For the last ten-plus years, the God called “employee engagement” has reigned supreme over all of the so-called “people fields” and, for the most part, swept up internal communication in its wake.
This week’s news that KPMG has not only abandoned its employee survey but repudiated the notion of “employee engagement” as having any causal relationship with performance, represents a historical opening for practitioners and businesses alike. It is a golden chance to shift the focus away from driving “engagement” numbers and towards how effective business communication can directly improve performance.
The logic is obvious
At a basic level the logic is obvious. Effective, strategic internal communication can reduce ambiguity and increase clarity.
Good internal comms can align definitions of processes and objectives, and illustrate examples of good and bad practice. It can inject external perspectives while driving internal consistency. It can help identify people who have added impact as informal leaders and institutional lynchpins. Less obviously, it can be a vehicle for catalyzing consensus and even for the development of projects and products that are easier to execute or sell because of communicator involvement. These are things that can move the needle in a business, even if they don’t line up with some “engagement” survey.
KPMG’s decision represents a historic opportunity, to begin the long-overdue uncoupling of the business communication profession from the engagement industry. Seizing that opportunity will change the terms.