Internal Alignment and Employee Engagement Are Not the Same

For employee engagement, the focus is on the individual employee. For internal alignment, the focus is on the functional departments and the operational business units.

By Rick DeMarco, Managing Director, West Coast, Inward Strategic Consulting

I have spent many hours talking to both CMOs and SVPs of Human Resources around the country, and one theme constantly emerges regarding the biggest challenges facing them in the activation of their business strategy and delivery of their brand promise. How do we engage our employees to passionately represent the company in a manner consistent with our values, culture, and strategy and deliver on our brand promise? Not since the movement around quality and Six Sigma have I seen such energy around a business issue that has such a profound impact on a company’s success.

But I often hear internal alignment and employee engagement used interchangeably, as if they are the same challenge. In fact, both of these challenges are equally important, but also very different. Employee engagement means finding the solution to educating, inspiring, and empowering employees around a common vision and culture and reinforcing the appropriate behavior so the company provides superior products and services to its customers, defined by their business strategy and brand promise. Internal alignment is the process in which a company insures that all of its functional groups and operational groups are aligned around a consistent message, look and feel, and actions and behaviors. For employee engagement, the focus is on the individual employee. For internal alignment, the focus is on the functional departments and the operational business units.

Efforts to engage employees are focused on understanding how to create an environment in which the employee feels passionate about the vision and corporate objective and understands how he or she contributes to and participates in the company’s success. There is now strong research that supports the belief that a highly engaged workforce leads to higher sales growth, higher margins, lower turnover, and higher customer satisfaction and loyalty. Employee engagement efforts often are championed by the Human Resource Department as part of managing an effective and efficient workforce. However, unless these efforts are coordinated with the brand strategy and communication efforts, there is a high degree of risk that functional silos will exist and the company will not speak with one voice to its customers.

Presenting One Face

That’s where internal alignment comes in. For a company to present one face to its customers, it must rally around a common vision, culture, and set of objectives and goals. When I assumed the position of VP of Marketing for Carrier Residential Heating and Cooling, the company had no fewer than 28 different brands, many of which competed with each other for the same market segment. The power of a multi-brand strategy in which specific brands in the portfolio were positioned against different market segments created a unified business strategy in which the company took share from competitors, not from itself.

To create a unified workforce, there must be a common vision, strategy, and brand promise that serves as the foundation for all messaging and actions and behaviors. In order to present one face to the customer, all functions must look and feel, speak, and behave in a manner consistent with the brand attributes and characteristics. And this alignment will not happen naturally. It requires a concerted effort by a cross-functional group of leaders who proactively drive this consistency throughout the organization.

Rick DeMarcois a leader and expert in the emerging field of internal brand alignment and employee engagement and recently led those efforts at Hewlett Packard. DeMarco currently is managing director, West Coast at Inward Strategic Consulting, aninternal/external brand consulting firm that specializes in vision, mission and values, team alignment, internal branding, change communication, external branding, and communication planning. Inward serves clients such as Walmart, HP, Pitney Bowes, and Zurich Financial Insurance. For more information, visit www.inwardconsulting.comand

Training magazine is the industry standard for professional development and news for training, human resources and business management professionals in all industries.