How Insights Power Employee Experience Design

November 21, 2016by Mike LepisAudience & InsightsEmployee Engagement


When we speak at industry events, we usually conduct an informal poll with the audience. It goes something like this:

VIGNETTE: Raise your hand if youthink collecting data and insights from employees is important.
AUDIENCE: [All hands go up.]

VIGNETTE: Keep your hand up if you or your team can translate data into actionable and valuable insights.
AUDIENCE: [Two-thirds of hands go down.]

VIGNETTE: Who is using this information in meaningful ways?
AUDIENCE: [All hands go down.]

So if insights are so critical to our work, why are so few of us collecting data and insights and using them to meaningful ends?

Employee insights are the rock-solid foundation of an effective employee engagement strategy, and they take time, thought and patience to collect. At Vignette, we see insights as a critical step in every project we take on — from a simple, one-time event to a complete overhaul of an internal communications program. Meaningful insights get us started in the right direction immediately. They empower us to deliver communications that cut through the noise and meet the audience where they are. And they often make the difference between a communication that falls into the void and one that inspires and activates the audience.

Insights-driven employee engagement strategies require a shift in mindset

I recognize it can be intimidating to wade into the world of data collection and analysis. So don’t think about it that way. Instead, focus on the human factor and think about making connections and telling stories.

  • Gather insights by simply talking to people. Listen to what they are saying, understand their preferences and put your biases away.
  • Think critically and ask thoughtful questions. Asking the right questions is critical to building trust and encourages authentic responses.
  • Interpret answers in a way that helps you craft a compelling story that you can share with others. Don’t pull any punches in sharing your insights. Sometimes the truth hurts—both on the giving and receiving ends.

There are a variety of insights you can gather—none of which require an advanced degree in data and analytics. The types vary based on your specific organization.

Here are a few (of many) categories of insights we’ve found particularly valuable to achieving success:

  1. Understanding Your Audience. Getting a clear picture of age, location, education level, tenure, and other employee data is key to being able to segment your audiences appropriately, and develop communications targeted to their preferences. The challenge is often getting access to this data. Your HR partners are the best place to start, but you can take the initiative and start collecting information through surveys and interviews.
  2. Employee Engagement Level. This is where you start digging into the employee mindset. Are they highly engaged or mostly disengaged? How is the company performing, and how is that impacting factors like stock price, budgets, executive communications and overall morale? By exploring engagement data, you can evaluate the state of the company culture and filter your outreach to addresses gaps and maximize positives. Gleaning these types of insights requires surveys, focus groups, and interviews to really understand where employees are on the spectrum.
  3. Workflow and Tools. What’s a “typical” day like for each of your audience segments? Are they primarily at their desks or on the sales floor or in the lab? What types of technology do they have access to, and for how much time? What are their behavior and habits that make up their day? These are the kinds of insights that can help you craft a strategy that fits in with the flow of their days, and select the best channel and times of days to engage with them. Gathering this type of information can be tricky; you’ll have to get creative. You don’t have to talk to everyone in the organization, but interviewing or surveying a few people in each role can give you a clear picture of a typical day for each person.
  4. Leadership Perception. Leadership sets the tone for employee engagement. What’s the perception of the leadership team, and how does it resonate with employees? Are leaders and managers accessible and held accountable? This clearly can be a delicate topic to explore, but knowing who is valued and trustworthy on the leadership team is a key insight that can amplify employee communications. Some of this information can be gleaned from anonymous surveys and interviews with employees.
  5. Work Environment. What’s the workplace like for each audience segment? Dreary and depressing, or bright, bustling and inspiring? What are the highest trafficked areas in your organization? You’ll need to get out there and experience it for yourself. This will help you get a sense of how to craft communications that are appropriate—and in some cases, appropriately disruptive—to their environments.

At Vignette, some of our most successful projects have come from working with clients who already have adopted this mindset and have begun to collect insights. These are simple approaches will that increase your understanding of your audience—and when you understand your audience, you can craft a corresponding strategy that inspires, excites, engages and activates.

Let’s hope to seea few more hands up in the new year. Who’s in? Hands up…

Want to know more? Contact us.

Mike Lepis

As a Chief Strategy Officer, Mike leads our team to develop strategy, insights and creative solutions to drive employee engagement. He believes through human-centered design and strategic communications—employees will get behind a brand and its mission.