Study: Most Companies Don't Have an Employee Engagement Strategy

Altimeter Group Finds a Disconnect Between HR and Marketing

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Despite the emphasis many marketers are placing on employee engagement -- particularly with the widespread use of social media -- most companies do not have a solid strategy in place for such activities, according to a new study from research firm Altimeter Group.

According to the report, which was based on a survey of HR and marketing executives at 114 b-to-b and b-to-c companies, only 41% of respondents said their company has a holistic and strategic approach to employee engagement and advocacy.

"Marketing is very interested in taking employees who are very engaged with the company and brand and empowering them to advocate on the part of company, especially through the use of social tools," said Charlene Li, founder and principal analyst at Altimeter Group and author of "Open Leadership" and "Groundswell."

"But the vast majority of companies do not have a coherent, strategic approach to supporting employee engagement," she said.

One of the biggest problems is the lack of coordination between HR and marketing when it comes to employee engagement efforts, according to the report.

The survey found that HR leads employee engagement initiatives at 41% of companies, while marketing leads these efforts at only 11% of companies. However, marketing is more involved (47%) than HR (39%) in actual employee engagement efforts.

"Marketing is involved in employee engagement, but is not leading it," Ms. Li said. "There are so many best practices marketing can bring to the table -- understanding the customer experience and customer relationships, and defining those with a customer journey map. HR needs marketing's best practices."

She said this is particularly true for b-to-b companies.

"Relationships are the lifeblood of a b-to-b company, with customers and with business partners," Ms. Li said. "Everybody could potentially be doing marketing and sales through engagement. Having your employees empowered to do that becomes absolutely critical for b-to-b companies."

Another big problem is that most companies lack a culture that supports employee engagement, Altimeter found. Only 51% of respondents said employees clearly understand and support the purpose and mission of the organization, and only 45% of respondents said employees have a clear understanding of what they should and should not do on social channels when it comes to company-related topics.

Furthermore, only 43% of respondents said the company's culture has a high level of trust and empowerment that is highly supportive of employee engagement and advocacy.

Altimeter identified several companies that are taking a coherent, strategic approach to employee engagement, including IBM Corp., SAP and TD Bank Group. Among the tactics they're using are conducting extensive social media training; mapping the employee journey (much like mapping the customer journey); and measuring the effectiveness of employee engagement on social channels.

"Employee advocacy is a very big area -- you want to get everyone on board," Ms. Li said.

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