomes should benefit everybody. You’ll have more engaged employees, who will in turn be more productive, which translates to greater company performance. 

At the end of the day it’s about the content you’re delivering. Launching an initiative isn’t enough; you also need content to keep your employees engaged so employees can recognize that this initiative is for them.

SMG: What metrics are essential to ensuring a successful adoption? Are there any metrics that are low-hanging fruit or not as useful as they might be at first glance?

Bouknight: When evaluating metrics, consider the following questions. To what extent can you reach your employees? Can your platform go beyond and reach employees who haven’t adopted it? What’s your percentage reach? The goal should be 100% reach — are you achieving that?

Total registrations should be your second key metric. Your platform should give employees the ability to cultivate personalized experiences, access more content and opt in to the content they’re most interested in. Total registrations will tell you if you’re achieving those goals.

A third key metric is engagement. How active are people on the platform? Do they like the content? Are they commenting on posts or clicking through to articles? Your engagement levels give comms teams a sense of what employees want and greater insight when the time comes to refine your communications strategy.

Engagement also shows you how aligned employees are with key business initiatives. Are people sharing your content onto their own social media? Are they engaging with content that matches your business initiatives? This suggests they believe in your mission and act as brand ambassadors. 

By using a combination of these metrics, comms teams can iterate on their strategy and return to leaders with demonstrable ROI of their transformation initiatives.

SMG: What was the last book you read that had a profound impact on you (either personally or professionally)?

Bouknight: I’m currently reading "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown. One particular passage from that book stands out: “The true underlying obstacle to leadership is how we respond to fear.” What I take away from this quote is that your great experiences have come from the other side of fear. 

This theme has come into play both for me personally (overcoming my fear of roller coasters) as well as professionally. Change isn’t always easy, but on the other side of fear and change are amazing experiences you can create — both for yourself and others.

Watch this Digital Workplace Experience session on demand here.

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