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How to win staff and influence people: VCCP Bee and the Art of Employee Engagement

Losing staff carries a heavy cost, but keeping them happy can deliver real growth says VCCP's Huw Morgan

By Huw Morgan

It costs up to 60 per cent of an employee's salary to replace them when they leave, according to The Society for Human Resource Management. And the overall costs to the business of losing an employee can reach up to 200 per cent when taking into account the impact a leaver has on culture, morale, customer service, lost knowledge and brand advocacy.

Yet while most businesses, on average, spend around 10 per cent of their annual revenue on their marketing budgets, they spend only about 0.01 per cent of revenue on employee engagement. This disparity of investment has a knock-on effect on engagement insight, strategy, creativity and wider brand and commercial impact.

To help brand owners close this ‘engagement gap’ - the chasm between the carefully curated brand experience on the outside and the poor employee engagement experience on the inside – VCCP Group has launched a brand and employee engagement specialism. VCCP Bee will help companies to attract and retain talent by unifying the brand and employee experience.

VCCP Bee is headed by Huw Morgan, director of brand and employee engagement at VCCP London and a former head of internal comms at Virgin Media and Telefonica. We asked him to tell us more about why there’s a need for this type of offering and how VCCP Bee will unlock growth for businesses.

Creative Salon: Tell us the thinking behind the launch of VCCP BEE?

Huw Morgan: The challenge we’re facing is that many companies are losing talent because of the ‘engagement gap’ - the chasm between the carefully curated brand experience on the outside and the poor employee engagement experience on the inside.

It helps explain why only 9 per cent of UK employees are engaged at work, according to Gallup.

With the launch of VCCP BEE, we want to challenge this engagement gap by unifying the brand and employee experience. Our competitive advantage will come from our ability to bring together external and internal brand building expertise to improve comms and engagement across the employee journey from attraction to exit. From using behavioural science, data and AI to better understand changing employee behaviours and preferences to tapping into VCCP Group’s branding, design, film, social, digital and experiential expertise to create more personalised, holistic, purpose-led communications and engagement experiences.

What's the most important thing businesses need to know about the value of employee engagement?

There’s an abundance of research about the link between engagement and talent retention. In fact, VCCP has just run a study which has found that 64 per cent of people would leave their employer in the next 6-12 months if they don’t invest in the employee experience.

We also found that, of those participants who are too nervous to make the leap today despite feeling less secure in their job than they did last year, 47 per cent say they would leave as soon as their confidence in the market returns.

As well as the positive impact on retention, research also consistently finds that engaged employees take fewer absence days, deliver more productivity and a better customer experience than less engaged employees.

From a marketing standpoint, arguably the greatest benefit is that engaged employees can be your most powerful brand ambassadors. Research from Social Media Today found that content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels.

No one doubts the sizable levels of research that support the fact that engaged employees are more productive employees. Often leaders default to more tactical initiatives, such as flexible working or remote working. But are you advocating for more of a cultural shift in businesses?

Absolutely. Flexible working is slightly different because, post pandemic, many office workers expect flexible or remote working to be part of the deal. Other tactical initiatives like free fruit or gym discounts, while welcomed and enjoyed, are unlikely to influence engagement if the culture makes them miserable. Most people want to work for businesses that foster a positive culture that everyone buys into and feels a vital part of. Values have an important part to play in helping people to navigate the business culture. The problem is that there’s also a gap between the values that businesses project and those they actually live.

According to research from MIT Sloan, most large businesses are suffering from a ‘culture gap’, which is the disconnect between the values that an organisation claims to hold dear and the cultural reality on the ground as experienced by the people that work there.

The research revealed that there is no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasises in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees. This is part of the challenge we aim to address with VCCP BEE.

Brands spend millions on understanding the behaviours, motivations and emotional drivers of their customers, but they are sometimes reluctant to apply this methodology internally to their own employees. How are you going to challenge clients, or motivate them to invest in employee engagement?

This is the nub of our VCCP BEE offering and we believe it’s our big point of difference. It’s true that companies often spend as little as 1 per cent of their brand budget on employee engagement and they should be upping that when you consider the positive brand and business benefits delivered by engaged employees.

Whatever the budget we’re working with, we aim to apply brand-grade methodology and expertise to address engagement challenges and we have some compelling case studies that show how we’re doing that. When we speak to any business about employee engagement, the most important thing we need to understand is the business challenge they’re looking to solve. Once we’re clear on that, we can then start to look at a compelling engagement solution.

What tools will you be using to better understand changing employee behaviours and preferences?

At VCCP, we have a number of different specialist in-house capabilities that help us to track and understand changing employee behaviours. We have a research and insights specialism, a data and insights team and a behavioural science business and they all have proprietary tools and trusted methodologies that help us to understand what makes employees tick and why they choose to do the things they do. I also have extensive experience running qualitative employee research and I can draw on the different capabilities as required to meet the project’s need.

We’ve just completed some global insight work with a well-known energy business and we combined qualitative insight with our proprietary data and content scoring tools to understand what makes the company’s employees tick and why they engage with some communications but ignore others.

Thinking of marketing specifically, what are the top strategies CMOs can use to drive engagement and loyalty among their teams?

Firsty, CMOs should think about marketing the brand strategy to their employees in the same way as they would to their customers to connect them emotionally to the products and services the brand sells. By making that connection, employees will feel closer to the brand and support the expectations set by your advertising. If they understand what you have promised the public, they can naturally and authentically endorse the message in customer interactions. The more people feel connected to the brand and its strategy, the more engaged they’ll feel with their job.

The second consideration is how you can take that one step further by supporting employee advocacy, which means inspiring and enabling your employees as spokespeople to promote your brand’s message to the outside world. There’s nobody that knows your business and your brand better than the people who work within it every day. And if they feel empowered to share the message with their social networks, it will reinforce their connection to the business.

How important is it to align customer brand-building with employee engagement? Will you only work with clients where you handle the brand-building side of their business?

Our mission with VCCP is to bring the brand and employee engagement experience closer together because we recognise that the brand experience enjoyed by customers is often at odds with the engagement experience that employees receive. We’re already talking to a number of existing VCCP clients because we have deep relationships with their marketing and leadership teams and we know their brands inside out. This helps ensure that any new engagement initiative is a natural extension of the brand campaign, but also one that is designed specifically with their employees in mind.

But we’ll also be working with businesses who aren’t brand clients of VCCP. Some may need help and support with positioning their employer brand externally to attract target talent. Some may need help dealing with leadership, strategic or organisational change. Some may be looking to rally employees behind an efficiency or innovation drive or improve their customer service. While others may simply be looking for a simple internal communications MOT.


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