Getting employees into the game

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The Super Bowl provides a prime opportunity for employers to engage with their teams

In a world of binging, delayed viewing and video on demand, the live event is one of the few formats that can draw eyeballs in real time. And as live events go, nothing beats the Super Bowl’s ability to unite a broad audience a national conversation at a specific moment in time.

Its effectiveness as a platform for brands to engage with consumers is indisputable, and the expansion of the platform across multiple channels and days has further enhanced its singular status. Yet even as Super Bowl campaigns have migrated from screen to store to device, and consumer engagement occasions have expanded from minutes to days, one opportunity continues to go unmined — the employee engagement opportunity.

Studies show the impact of highly engaged employees includes double digit increases in customer satisfaction and profitability; it’s not surprising, then, that employee engagement has become one of the highest priorities for organizations all around the globe (according to a 2015 Conference Board CEO study). But with a recent Gallup poll showing that less than a third of American workers can be described as "engaged" it’s clear that even though leaders have come to appreciate the importance of having a fully engaged workforce, they are still searching for practices that truly drive and sustain it.

As marketers, we understand that the best way to engage with consumers is to identify their passions, and leverage those interests to establish and build emotional connections. The same formula holds true for engaging with employees, which is why the Super Bowl — a mass-market event that has baked-in passion and an ever-increasing window of relevance — can be as valuable for internal branding, messaging and engagement as it is for external efforts.

Just as Budweiser learned long ago that there’s no better time to advertise beer than when millions of people are drinking beer, companies need to learn that there’s no better context to engage with employees — pragmatically or emotionally — than one in which they are already engaged.

For example, let’s look at a situation that is traditionally the anecdote to engagement: introducing a new process or technology. Building a Super Bowl campaign for the launch — complete with playbooks, coaches, kickoff parties for the day it goes live, uptake challenges and MVP recognition for trainers and developers — taps into employees’ interest and excitement around the game. By turning the usually dry and dreaded process of operational upgrade into a more appealing format, you’ve created an opportunity to impact several engagement hot buttons – including motivation, satisfaction, development and recognition.

Just as the opportunity timeline for Super Bowl advertisers now starts long before game day, so too can the employee engagement strategy. Consider positioning performance targets — sales, customer satisfaction, efficiency, systems innovation — in the context and framework of post-season playoffs, with the end date for achieving the goals coinciding with the Friday before Super Bowl. This turns a standard target into a shared triumph and reinforces messages about working together as a team.

Taking another approach, understanding that corporate altruism plays an important part in employee engagement, companies could use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to connect with employees on this level, perhaps helping to plan a Super Ball party for a local retirement community, or coaching a mini-"Super Bowl" game at a local school. Or why not use the event simply as an opportunity to create good will with your own employees by hosting company sponsored Super Bowl viewing parties for them and their families at local venues.

This year, the cost to participate in the Super Bowl as an advertiser is $5 million. But knowing the impact that employee engagement can have on the bottom line, it’s this missed opportunity that could actually cost a lot more.

Betty Tuppeny is the CEO/Co-Founder of Domus, a Philadelphia-based marketing services organization that provides employee engagement strategies for global brands across the healthcare, technology, CPG and beverage categories.



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