The urgent challenge of employee engagement: Do we even like the content we create?
Each spring, Magid’s local media team challenges itself to define clear perspectives on the broadcast industry that will guide our thinking and approach throughout the year. This is a comprehensive process: an internal and external review of the industry, ideation sessions with the consultants and analysts across our company, and research to understand how all of this thinking sits with consumers.
Our process this year has been particularly insightful, as we have expanded our approach to look not only at the consumers our clients want to reach, but the advertisers buying their inventory, and the employees who do the work each day. This complete view of the landscape has been a powerful tool in defining the very real challenges broadcasters face in 2019, as well as the opportunities that can make for growing businesses in the future.
In the coming weeks, we will share our key findings from this process in a series of posts that look at the path forward for your brands and content, the keys to engaging local advertisers, and the right approach toward platform expansion. But first, we have to address perhaps the most significant and troubling observation from the entire process: Employees don’t think our industry is on the right track.
The idea that station staffs may be feeling stress in a time of considerable change is not at all surprising. Working in media has always been a career that comes with a heightened level of stress. But the feedback we got from talking to nearly 500 TV station employees across the country goes far beyond that. Consider:
- Only 33% of news staffers think their stations newscasts are “Fresh and Modern.”
- Less than half the people in newsrooms across the country think their station understands what it needs to do to be successful in the future.
Still not concerned? How about this:
- In virtually every question we asked, we saw substantial differences when we broke out the various responses from leadership, sales, news and marketing employees. Simply put, the different pieces of our stations are not on the same page.
- This is most pronounced when we look at matters of innovation. Take OTT for example, where more than 60% of station leaders say they are familiar with the content they’re creating for OTT platforms, while just 28% of on-air talent say they’re familiar.
How can this be? As an industry, we have an engagement problem, and we have a communication problem. If our employees are not fired up to attack the challenges in our industry each day, if they don’t feel good about the content they create, and if they don’t believe in the vision and direction of their leadership, then frankly, we can’t win.
So, what do we do?
The silver lining in all of this is that many of the ideas you need to transform your stations probably already exist inside the walls. If leaders solicit input from their staff at all levels and really listen, you’re likely to unearth strong ideas and strategies that will move your station forward.
The same is true for everyone at a station. When was the last time you made a point to sit down and talk with someone outside your department?
Put processes in place for you and your team to frequently solicit feedback and input at all levels and across all disciplines. Then really listen and think about what you’re hearing.
It is a common theme for leaders at all levels of our industry – you go to a corporate meeting, learn fascinating new things about your company’s strategy for the future, new tools and platforms and innovation initiatives, and feel great about the direction of your company. Then you go back to your station, and jump right back in to the day-to-day grind.
Leaders need to take the time to ensure that everyone in their station knows about your strategy for the future, what’s new and on the horizon, and how you’re working to innovate for the future. Send notes to the whole station. Have all-hands meetings. Talk to people one-on-one. Task your leadership team to communicate initiatives to their staffs. There are lots of ways to do it, but you have to do it. Over and over and over again. It is only through this kind of vigilance that you will get your team informed, empowered and moving in the same direction.
Listening and communicating are critical steps. But you’ve got to do something with all that information. Empower your people to make changes and innovate. Of course, the actions need to be consistent with the vision you’ve (hopefully) communicated to them. But once you have, encourage them to be bold! Recognize and reward their actions, even if they don’t hit the mark right away. Share their work with the rest of your teams and get feedback that can help make it better. Then track these efforts to measure their impact.
Our people are our greatest asset, and they do the work because they are passionate about journalism, advertising, media and/or marketing. But they’ve told us they don’t feel great about the direction of their industry, and they are not in love with the work they put on the air each day. If we don’t take aggressive steps to diagnose the specific issues in our stations and create solutions to improve communication and action, we will lose the good people we have and dry up the pool of people who might replace them.
The people who power our industry tell us we have a problem. How does your station measure up?