Employee Engagement – It’s About Context and Meaning

What matters more:  That employees are happy, or that they are engaged?  What does employee engagement look like and how do we get there in a sometimes cynical, always changing, increasingly diverse 21st Century workplace?  Will newsletters, videos, websites, inspiring talks from the CEO or even social media get us there?

Veteran communicator and educator Dan VanKeeken thinks best practice communication process in contemporary organizations begins at leadership level. “Employee engagement springs from effective leadership supported by strong internal communiication.”

Employees say, “I am not getting what I want from my supervisor.” Employee communication has a tendency to be reactive and tactical. “Employee communication needs to be stratgeic, focused on the marketplace and the customer and based on a careful plan,” says VanKeekan.

What kind of communication work best? “Forget the employee newsletter,” advises Van Keekan. “Emplyees want context and meaning not information.”

VanKeekan reinforces communicators’ role as facilitators in helping leaders at all levels spark greater employee engagement.

VanKeekan is the vice-president of institutional advancement for The King’s University College in Edmonton.  In a 30-year career in two provinces and many sectors, he has previously held senior communications roles at the City of Edmonton, DELL, the Alberta Motor Association, Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. and ATCO.  His first of a dozen communications awards was for the MB Journal in the late 1980s, an eight-page tabloid newspaper for 15,000 MacMillan Bloedel employees around the world.  He has been a part-time instructor in the Public Relations Program at MacEwan University since the early 1990s and tutors for Athabasca University, from which he also has a Communications degree.  Dan is also the professional development chair for the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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