How to…influence employee behaviour through internal marketing

Motivating staff to change their behaviours and thinking to achieve
organisational goals.

The best way to do this is through internal marketing, using the same
persuasive methods of communication that companies employ to market products
and services externally. In effect, this means you must treat your employees as
you would your customers, synchronising your internal and external brands in
the process.

Internal marketing is distinct from internal communications, as the latter
tends to be a one-way, top-down flow of information primarily concerned with
ensuring that staff have the relevant information to do their jobs correctly.

Why is it important?

When an organisation wants to implement a new strategy or change programme,
for instance, it needs to align employees’ attitudes and behaviours to
correspond with the vision. The correctly-motivated workforce this leads to is
a pre-requisite for any business wishing to gain a competitive advantage
through enhanced service levels, which, in turn, strengthens customer loyalty.

For these reasons, internal market-ing is likely to feature prominently on
the wish list of any CEO. Do it well and you won’t fail to be noticed, which
will significantly further your career development opportunities. It should
also bring a host of other HR and organisational payoffs, including high levels
of employee satisfaction, improved retention rates, reduced absenteeism and
wider acceptance of any change programme.

Where do I start?

You need to clearly define what you want the exercise to achieve, and then
secure the buy-in from the senior management team. If they are not wholly in
agreement about the aims, the chances of the exercise succeeding will be
limited.

Once the objectives have been decided, the next step is the same as with any
external marketing campaign: get to grips with the needs of the marketplace -
and that requires market research.

This needs to extend way beyond conducting simple employee attitude surveys,
and is essentially about acquiring an in-depth knowledge of the issues
important to staff. Face-to-face interviews are the best way to understand
their perspective on matters. What do they think of the way the organisation
recruits? What is their view of training? Are they happy with the working
conditions? Do they feel committed to the company?

As the aim is to get a qualitative rather than a quantitative sample, you
don’t need to interview everyone, but the interviews must be thorough.

David Hail, managing director of internal marketing specialist, Serac Communications,
explains: "It is about acquiring an in-depth understanding of the issues
people are facing and understanding it in their context, rather than the
individuals looking to drive change."

To facilitate the process to make sure you don’t lose essential detail, you
may find it useful to record the interviews. If your organisation is a
multinational, this exercise should be repeated across its other sites in every
country. Additional techniques could involve the use of focus groups and
telephone interviews.

What mechanics and processes should be included?

Once the research has been conducted and the data compiled, it needs to be
analysed, and a plan of action drawn up. Next, decide on the strategies to
employ, which could range from motivational programmes such as ‘away days’,
employee involvement schemes, training and even personnel moves.

You must also put together your package of ‘product offerings’, which could
include flexible working and benefits, as well as the reward and recognition
schemes that will support those organisational goals.

Then decide the method and style of delivery of your communication to staff.
Remember, it must be viewed as a campaign, so make use of standard marketing
methods such as presen-tations, posters, leaflets and even a letter or message
from the CEO. It is crucial to communicate in a language that relates to the
audience, not the transmitter.

How can you evaluate whether the programme has been successful?

It is essential to remember that you are measuring whether the objectives
have been met, and not the effectiveness of the communication process. It is
here that supporting methodologies such as employee attitude surveys can be
most useful in helping to track the programme’s development.

Where can I get more info?

Books

Internal Marketing: Tools and Concepts for Customer-focused Management,
Pervaiz K Ahmed, Mohammed Rafia, Butterworth Heinemann, £21, ISBN 0750648384

Uncommon Practice: People Who Deliver a Great Brand Experience, Shaun Smith,
Andy Milligan, Financial Times Prentice Hall, £25, ISBN 0273659367

Inside-out Marketing: How to Create an Internal Marketing Strategy, Michael
Dunmore, Kogan Page, ISBN 0749436638

Experts view, David Hall on Internal Marketing

David Hail is the managing director of Serac Communications, a consultancy
that specialises in changing attitudes and behaviours of staff using external
marketing principles. He has more than 20 years’ experience in this field and
has worked with companies including BAA, HSBC, Hilton and Reuters.

Why should internal marketing matter to HR professionals?

Rightly or wrongly, internal communications, and internal marketing by
extension, is part of HR’s responsibility. Effective internal communications
and internal marketing has the potential to really improve employee
contributions by aligning what they do, how they do it and their values, with
the direction of the organisation.

Project managers are increasingly focused on resource, schedule and
deliverables, and they too see internal marketing as a really effective way of
enabling their projects.

How should an HR manager originate this type of project?

First, the HR manager should have a clear understanding of what they are
trying to achieve. They also need to understand the audience and how it breaks
down, and must then be able to put a team together that has the relevant
experience to build a proper programme.

How does internal marketing fit with the notion of the employer brand?

They link very closely. The employer brand is not about what you say, it is
about what you do. It is more than just a logo, it’s a whole basket of
attributes that the company delivers which have meaning and value for its
people. Companies seriously considering their employer brand should do so from
an internal marketing perspective, rather than from a purely HR perspective.

Does it work alone, or should it be linked with other HR programmes?

Clearly, it should be linked. Just as a company would integrate its products
and services externally, integrating internal marketing with other HR schemes
enables their mutual support. What you are communicating is what delivers value
for the business, and how you want your employees to act. You need to be able
to recognise and reward against those goals.