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The blurring personas


How well do you know me?

People don’t stop being “people” when they walk through the door at 9am.

By Thomas McCaldon | Associate Director | Corporate Communications

A few weeks ago, my colleague Emily wrote about the importance of organisations getting to know their employees. “We need to start,” she wrote, “to place more emphasis on developing a detailed and intimate understanding of our internal audiences.”

Sensible advice – but, surely, ‘know your audience’ is among the oldest truisms in communications. So why do we still need to talk about it today, in the context of engaging and mobilising employees?

The answer is that, at a time when organisations need the power of their people more than ever (more on this in another post), what drives employees in the workplace has never been more complex and personal.

In growing numbers, we have long been dissatisfied with the traditional employer-employee relationship, in which we contribute within well-defined (and often limiting) parameters in exchange for financial reward. Rather, many of us increasingly expect, amongst other things, the freedom to contribute and make a meaningful difference, a sense of social purpose, and compelling experiences in the workplace.

In part, this is because we no longer make a clear distinction between our work and life personas, values, and ambitions. And, as the line between ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ continues to blur, our expectations of work are increasingly born of the world beyond work. Or, in other words, we don’t stop being “people” and become “employees” when we walk through the door at 9am.

Within this context, the challenge for organisations is that their people are often one of their biggest blind spots. While many employers recognise employees as their most valuable asset, they haven’t truly come to terms with the reality that they are also their most variable asset. How well do organisations really understand what drives those they entrust with executing strategy, powering transformation, and delivering organisational success?

Whatever the goal, mobilising people starts with meeting their expectations – and the list of potential solutions is long: having a voice that matters; growth opportunities; working for an employer who aligns with their values and acts on their beliefs; consumer-grade tools, channels and content in the workplace; co-creation of projects and solutions; leaders who care; reassurance about future skills; partnerships with influencers employees respect…

To create conditions that will unlock the full power of their people, therefore, organisations must work much harder to identify and tap into what really makes them tick. Only by building a holistic understanding of employees beyond the organisational context alone can organisations identify which levers they need to pull.

In short, if organisations are to successfully engage and mobilise their people, they first need to get to know them as people.