How to Build and Foster a Culture of Employee Engagement


Many organisations are stressing the importance of employee engagement because it has a great impact on the success of the business. Recognizing this, certain corporate communication departments are dedicated to enhancing their internal communication strategies and initiatives. Consequently, effective employee engagement ensures that employees are well-informed, actively involved, and motivated to contribute to the company's success.


According to a 2017 report by Aon Hewitt on global employee engagement trends, Europe exhibits the lowest engagement rate, standing at 58 percent [1]. While low employee engagement is not a new phenomena, it has gained heightened visibility. Factors such as favoritism, lack of transparency, inadequate feedback, unclear communication, and other elements contribute to diminished motivation, reduced commitment among employees, and a toxic corporate environment where employees are “struggling to survive”. Despite the existence of internal communication strategies and tactics within communication departments, employee communication practices face the risk of becoming irrelevant [2]. Often, employees are inundated with initiatives and inspirational messages, yet tangible results are rarely achieved. In the 21st century, where transparency, trust, honesty, and integrity are key drivers of communication, prioritizing employee engagement becomes imperative. To attain these goals, innovative methods and tools, including the utilization of social media networks, should be incorporated.


Initially, social media served as a fun tool for connecting with friends and acquaintances online. However, over the years, it has evolved into a powerful platform with significant relevance in many organizations, particularly among employees. When used wisely, social media has the potential to boost employee engagement and improve internal communication.


In the past, internal communication centered around the actions of organizations. Today, explaining the reasons behind organizational activities has become crucial. Moreover, fostering multidirectional communication within an organization, as opposed to the traditional top-down approach, is essential. Communication departments should advocate for a shift from the mere cascading of information to an infusion approach, empowering all employees to voice their opinions, share ideas, and contribute to the organizational values, mission, and vision. So, what factors contribute to the establishment of a successful culture of employee engagement?


The Role of Social Media in Employee Engagement


The era of Internet has transformed the conventional communication landscape, introducing a digital dimension. This shift presents numerous challenges and opportunities, particularly in the realm of best practices for internal communication within organizations. In the dynamic workplace of today, organizations have access to a variety of communication tools to connect and engage with their employees. These tools span traditional print publications like magazines, posters, or newsletters, as well as face-to-face communication, intranets, emails, and digital platforms such as blogs, e-zines, podcasting, social media, and instant messengers. While traditional print media, including reports, memos, newsletters, brochures, and posters, are still used in transmitting key messages to employees, its impact on employee engagement is relatively modest [3]. Internal communication practitioners are advocating for the use of social media networks due to their ability to reach employees swiftly and effectively. Furthermore, social media yields positive results linked to employee engagement, such as the cultivation of brand advocates and a higher staff retention rate [4].


Numerous organizations still refrain from incorporating social media networks into their initiatives to engage employees. However, some organizations leverage the effective features of social media platforms like LinkedIn, X (previously knownTwitter), Facebook, or Instagram, integrating them into their internal communication strategies and learning platforms [5]. Recognizing the influential potential of social media, these companies embrace specific tools from these platforms. For instance, Novartis, a well-known pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, uses gamification tools to boost employee engagement, performance, and motivation [6]. Simon Brown, the Global Head of Learning Center of Excellence and Novartis Universities, highlights:


“We made a mobile device game to engage our people in our values and behaviours, we have developed games to reinforce and scale up learning, and we have used gaming for developing product knowledge across our salesforce globally.” [7]


The initiative spanned a duration of three years, and Novartis reported a notable 12 percent increase in employee satisfaction. In the realm of gamification and similar approaches, it is vital to conduct segmentation of internal audiences and take into account the organizational culture to ascertain the viability of successfully implementing such tactics.


Further, integrating social media into the internal communication strategy contributes to an improved company culture, consequently leading to heightened employee engagement. Illustratively, L'Oréal, the world's largest cosmetics company, used social media to create a sense of community, increase employee engagement, and cultivate an appealing employer brand externally. Alexander Onish, L'Oréal’s Digital Employer Branding Manager, emphasizes the importance of having a well-defined social media policy within the company. According to him,


“Social media policy is not about blocking Facebook at work. It’s about telling people what is important on social media, and why, and putting the tools and tactics in place to help them use it in the right way. Don’t just say what they can’t share. Instead, define the things you do want them to share and show them the official and safe way to do it.”[8]


This example showcases the significance of comprehending the potential and advantages of social media in the workplace. Training employees on its proper usage can empower internal communication practitioners to craft a thorough action plan, fostering greater engagement among employees and motivating them to exchange experiences and expectations with their peers [9]. Consequently, this approach not only enhances the external image of the company by ensuring the dissemination of relevant content but also improves internal communication, leading to increased employee engagement.


Infusion versus Cascading


While cascading information was traditionally pivotal for effective communication management, this is no longer the case today [10]. David Cowan, an author and visiting scholar in the Communication Department at Boston College, argues that cascading, involving the downward flow of information from leadership, has lost its efficacy in the contemporary communication landscape. The term denotes the passive provision of information by others, leading individuals to follow orders and instructions like a herd, rather than relying on their own information. Moreover, when managers cascade information, they must add value to it; otherwise, the information is merely passed on to employees without ensuring proper delivery or stimulating employee engagement. In contrast, Cowan proposes the concept and process of infusion, which aims to "create greater vitality in the communication work of the organization" [11].



