Colleagues as Consumers – taking a marketing mindset to create an impactful employee experience.

Elouise Leonard-Cross, Head of People Strategy & Experience at NWG discusses their innovative approach to employee engagement.
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson is famous for his belief in the importance of the employee, believing if an employee is given the tools they need, looked after and treated well, that they will be happy and as a result, the customer will have a positive experience. A strong belief that putting staff first, customer second and shareholders third, effectively yields positive outcomes for shareholders and a better customer experience.

All too often businesses invest in marketing but use that talent and resource pointed at an external market - creating products, solutions and messaging aimed at the customer. The result is that employees complain they are the last to know, see things on external digital channels or even hear them from customers themselves.

So how can businesses adopt their communications approach so that they treat colleagues as consumers? The starting point is to simply understand the customer proposition. At Northumbrian Water we have mirrored roles in both People and Customer – each having a team focused on Strategy and Experience. This means that the conversations start early and the most basic level we look to use the same underpinning model. This shared start point means we are looking through a similar lens and measuring complementary metrics.

We are simultaneously reducing the number of channels and improving the channels we retain for colleagues to communicate, share and feedback. Many businesses invest in setting up channels, forums and networks but then fail to sustain these with ideas that are sent to an inbox or posted in a forum by a colleague being missed and then creating disengagement and distrust. By having fewer channels but ensuring these are highly accessible, monitored and responded to help colleagues feel like a powerful voice within the business.

Small actions like sharing Press Releases internally before they are promoted externally makes a real difference in colleagues feeling valued and informed. In addition, we are using more agile approaches to learning, to understand the wants and preferences of our internal consumers. This includes building new communications and resource platforms with high-quality analytics, so we can see immediately what is working and what isn’t. The key here is that the interest in this data remains, it’s considered weekly (if not daily) to understand what is happening and take real-time action. We’ve seen real success with this as we redesigned our Health and Wellness approach using consumer centred thinking. We undertook considerable analysis of the situation and needs of our customers, using persona’s to support our thinking. The design was intentionally different too, crafted to reflect the needs of colleagues during the pandemic. This resulted in a much more informal and engaging product design and the collaborative development of a site that has been accessed by over 90% of colleagues within the first 6 months.

Join Dr Elouise Leonard-Cross at People Power on 16th November to hear more about how collaboration and strong partnerships between the Corporate Communications and HR function is enabling people projects to achieve maximum benefit and impact and the award-winning Living Well project.