Megaphone Effectivecommunications and visibility can enhance your connection with yourpeople, your people's connection to the business, and theirconnections with each other. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Employee engagement is a hot topic, and however you define it,having your employees aligned, connected and interested in thesuccess of your company seems like a reasonableobjective for business leaders. However, in a society whereattention spans are narrowing and a business environment wherechange is rapid and constant, holding on to your teams' interestand focus is a huge challenge.

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As the CEO of Reward Gateway, a high-growth global technologycompany, our ability to adapt to and be comfortable with change isa key driver of our success. The reality, however, is that changeis uncomfortable for most people, and the worst thing a leader cando is pretend that change doesn't cause anxiety, stress anddistraction to employees. Putting the right strategies, tools andmethods in place can help your team remain engaged and alignedthroughout challenging times of change.

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Related: 4 tactics to ramp up employee engagement in2019

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Two common threads that anchor effective employee engagementstrategies are communication and visibility. Effectivecommunications and visibility can enhance your connection with yourpeople, your people's connection to the business, and theirconnections with each other. Ultimately, these can help reduce thecommon stresses of a fast-paced, high-change environment.

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Effective communication is a fundamental element of employeeengagement, and this requires relevant content and accessibledistribution. Giving your people the information they need and wantto know, and delivering messages you want them to hear in a waythat grabs their attention is essential. Ensuring that your peoplecan hear or see these messages whenever and wherever they arelocated will improve your chances of connecting with and engagingyour people.

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Reaching employees where they are

With an increasingly remote and mobile workforce,having an effective means of communicating with your people isincreasingly important, and at the same time more challenging. Wehave a platform that serves as a central hub for employeecommunications, recognition, and benefits. When employees need toconnect with the business, they have one place to go, and when thebusiness needs to connect with our people, we have a centralizedplace to reach them.

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We also recognize that our people are highly mobile and wantinformation on their time, so we make sure our employee engagementplatform is available through a dedicated mobile app.

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Like most organizations, we  use several communicationtools, including email and messaging services like Slack, and ourcentral engagement platform is integrated with a number of otherservices. This allows our announcements to be automaticallydistributed across these other communication tools to maximizetheir reach.

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The bottom line is that to effectively communicate with yourpeople, you need to take the message to them where they are. Havingthe right tools to distribute your messages will increase yourchances of reaching them as they move through their busy days.

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Visible communications

Another effective tool you can use to connect with your people,especially during times of change, is visibility. When I sayvisibility, I mean visibility of leadership with your people, andvisibility of all employees with each other. Leadership must makethemselves and their messages accessible to their people, and ifemployees are able to see the work and contributions of theircolleagues, it will help create a greater sense of team andcollective purpose and mission.

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I have learned in my nearly 20 years holding executive positionswith small and medium-size companies is that employees are actuallyinterested in what managers and other leaders have to say about thebusiness, and I am sure this is true of larger companies as well.This is especially true in my current role as chief executive, asmy opinions help shape the strategic direction of the business.

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I write a weekly internal blog that is distributed globallyacross our employee engagement platform. In it, I discusshighlights from the prior week, promote upcoming initiatives, andsometimes simply give my personal perspective on various topicsthat I believe are impacting our business, our people, or ourcompany culture. I also make a point of personally writingannouncements around significant personnel or other strategicchanges made in the business. These, too, are posted on ourengagement platform and distributed across our other communicationschannels. I believe that my visibility across all of our teams,which are located in four countries and seven offices globally, isimportant in creating alignment with our people.

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The same is true with my leadership team, as I encourage them tocommunicate directly with the business with blogs and otherarticles through the same employee platforms. I find this activityso important that I include their visibility and blog or articlecontributions as part of their performance reviews.

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In addition, we use company-wide communications to promotevisibility of newer and developing leaders in the business byasking them to contribute articles about their own areas of thebusiness or unique positions in our culture. Visibility helpsdeveloping leaders demonstrate their roles, responsibilities, andimportance to the business.

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Finally, globally visible communications are an excellent way toamplify recognition of managers and non-managers alike. Whether inthe text of my weekly blog, or in articles highlighting otherprojects and initiatives, individual employees receive globalrecognition for their contributions in these internal informationreleases. Much like seeing your name in a local newspaper article,this type of recognition serves to relate the successes of thebusiness to our people and promotes individual incentive,commitment, alignment, and—yes—engagement.

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Explain the 'Why'

I've learned many things through my consistent and highlyvisible communications with my  teammates, but perhaps themost important is the value of being transparent, timely, andalways explaining the “why” when discussing changes in thebusiness. People need to understand the reasons behind decisionsand change, and not just the process. Employees also need to knowwhat it means for them, and how they can contribute to a particularinitiative to support the company's overall mission and strategicobjectives.

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Visible peer-to-peer recognition

In addition to leadership providing manager-led recognition toindividual employees, another effective means of promoting employeeengagement is developing a culture of continuous recognition. Thereare several technologies and methodologies available to supportpeer-to-peer recognition programs, but a powerful element of ourprogram is the social recognition feature.

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Every day, scores of our employees send hundreds of internalmessages (e-cards) to others in the business acknowledgingparticular contributions, and each message is connected with one ofour company's values to align actions with our culture and mission.Most important, many messages are also immediately posted to our“social wall” where all of our global employees can see the notesof recognition. Other employees can then add “reactions,” such as“likes” or other supportive emoji, thus amplifying the recognitionmoment.

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In this age of social media, we live and operate in a much morevisible society, and many of our employees live their personallives sharing and observing their day-to-day activities withfriends (and others). If we are to effectively communicate with ouremployees today, we need to incorporate these new methods into ourpeople and communication strategies. The Social Wall mirrors thepublic visibility that many of our team members are used to intheir personal lives and creates a recognition experience they canmore easily relate to.

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The world is changing the way we communicate, but it hasn'tchanged the importance of an engaged workforce. By committing toleadership visibility, strategically making internal recognitionmore visible, and using modern tools to effectively communicatewith your people, you can move the needle on employee engagement inthis fast-moving and ever-changing business and sociallandscape.

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Doug Butler is Chief Executive Officer ofRewardGateway, a global human resources SaaS company headquartered inLondon. Prior to joining Reward Gateway, Butler was co-founder,President and CFO of Latisys, a US based datacenter and managedhosting provider. Prior roles included being CFO at twotelecommunications infrastructure businesses, and 10 years ininvestment banking and corporate finance at Barclays Capital, GECapital, and Chemical Bank (now JP Morgan).

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