August 15, 2019 • Rick Beller
In our first installment of Authentic Content Across the Talent Supply Chain, we explored how authentic content can be used to improve recruitment and onboarding. In this installment, we’ll take a look at how authentic content can help sustain employee engagement to have a positive impact on productivity, turnover and ambassadors.
A recent Gallup study found that 33% of U.S. employees are engaged at work while 51% are not engaged, and 16% are actively disengaged, meaning that they actively seek to undermine the positivity of the 33% of engaged employees and negatively influence the 51% of employees who are there to collect a paycheck. The estimated productivity cost to companies is approximately $500 billion annually, based on just the finding that engaged employees are 17% more productive than disengaged employees.
As such, employee engagement needs to be a strategic priority. Many factors contribute to employee engagement, but the basic essence of it is an individual’s belief that they matter—that their efforts, combined with those of their colleagues, make a difference. Equally important is alignment between an organization’s values in action and its employees’ personal values. From millennials to baby boomers, this alignment establishes an emotional connection that elevates and sustains engagement, even in challenging times. The rise of CSR and purpose programs reflects this reality.
So, what does employee engagement have to do with authentic content? It’s simple: Belief is built on action. Even the best-worded purpose statement will be quickly dismissed—or worse, become fodder for cynicism and negative social media—if it isn’t backed up by proof points. This is why programs that are intended to elevate engagement often hinge on an organization’s ability to curate and share experiences that demonstrate that the company has walked the walk, and not just talked the talk.
One of our clients is a multinational company that recently introduced a diversity and inclusion program. As with many well-established firms, dedication to inclusion has not always been immediately evident. However, as part of our research, we identified instances of women and people of color making significant contributions to the firm dating back almost 100 years. We also identified moments and leadership decisions from decades past that, while incremental by today’s standards, were the roots for today’s women in leadership, LGBTQ equality, and gender pay equity programs.
By curating these examples and putting them in context, we were able to tell an authentic and meaningful story that demonstrated a steady march toward diversity and inclusion within the workplace. We were then able to connect the past to today’s efforts so our client can confidently state that diversity and inclusion are central to the firm today and into the future. The added value of this kind of authentic content can make or break an engagement program.
Another example of authentic content at work involves HarperCollins. In 2012, the world-renowned publisher moved its headquarters from Midtown to Lower Manhattan. Its new space was open, collaborative, contemporary and reflective of a modern organization. Company leaders came to us seeking an exhibit, but what they really wanted was to use the space to tell a story that reinforced the publisher’s global goal: to be the publisher of choice for authors—known and unknown—who have many options for publishing their work. This commitment to authors needed to be front and center, because it was the unifying DNA for a global workforce built upon generations of acquisitions.
Informed by this mission, we combed through nearly 200 years of HarperCollins’ global history. We learned how authors, including Agatha Christie and Harper Lee, had been championed and shepherded through the publishing process by HarperCollins to become household names. We found images and quotes from authors, including one who shared his experience of walking up a spiral staircase in the old New York office as an unknown and coming down as an author.
Inspired by these authentic stories, we designed a multi-story installation organized around the author’s journey. Beginning with the trials and tribulations of new authors, we used the space to illustrate how HarperCollins helps authors overcome hardships and supports them on their road to success. We spotlighted authors using images, quotes and visual design that reflect the evolution of publishing and printing, from early printing presses to today’s digital platforms. Central to this design was a staircase that echoed the experience of historical authors who ascended the stairs unknown and descended as a HarperCollins author.
To this day, prospective authors tour the installation to learn more about the publisher’s longtime commitment to authors, and employees are reminded each day of their purpose, which is to find and help promote the next Mark Twain. This emotional connection to both authors and employees would not have been possible without authentic content.
Authentic content is central to engagement because it meaningfully connects a company’s past to its present in a way that emotionally ties employees to the mission, purpose and values of a company. Authentic storytelling says, “We matter, and you matter.” It is what builds pride in the past and confidence in the future.
In the first installment devoted to this topic, we highlighted the central role an organization’s culture plays in driving the talent strategy. We shared examples of how content that is effectively curated and used can help an organization recruit the right people and onboard them more effectively. Now, we illustrate how authentic content is an often-overlooked contributor to increased engagement and greater productivity and less turnover.
If, as previously noted, Peter Drucker’s assertion that culture eats strategy for breakfast is true, then organizations must have a sustainable approach for leveraging authentic content across their talent chain. This content differentiates them based on who they are, not just what they do—today and in 25 or even 100 years. Will your organization be prepared?