How IC it

What I like in the world of internal communications and employee engagement.

These diamond shoes are too tight: when engagement goes bad

Is there an employee engagement backlash brewing? I’ve read a few articles lately that suggest so – or at least that engagement is now so prevalent that we’re taking our complacent eyes off the ball and starting to get it wrong.

One piece, from Forbes, asks whether engagement is becoming counter productive. It’s a tempting headline for a pretty sound story on the importance of engaging on the right things. I like thinking of engagement in terms of alignment with strategy and that’s really the point of this piece.

But it got me thinking about the times in my past when my best-laid engagement plans have gone awry… screen goes wobbly… fade up to…

– The time we ran a well-being campaign about testicular cancer. The campaign scooped the journalist an Institute of Internal Communication award and brought me dozens of complaints that we hadn’t chosen breast cancer. Towers Watson may consistently find that leaders’ concern for their people’s well-being is a key driver of engagement but it sure isn’t when you limit that concern to those with the right chromosomes.

– The time we gave out chocolates to say thanks when we hit a milestone target. Everyone loves chocolate, don’t they? Well yes, especially the people who were on holiday that day and naturally complained they didn’t get any.

– And finally, the time I invited people to vote on their favourite of four potential covers for our relaunched employee magazine. A simple bit of involvement and fun which cost me many hours and no little sanity. The vote was so popular that we had thousands more votes than there were actual employees (yes, I should have set it so that people could vote only once). The most memorable of a fair few emails read “Sir: I have calculated that yourself and your team of eight have each voted once every seven seconds, without break for food or toilet, to reach that number of votes.”

All painful at the time but a useful lesson now – if you’re gonna involve people, make sure you catch everyone. Otherwise, be prepared to be measured for your ‘counter productive’ cap.

How about you – any engagement howlers to share? If not, spare a thought for these poor souls whose work screw-ups have been immortalised on Rhodri Marsden’s Storify.

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