WEDNESDAY 4 MAR 2020 2:22 PM


Victoria Lewis-Stephens, co-founder and CEO of United Culture and an expert in employee engagement, shares with Communicate magazine all the ins and outs of the industry, from the top strategies companies should adopt to better communicate with their employees to the role sustainability plays as of today.

What is the number one piece of advice you would give a company attempting to communicate with its employees during a period of significant change or crisis?
Every company starts from a slightly different place so the answer to this would vary depending on who I was talking to. But there are a few things I would suggest are critical for every company to think about and make sure they have in place.

Narrative: Paint a picture of the future so your people know where you are going and why. A lot of companies are still missing a simple and compelling story that helps their people understand the journey the company has been on, the challenges it faces, where it is going, and how it plans to get there. Without this it’s almost impossible for employees to work out what their role is and connect the change journey to their role.

Be open and honest: During times of change companies need to make sure they have an open dialogue with their people. Don't try and 'PR' or spin the negative impacts of change. Be respectful but transparent about what is changing and why.

Involve your people: Companies often forget that ideas for business improvement and innovation often sit within their organisation. All too often we seek support from management consulting firms to give us the answers.  If businesses create the right culture and conditions you can often get inspiring and game changing ideas from within. I would advise companies to work out what needs fixing, identify what needs changing, and create the right environment that will help your people to come up with the right solutions. This sounds so simple but it’s really not!

Equip your line managers and leaders: Leaders and line managers have an incredibly important role to play when it comes to engaging your people – especially during times of change. Give them the training and communications materials to help them to lead the change. Empower them to drive the change for their teams in a credible way and involve them in shaping the journey you need to go on. Don't simply tell them what you’re doing, figure it out together so they can own the change.

How can businesses maintain a high reputation with employees when undergoing a period of rapid global expansion?

Growth is a good thing. But growing and expanding at pace can be painful for employees and customers. In truth, brands are built from the inside out, so if your employees are not clear on what your brand promise is, then it’s unlikely they will deliver it across all of your customer touchpoints. To be able to grow at pace you need alignment across your entire employee journey from attraction and recruitment right through to when someone choses to leave.  If you have this then growth becomes easier.

The essentials I talked about in a change scenario are equally relevant here. Without a clear story, engaged and aligned leaders and managers, and an opportunity for people to get involved it’s hard to get people excited about where the business is going.

I think an important factor here is also culture. The culture needed within a business that is on a fast track growth agenda is quite specific. You need to identify the culture that will enable this and work out how you build and maintain it.

What impact does employee engagement have on businesses’ performance and growth?

Engaged employees are critical for business growth, if your people are not engaged then your growth will be impacted.

Companies whose employees understand and believe in the company’s purpose and are clear on the strategy are more likely to be able to make a difference to the bottom line. Why? Because they are more likely to be able to connect what they do on a day-to-day basis with the companies goals and ambitions.

You genuinely build a brand from the inside out and if your employees don’t get it your customers won’t either.  And this will impact a company’s ability to build customer loyalty. 

How does increased sensibility to sustainability impact how employees engage with businesses? What can businesses do to engage with fears over climate change?

Today employees look at all aspects of a business before deciding who they want to work for and more than ever sustainability credentials are high on the agenda of things people consider. People want to believe that the organisation they work for contributes to the world in a meaningful way and doesn’t damage the planet. If they do have a negative impact, they want to know what are they doing to offset it.

Sustainability is not something organisations can nor should hide from.

Most of the organisations we work with are really serious about managing their impact on the world. It’s not just on their agenda it’s hard wired into their purpose.

What are the top strategies business can adopt to better engage with employees?

Candidly, you need to start with getting the basics right. Help people understand where the company is going, and why it exists. Then look for ways to involve your people in the journey you need to go on.

I think there are several questions a business needs to consider to accelerate its ability to truly engage its people. Where do you need employee input – to problem solve and innovate so you can achieve your ambitions? Is your culture fir for the future? What kind of culture do you need to be successful? Have you mapped your employee journey, so you understand how your brand shows up at each stage? Are your managers clear on their role, and do they have the skills and  information for them to fulfil their role? Do your leaders talk consistently about your business, and are they role modelling behaviours you need in your future culture?

What is United Culture?

The three founding directors wanted to start a nimble, globally relevant and creative business focused on employee and customer engagement. Whilst a number of companies are trying offer their clients solutions that will engage their employees and in turn drive customer loyalty very few have genuine and credible expertise across all disciplines to be able to offer holistic solutions that truly drive commercial value. 

Clients are looking for joined up thinking, truly innovative solutions and expertise that will help them stay future fit.

That is where we come in. 

Our agile thinking, creativity and deep specialism in engaging employees in a way that builds value puts us in a prime position to redefine the engagement industry, and help businesses grow. Our business is focused on delivering four core strategic services: leadership and talent, culture change, strategy activation, employee experience.