Inspiring Employee Engagement Through Communications

Inspiring Employee Engagement Through Communications

Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 2:05pm

CAMPAIGN: PwC US Corporate Responsibility


Jodi Singer, Corporate Responsibility Communications Director, has been at PwC for 14 years Prior to joining the CR team over a year ago, Jodi held various roles in PwC’s Sales and Marketing organization, most recently on the Marketing & Sales Innovation team where she developed and rolled out PursuitTM  – the PwC way for creating opportunities and winning work – across the firm and to global offices.  She’s passionate about community service and volunteers with a number of organizations. Jodi has taught financial literacy at her children’s schools, as part of Project Belize, and with her colleagues in the Philadelphia schools.


On November 2, I joined 15,000 other people at a Philadelphia charity walk to raise money for children and adults with special needs. As captain of “Team Inspiration,” I rallied 40+ team members to raise almost $12,000 for a cause near and dear to my heart.  We raised more money than in any of the past four years I led this team, and I strongly believe communications was the key to our success.

Communicating to mobilize a 40+ person team and various community organizations may sound like a big task, but it’s nothing compared to my day job. As Corporate Responsibility (CR) Communications Director, I’m tasked with educating 39,000 people across the US firm about our CR strategy and programs and inspiring them to get engaged.

Communicating internally to inspire engagement is a universal challenge across industries, and faced by corporations, nonprofits, and small businesses alike. Many communications professionals ask the same questions: What are the best channels to reach people? How do we break through information overload and get people to pay attention to ourmessages and take action?  How do we measure the ROI of internal communications?  Are these some of your challenges?  They’re certainly ours.

Over the years, we’ve done some things well, but perhaps more importantly, we’ve learned some valuable lessons about what doesn’t work. For example, we diligently  leverage multiple communications channels to share news about CR, including our daily internal  PwC News e-mail, partner-specific and firmwide messages from our chairman (a huge supporter of CR), and our Intranet site. However, we often talk to individuals who aren’t aware of our programs. They’ve never heard of PwC’s Earn Your Future youth education commitment, The PwC Charitable Foundation’s Dollars for Doers Program, or our local Green Teams. Why don’t they know about these programs if we’re communicating through so many channels? Because we need to do a better job of reaching our people with the right messages based on what’s most meaningful to them at that point in their lives and careers.

How? Three questions help us strategize:

1) First we asked ourselves what motivates our people at different stages in their careers?

For our junior staff, typically it’s sharing how PwC CR supports their passions– whether it’s teaching financial literacy, participating in a “green” challenge, or volunteering at their favorite nonprofit – and will help them develop key skills and provide them with valuable networking opportunities. Reaching this group with action-oriented communications about volunteer opportunities is critical.

For managers and directors it’s more about how CR can help them get to the next level by growing their leadership skills – whether it’s becoming a board member, leading an office volunteering event, or leading an office interest group like the women’s networking circles, diversity/minority group, GLBT circles, or the Disability Caregivers Network. Being engaged for this group could also mean supporting their partners’ interests as well as keeping their staff motivated and happy. When managers and directors demonstrate their commitment to CR, their staff realizes they, too, can take some time to get involved. CR engagement in these activities = happier, more productive employees who may be less likely to leave the firm. Communicating via human-interest stories helps us connect particularly well with our people at this level.

For our partners, what’s critical is continuing to connect CR to our firm strategy and how our programs enhance our brand, drive operational efficiencies and inspire employee engagement. Strategic messaging from our chairman that highlights the high-level connection CR has to key value drivers is effective here.

2) Then we have to look at when’s the right time to communicate? It’s difficult to connect with 39,000 people.  Many of our consultants travel frequently and may miss a lot of local messaging. In addition, there’s a three to four month quiet period when our tax and audit professionals are under deadline, and communications outside of client work are discouraged. However, even when the stars align and it’s the perfect time to communicate, not everyone will readPwC News on the day we run a CR feature, a local office promotes an event, or we share an Intranet update. Not everyone tunes into “town hall” meetings and not all partners read the bi-weekly partner communication. People are busy and CR isn’t always top of mind.

3) That’s why it’s critical to make sure we’re using the right channels.  We’ve heard business area- (e.g., Tax, Audit, Consulting) specific messages are more relevant to the manager, director and partner population, and we’ve been exploring how to better align with each area’s communications strategy and calendar. Our associates and senior associates – often Millenials – spend a lot of time on social media, so we leverage some of those platforms to reach our people internally. In addition, we work with each of our geographical markets to customize messages that inspire people to get involved locally. Across the firm, our people−from interns to partners−are on the go, which makes creating mobile-friendly CR messaging, a must for effective communications.  And that extends across our many platforms, including our CR web page, our Giving site, our market leadership newsletters, and many other communication channels.

We’re also weighing the benefits of communicating less frequently but more concisely by putting “the ask” and the “what’s in it for me?” up front, as well as using more infographics, photos, videos and fewer words to tell our story.  Will people be more likely to pay attention to messages knowing they contain key information OR will we lose an opportunity to reach people by not communicating more regularly?  It’s a balancing act.

The data shows we are reaching people – thanks to more focused CR programs and a more focused communications strategy to connect with them. For example, in FY13:

  • 72% of our people participated in at least one area of CR (e.g. volunteering, charitable giving, pro bono work, green teams), compared to 58% in FY12
  • We saw a 90% increase in volunteer hours between fiscal years (236,720 in FY13 vs. 124,198 in FY12)

And so, we continue to move forward and strategize about how we can reach even more of our population by communicating more efficiently and effectively.

What do you think? What’s your biggest communication challenge?  What’s the best way to capture your attention and inspire you to get involved?