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How HR Can Think Like a Marketer: Part 2 – Engagement

Using a marketing mindset when thinking about employee engagement and how to market internally to your team.

Anna Coucke

by Anna Coucke - March 28th, 2023


According to Gallup organization research, 67% of US employees report that they are disengaged in their workplace. Disengagement means they’re ignoring Slack messages, not reading emails, and turning off their camera during meetings to focus on something else. 

Getting employees engaged is often passed to HR, and it’s much more complex than just sending out surveys to employees for event ideas. As marketers, we are constantly battling for our customers’ attention and engagement. We examined how several marketing practices can be easily adapted to work for HR pros trying to boost employee engagement. 

Using the Three Pillars of Marketing Campaigns in HR

Although engagement is often left to HR, it truly is a team effort and a responsibility of the entire organization. Employee surveys can get you some information on how employees feel, but it’s a single score that just reflects one point in time, which can change rapidly. 

Employee engagement is also dependent upon consistency. Since it's constantly changing, it must be built as a series of consistent everyday interactions. There's no one thing you can do one day to flip that switch and make your employees engaged again. 

While employee engagement initiatives like events can be costly, the investment is worth it. Disengaged employees cost a lot – they have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity, and cost their companies an average of 34% of their total annual salary. 

In marketing, an organized, strategized effort to promote a specific company goal is known as a marketing campaign. For a successful campaign, we marketers use three pillars to guide us: goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), audience, and communication.

As HR pros, you can use this same mindset and shift it into thinking about employee engagement and marketing internally to your team.

Setting Achievable Goals and KPIs

The first pillar of marketing campaigns that HR can use is goals and KPIs. Since improving employee engagement is so broad, you need to break it down into a series of campaigns, each with its own achievable goal that is clearly defined, measurable, and attainable.

An example of an actual campaign we ran at GoCo to improve employee engagement was our GoCompete Wellbeing Challenge. Amid quarantine in 2020, we realized that everyone was feeling isolated and stressed, so our goal with this event was to improve employee well-being. 

We took a holistic, inclusive approach to wellness and what that means to each person beyond just fitness. The KPI we focused on was participation, which we measured through point tracking and a dedicated Slack channel. The inclusivity and competitiveness of this event made it a huge success and one that our employees still enjoy today.

Identifying and Understanding Your Audience

The next pillar is all about identifying and understanding your target audience. When it comes to employee engagement, you may think that your intended audience should always be every employee in your organization, but that's not always the case.

To make it simple, you're already never going to be able to make everybody happy with every event or initiative. Instead, focus on planning many different types consistently – this way, you’re much more likely to have something that hits with every person eventually.

Some of the events we held at GoCo are meant to appeal to a smaller audience and not necessarily everyone in the company. However, we ensure that everyone is invited and can participate, which means having events that work for a hybrid company.  These include:

  • Take your kids to work day

  • Monthly yoga flow 

  • Book club

  • Game nights

  • Anime club

Not all of these events will appeal to every employee. But, by identifying and catering to a wide range of interests, you are more likely to eventually have at least one event that each employee can find an interest in.

How to Craft Effective Communication

The final pillar focuses on effective communication. Proper communication is not just about your message – it’s about where and how you say it. Consider the existing communication channels your employees use – such as Slack, email, meetings, and text – and use all of them to get your word out. 

When creating your messaging, keep the following points in mind that marketers use when communicating with an audience:

  • Keep your messaging clear, concise, and to the point – details (and interest) get lost in large blocks of text 

  • Don’t use new processes or communication methods that create friction

  • Over-communicate – say your message in multiple ways, multiple times

  • Get creative with messaging – emojis are great!

Crafting a Call to Action

The next tip is to focus on what we in marketing refer to as your call to action (CTA), which is what you want people to do next in response to your message. You want to limit it to one CTA per message and use action-oriented text that tells your audience exactly what they need to do next. 

While in marketing a CTA may be something like “buy now” or “call today,” HR may use action-oriented messaging such as:

  • Mark your calendar

  • Attendance is limited, sign up now

  • Watch your inbox for a certain email

Remember, keep your messaging short and simple. Drawn-out asks are more likely to lose people’s interest and get buried in their physical and mental inboxes. 

Final Thoughts

By incorporating the three pillars of goals and KPIs, audience, and communication into your engagement initiatives, you can create a framework for employee engagement initiatives to streamline your efforts and focus on reaching your goals.

Every time you start a new initiative toward increasing employee engagement, remember to ask yourself:

  • What is the goal, and how is success going to be measured?

  • Who is it for?

  • How is it going to be communicated? 

GoCo’s internal messaging features streamline team communication by allowing you to send customized messages and reminders directly from your HR platform. Take a tour and see everything GoCo has to offer today!

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