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Fighting Employee Disengagement with Communications and Content

It’s now a daily surety that our morning Google newsfeed will contain some sort of headline – usually multiple headlines – around the state of employee disengagement. The latest of these headlines highlight a recent Gallup report, which found that a concerning large number of the young millennial workforce, including Gen Z’ers, were disengaged with their jobs.

Roughly 67,000 employees were surveyed in 2022, and 32% reported engagement with their work, a decline from the 36% that reported engagement in 2020. Between 2020 and 2022, the percentage of employees that said they were “actively disengaged” rose, while the percentage of those that reported they were “not engaged” remained the same.

The most concerning statistic was from the younger workforce, which reported a greater increase in disengagement compared to the older employee populace. Engagement from the younger workforce directly correlates to individual productivity and achieving upward career mobility, which in turn is imperative to companies improving their bottom line and overall performance.

“Those under 35 reported feeling less heard and less cared about at work. Fewer Gen Zers and young millennials reported having someone at work who encourages their development and fewer opportunities to learn and grow.”


At the same time as this article caught our attention, we noticed another story, but this one from a popular art, design and entertainment publisher. The focus of this particular story was a young millennial who authored a TikTok video (amassing over 1 million views as of mid-January) after 6 months of her 9-5 job, professing her desire to quit due to the work culture.

This isn’t by any means a novel or eye-opening admission, as “The Great Resignation” of 2021 resulted in more than 47 million employees quitting their jobs in their search for improved work-life balance, flexibility, better compensation and stronger company culture (as reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce). But what stood out to us was this young worker’s sincere commentary that she appreciated her co-workers and that her job was “all around great”, but that she was struggling with the feeling that nothing has happened in the past six months.

The Oxford dictionary defines “disengagement” as “emotional detachment”. But in today’s corporate culture, disengagement is much more than simple emotional apathy. It’s the lack of feeling individual achievement in concert with a general lack of connection from management, leadership and company culture. Disengagement is the antithesis of a strong employee experience, and this leads directly to a plethora of critical company issues – from a lack of employee productivity, a decline in desire to achieve on behalf of the company, emergence of the recent behavioral detachment known as “quiet quitting”, and ultimately, workforce attrition.

Employees across the enterprise are voicing their desires, and not unquietly – from improved work/home balance, remote flexibility, stronger leadership (we’re looking at you, CEOs!), improved DEI programs, and a company culture they can take pride in. And we’ve seen many companies respond with new or improved HR/people programs, overhauled performance management standards, investments in total rewards, and CEOs that stand up and take accountability. But when these improvements are being made, and employees are still reporting a lack of connection with their company, or that discouraging feeling that “nothing has happened in the past six months”, we have to look at the gap between the employees and the improvements made by the company.

Communications and content are the vital building blocks for any successful employee engagement. But many HR organizations either defer to generic “off-the-shelf” content to supplement their communications, or revert to templated or simplified communication strategies due to lack of resources, manpower and other, more pressing, priorities. Today’s workforce is incredibly diverse, complex, and attentive when it comes to how companies opt to communicate with them. If internal communications and content is not up to a minimum standard, the result is not just a lack of engagement on the part of the workforce, but rather an increase in disengagement.

“Ineffective communication may increase the chances for misunderstandings, damage relationships, break trust, and increase anger and hostility. Ineffective communication may stem from poorly aligned strategy, a failure to execute the strategy, use of wrong communication vehicle, bad timing, and even nuances such as word choice or tone of voice”


What is the minimum standard then for communicating with employees? It begins with content and communication strategies that prioritize personalized (and sometimes customized), well-written and visually appealing content that is then delivered through the proper communication channel. Don’t settle for off-the-shelf or generic content and communications. Similar to how our minds tune out poorly produced commercials or boring videos in the consumer world, poorly constructed content or communications in the workplace will result in mental blockades, which over time, become increasingly difficult to redress.

With the younger employee workforce, they are accustomed to on-demand content that they can consume “whenever”, “however”, and “wherever” they choose. Therefore, it becomes vital to factor in the time of content publishing, channel, media size or total running time (TRT), and cadence in addition to personalization and scheduling.

Many times, HR organizations feel they no choice but to rely on generic content or templated communications due to lack of expertise, resources, or time. In truth, the prospect of designing content and building a strong core in communications can seem daunting and better suited for marketing teams that have a wide breadth of experience in understanding their audience and deploying effective strategies. But there is no reason why HR organizations these days can’t “think like a marketer”, and hire external agencies to support their internal efforts, which is the typical modus operandi for marketing organizations both large and small. In fact, this is why external marketing agencies run the gamut from small boutique shops that work with smaller budgets to large integrated, umbrella agencies that cater to larger budgets.

While HR organizations haven’t had the benefit of diversified marketing vendors and the ability to selectively choose a partner, the strategic importance of internal communications and content, and the vital role they play in healthy employee engagement (which in turn impacts productivity and overall company performance) will force some of these larger-scale changes in the HR landscape.

Other times, HR organizations are handcuffed due to limited budgets. Coupled with a lack of vendor and/or support options, they assume cost-effective content is simply out of reach for them. After 20+ years in HR communications and consumer media design, we at Envoque know, that without a doubt, content and communications can be both cost-effective and well-designed. Our media expertise runs far and deep in how to design effective strategies and execute on internal (and external) communications and content for any budget.

Finally, with the costs of rising employee disengagement, poor productivity and the harmful impact on company performance and employee attrition, this small investment in improving your company communications and content can pay meaningful dividends down the road in securing and building a lasting employee experience.

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