According to the author, infusion emphasizes the significance of communication within an organization to be 'up, down, and across,' encouraging participation at all levels and in all directions. The central concept of infusion involves crafting key messages and putting them into a comprehensive narrative, encouraging and supporting employees to actively engage in the organization's communication endeavors. Additionally, employees should possess a sense of a narrative, envisioning themselves as agents of change. Organizations are currently undergoing significant transformations due to the ever-advancing technological and digital landscape. These changes pose a dual challenge, manifesting as an overload of information and messages, yet also presenting an opportunity to tailor and target information precisely where needed, ensuring it is heard and understood. Infusion is a process that contributes to understanding these changes and provides a ground for developing comprehensive and practical solutions.


Leadership is a fundamental value laying the groundwork for crafting a successful strategy to improve internal communication. Thus, it is crucial to convince leadership that transitioning from cascading to infusion represents a prudent move towards more effective internal communication practices, consequently fostering successful employee engagement. The communication department can employ a persuasive strategy, typically utilized with stakeholders, to alter and align the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of leadership through meetings and open discussions [12]. While this strategy is commonly applied to external stakeholders, it can also be leveraged for internal purposes, such as persuading leadership to embrace a different internal communication strategy. This involves highlighting the advantages of employee engagement for the organization and business as a whole.


Encouraging Feedback and Dialogue


When it comes to employee engagement, discontented and unsatisfied employees may resort to anonymous review platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed, or Kununu to express their opinions about their current or past employers. This typically occurs in organizations characterized by a climate of silence, lacking a culture of feedback and discouraging open dialogue among employees. The repercussions of dissatisfied employees extend beyond potential damage to the company's reputation; these individuals are also prone to underperform and are likely to leave the organization.


Management scholars Morrison and Milliken argue that employees tend to hesitate in expressing their opinions on specific issues due to two key factors [13]. The first factor revolves around managers fearing negative feedback from their employees, as they generally seek to avoid embarrassment and feelings of incompetence. The second factor involves ingrained beliefs that position managers as the ultimate authorities on organizational matters, expected to have everything under control. In such an environment, employees often assume the role of followers who refrain from asking questions and voicing concerns. In an organization characterized by a climate of silence, the use of employee surveys or 360-degree feedback becomes unlikely, as management perceives upward feedback from employees as a threat to their authority. Organizational silence can inflict greater damage because, by suppressing negative feedback, an organization hinders its ability to detect, analyze, and correct errors [14]. When managers discourage feedback, employees may be more inclined to express their negative opinions elsewhere and are less likely to align themselves with the organization. This underscores the need for management to reconsider their approach, fostering better engagement with employees.


Upon encountering negative reviews on review sites, internal communication experts should swiftly implement a strategic response and plan corrective actions. As an illustration, Sonova Holding AG, a globally operating Swiss company specializing in hearing care solutions, takes a proactive approach to all reviews by current and former employees on Glassdoor. They respond by apologizing for negative employee experiences and expressing gratitude for positive reviews [15]. This anonymous feedback should be considered valuable information, prompting corrective measures within a company's internal communication practices to enhance working conditions and preempt dissatisfaction among other employees facing similar reported issues.


Many companies establish their own set of values, aspiring for every employee to adopt and embrace these principles. However, the critical aspect lies in how these values are selected and communicated, as this will influence the depth of the connection companies can establish with their employees. There are instances where employees may feel disconnected or uneasy when confronted with an imposed set of values. Conversely, when values are collaboratively defined, employees tend to find them more meaningful. Companies can opt to reassess values initially determined from the top-down by engaging in consultations with employees, fostering a connection and open dialogue around these values [16].


In 2003, Hindustan Petroleum Company Limited (HPCL), the third-largest oil company in India, initiated a series of workshops titled "Vision 2006." These workshops aimed to encourage employees to discuss the strategic vision and direction of the company. The workshops, spanning up to three days, involved professional coaches to manage and facilitate discussions within small groups. Leadership observed a convergence of opinions and ideas and received constructive feedback from the participants. Arun Balakrishnan, the Chairman and Managing Director from 2007 to 2010, remarked, "It was amazing to see that irrespective of the level in the hierarchy, the vision statements that were coming out were almost the same, from the senior management down to unionized staff – especially from the unionized staff" [17]. The outcome of these workshop series was that unionized staff played a pivotal role in redefining the company's business focus, urging it to expand globally, and, most importantly, fostering a sense of ownership of the vision among employees.


Numerous organizations emphasize the importance of employee engagement, recognizing its substantial impact on business success. Some communication departments have acknowledged this and are actively working towards improving their internal communication strategies and initiatives. Modern organizational culture places emphasis on transparency, feedback, employee participation in decision-making processes, and open dialogue, collectively contributing to the development of a culture centered around employee engagement.



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[17] Groysberg,B. and Slind, M., 2012. Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power their Organisations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, p. 38.