Deciding when and how to engage on social issues can be a minefield for corporations, but when a corporation has decided to communicate on a contentious issue, it’s critical to make sure employees respond positively to the strategy. Done right, these communications can pay significant dividends for employee engagement.
Note: Employees, especially through resource groups and other affinity networks, have become vocal in urging organizations to communicate on societal issues. But amid this pressure to engage, it’s important to be discerning. First, select the issues that matter to the employees, they are more likely to support employers addressing issues that impact their day-to-day working experiences (living wage, pay equity, time off to vote) than unrelated issues (climate change or hate crimes). However, sentiment depends on a host of variables, including geography, so employers need to conduct rigorous listening exercises to gauge employee sentiment. Second, it’s best to create messaging that maximizes positive employee responses.
Another key differentiator is slowing the value of your contribution. Among the general population, people are 69 times more likely to respond positively if they perceive the company’s communications actually made a difference on the issue. Early research on the employee-centric perspective suggest responses are similar to those of the general population, so stakeholders are likely to reward companies that are authentic and represent evidence of how they support the societal issue–and are likely to punish companies whose message seems hollow.
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