The people payoff

Investing in employee engagement to build ownership, understanding and pride

The first Wednesday of January marks the busiest job search day of the year. Last year on that day, two out of five people in the UK actively threw their CVs into the ring driven by New Year resolutions, aspirations for a little more money or simply a fresh challenge. At Virgo Health, we do what we can to ensure our people are professionally fulfilled and hope we get it right most of the time. Our ranking as one of the UK’s Great Places to Work is much prized and although we currently sit at number 14 in the rankings, we’re always thinking about what we can do to improve. But there’s also a degree of acceptance that a new year brings change, and inevitable upheaval. It’s estimated to take 28 weeks for a new hire to reach optimum productivity at a cost of more than £30,000. So how do we ensure the best people stay put?

It’s an obvious point, but the starting point is a conversation. There’s a growing expectation that organisations will invest in innovative ways to understand employees – to listen to what they have to say, to recognise where they need support, to facilitate collaboration and then communicate in a personal and authentic way. People who’re involved in decision-making feel significant and empowered. Internal communications is the pathway to engaging staff on an emotional level and to strengthening internal pride. Ultimately, employees are our frontline ambassadors, so we need to begin by asking “What’s the emotional response we want from our people?”, and “what’s the stimulus that we need to apply?”.

"Ultimately, employees are our frontline ambassadors."

As a healthcare communication agency, we’ve found the pharma industry to be no exception. Our clients engage directly with patients to create holistic programmes that provide support ‘beyond the pill’. It’s a valiant ambition and one that not only resonates externally but internally, engaging staff and feeding employee pride. Increasingly, we’ve seen our clients review the balance between internal and external communications with an appreciation that what takes place in-house should be just as strategic and just as creative. This is all the more apparent as organisations become fragmented and more complex – embracing flexible work cultures that allow for remote working arrangements. Communicating and maintaining connections with a millennial workforce that considers the option of working from home ‘the norm’, is rarely simple. A robust internal culture is essential to success.

We’re certainly seeing the potential of strong internal campaigns being recognised, and are proud that one of our own employee engagement programmes, developed and executed with our client Roche, was recently honoured with a Corporate Comms Award. Roche is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to drug discovery. As the biggest investor in healthcare research and development, its pipeline of potential new medicines consists of more than 70 molecules, which address some of the biggest health challenges of our time. Extraordinary medicines require extraordinary people and a strong and diverse pipeline depends on attracting and retaining that talent. Our challenge was to increase pride and expand employee knowledge of Roche’s extensive pipeline, thereby creating expert and proud ambassadors who would communicate the pipeline’s potential and present it as a valuable company asset.

An engaging campaign

Our strategy helped instil a sense of ownership of Roche’s innovative drug portfolio as well as a sense of anticipatory pride about the company’s future across its UK workforce. By combining high science with popular culture, we co-developed a campaign that took employees on a journey of scientific discovery – similar to Charlie navigating his way through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory to discover the ingredients behind its success. Using interactive content and visual storytelling, we used compelling branding and cinematic video to engage with our internal stakeholders emotionally.

The campaign generated an invaluable experience. Staff came away with a deeper understanding of Roche’s drug discovery process, and just as importantly, its application to transforming the future of healthcare, improving people’s health and saving lives.

Employees were engaged from the outset. The event attracted more than 300 participants – four times the initial target. The feedback was phenomenal. Internal knowledge of the pipeline and the disease areas being investigated by Roche soared, and after the event, 97 per cent of employees expressed excitement about their company’s future. The outcomes exceeded every objective set, not only in terms of shifting perceptions, but in creating a sense of pride and confidence in Roche’s vision, its research and development strategy and the development of new internal relationships.

To us, the reason organisations should invest in strengthening internal pride is a no brainer. Building an army of brand ambassadors and getting them behind the big stuff, excited by the vision and pulling together to overcome challenges, is vital to attracting and retaining the best talent and achieving a competitive edge. Who wouldn’t want that?