Know Your Audience - Memories from My Day Job

As an employee communications specialist for a large engineering firm, my primary role was supporting the vision of the company to “engage employees.” With seven business unit offices across North America, more than 200 project offices, and more than 18,000 full-time employees, it was a decent-sized firm.

One of my assignments was to “do whatever the VP thought would make her appear to be engaging employees in ‘new’ and ‘fresh’ ways.” Often we did not get along because I felt at my core that the “results” she was seeking were vanity results, while the things my colleagues were communicating to me were not being heard.

But, I was a fairly good soldier (kind of a thorn in her side, if I remember correctly) and got my job done. From “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” to “Employee Health Fair,” I was the gal that got to make sure the employee experience cake icing was being spread. One of the projects I was assigned was National Ride Your Bike to Work Day. The message I got from on-high was we could do this little low-cost, wellness/engagement event and maybe we would get some earned media.

I scheduled my vacation during the event. I didn’t want to touch that with a 10-foot-pole.

Strategic Approach to Employee Engagement Effort

Step 1: Audit

The average age of employee was 45. More than 80 percent of employees lived FARTHER THAN 10 MILES from work. Most of them were not cyclists. There were no shower facilities at the office (a point of contention for many years), so once you get to work on your bike all sweaty, you get to just be sweaty all day.

Step 2: New Goals

I was bitching to my buddy, the VP of Safety, about how lame this was. He agreed and said, “The only bike I’m riding to work is my goddamn Harley Davidson.”

Step 3: Process Changes

Instead of jumping on a worn-out-record of the bike-to-work bandwagon, how about we look at our audience? There were at least 20 middle-aged dudes in the firm who had some sort of motorcycle. And motorcycle safety is a real issue, especially in a state that didn’t have helmet laws (ugh).

Step 4: Results

The VP of Communications bought it! She gave it the nod, the “Ride Your Hogs to Work Day” event was launched. We got the earned media (and some rad visuals, who doesn’t love motorcycles?). And “motorcycle safety” became a cool thing that we could champion.

It’s cool to want to fit in, but me mindful of how you can stand out. What makes your employees excited? Come together? Fired up? Know your audience, and they’ll show up for you.