Employee engagement: if you’re not asking this one question, you’re not really getting it

Look, if you really want to “engage” your employees, don’t faff around with message maps. It’ll only waste your time, your team’s time and the CEO’s time. What’s more, said CEO will begin to wonder why, exactly, he’s paying you to waste his time faffing around with message maps.

See last week’s post: Communicators, is this why you’re not getting “buy-in” for your work?

If it's your job to "engage" your employees read on. You'll discover the only question you need to ask to craft your "key message" (yes, there should only be one key message).

What's more, I guarantee your CEO will be impressed that you really, really get the business benefits of employee engagement.

As we’ve said before, bombarding employees with a load of key messages doesn’t mean you’ve done your job. It just means you’ve bombarded employees with a load of key messages.

See our previous post: Here’s what’s wrong with internal comms – and the simple thing you can do about it.

Instead, take a tip from Hoover Adams, former editor of the Daily Record in Dunn, North Carolina.

Chip and Dan Heath tell Hoover’s story in Made to Stick, a book no professional communicator should be without.

Hoover understood that what sold local papers was local news about local people. He knew the only reason you pick up a local paper is to see yourself or someone you know in there.

So what was his “key message” to journalists on the paper?

Was it some blither-blather about “driving engagement through local stories” or “delivering local news to local people”.

Nope. It was three words: “Names, names, names”.

Everyone who worked on the paper knew exactly what was expected of them: just get as many names as possible into each edition.

Names, names names. Every decision any journalist under Hoover made was informed by this simple, concrete, memorable idea.

The choice of stories. The way they were written. The way they were edited.

So ditch the career-limiting pointlessness of message maps. If you need a map to think your message through, it’s way too complicated.

Because if you’re lost without your message map, just think how your employees will feel.

Instead, boil things down to one, simple, concrete, memorable idea.

And start by asking your CEO this: what’s the one thing every employee can do every day to make the firm more money?

Yes, employee engagement is, when it comes down to it, all about profit.

And once your CEO sees that you get it, she'll see you in a whole different light.