Using the Ladder of Engagement to address climate change

Staff engagement around corporate messages is foundational, especially for the Internal Corporate Communications function. For the modern organisation there will regularly be more than a single message that staff are being asked to rally around. A new corporate strategy with an accompanying change in branding will trigger a campaign.

But what about those corporate messages that persist from year to year? For examplevirtually all corporate enterprises are required to report to their shareholders on their ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR), which encompasses topics as broad as Climate Change, Gender Diversity/Inclusion, Corporate Philanthropy etc.  

Many, if not all, of the reported initiatives require staff participation, so how well is your staff engaged with these important themes?

Without sufficient staff engagement, will the reported ‘successes’ appear hollow to shareholders? In contrast, if staff engagement becomes visible to the community at large e.g. staff volunteering on a sustainability initiative, financially supporting a charitable donation; shareholders and other stakeholders themselves will become more engaged supporters. So how can you use staff engagement to predict success in non-financial, but reportable activities like CSR?  

Talk to any Internal Corporate Communications leader about how they measure the success of their campaigns and invariably the reliance will be on ‘media consumption’ metrics. How many eyeballs did the content attract? How many people ‘liked’ what they saw? Perhaps for some very important campaigns, a post campaign survey with focus groups may be conducted. Overall, however, the measures largely relate to ‘awareness’ more than ‘action’ or ‘behavioural change’. One could argue that creating awareness is ‘job done’ for corporate communications and it is up to others to convert awareness to action. But just how much additional kudos could the corporate communications function gain by taking employees a little further down the value chain?  

The SWOOP Ladder of Engagement  

At SWOOP, we see engagement through an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) like Yammer or Workplace from Facebook, evolves through stages of maturity: 


The majority of Corporate Communication functions using ESNs are at Level 1. Those who do not have active use of an ESN are constrained to ‘Google Analytics’-style measures on their intranet pages.   

To move to the next level of engagement a ‘personal connection’ needs to be achieved i.e. employees are no longer just passive consumers of the message but start to engage with other employees around the message. They learn who the ‘conversation leaders’ are and look to actively engage with them.  

The final stage on the Engagement Ladder is the Action level. Here is where the ‘rubber hits the road’. Change programs are executed. Required behavioural changes start to occur and take hold enterprise-wide.  

Illustrative Example  

We have chosen the topic of sustainability for this example as it is a topic of relevance to virtually all major corporations and governments alike. It also requires strong action to be taken as action on climate change is a part of our regular conversation. It is illustrative in that is not drawn from one single case study but inspired by several of our SWOOP customers. It does not cover the social media stage as we think Corporate Communications largely does a good job here. We start with transitioning from Awareness to Connection.  

Making it Personal  

When the CEO of multi-national bank ANZ made this post on their Yammer network their sustainability program instantly became personal: 

The post was not just some corporate statement about the bank’s sustainability program. By asking this single question, the CEO energised the company around its sustainability program. It was targeted to appeal to all levels about things people could personally act on. It was a question, an appeal, a challenge authentically delivered.

Did he consult with Corporate Communications as to how he should frame his post? Not at all; he just picked up his phone and did what came naturally. What Corporate Communications did, however, was provide the channel. The discussion that ensued started to throw up names of people who really cared and wanted to help.   

This is not an isolated example. The Australian Catholic University ran a similar campaign on their Workplace from Facebook network where the Sustainability leader was actively supported online by the COO.


Within SWOOP we can monitor these connections as they occur to identify who those conversation leaders are. Notice the liberal use of hash tags on the bank CEO’s post? These are the tags that enable us to track people to people level engagement:  

The conversation leaders are identified in the Influential People Widget on the Topic Tab, where #tags can be collated into Topics. We describe how tags are used to track engagement around messages here.  

The transition to building connections and making it personal can take many forms but active participation from the top can turbocharge the transition.  

Moving from Connection to Action  

The influential people list will not only identify potential change agents across the enterprise, but also the depth of engagement. The Influencer Risk Score shows just how broad or shallow the level of engagement is. It reflects to what degree influence might be polarised around just a ‘selected few’.   

The goal is to get the Influencer Risk score down as low as possible. As more conversation leaders are involved in the conversations, the lower the score will become. Perhaps plastic cups might begin the conversation, recycling can broaden it. Ways to save energy consumption may be another important practical theme to introduce with its own #tag. And the list can go on as the enterprise’s strategic sustainability plan is executed through facilitated conversations. Of course, these conversations do not have to remain online. Change agents will now invariably take their conversations into their local areas and this is where change happens.  

Can it work? Well, here is a result from ANZ:  

Pooja Jerajani, ANZ’s Group Community Manager, said the post, along with a Plastic Free July campaign on the company’s Yammer network and further conversation from senior leaders, has led to a noticeable cultural shift. 

“People now call each other out on Yammer when they see single use plastic promotional items, more and more of our events are now planned with sustainability in mind, and Yammer is helping employees share and reuse resources,” she said. 

Create a challenge in which all staff can take personal accountability. 

Teams for Change and Action 

For many organisations in sectors like aviation, natural resources and industrial manufacturing, meeting sustainability targets will require major innovations that move well beyond individual staff behaviours. These will require investment in projects and teams to execute the changes. The ‘Influential People’ can no doubt be engaged in these teams, and what better resource can a team have than passionate members totally aligned with its mission and purpose? 

At SWOOP we are committed to seeing the value journey right through to maximum impact. Large scale execution invariably happens within effective teams. With the right people identified and enrolled, teams can deliver the large-scale actions organisations are aspiring to. Whether it’s an airline investing in lower fuel emission planes; mining companies investing less in fossil fuels and more in renewables, a sustainability program will require teams from many parts of the organisationspanning traditional organisational boundaries.

Our SWOOP for Teams product has a unique way of tracking large scale team activity. The ‘Team of Teams’ widget identifies how a collection of ‘theme’ based teams are interconnected through common members: 

One could envisage many ‘Sustainability Project’ teams interconnected into a whole program of sustainability activities. As sustainability pervades every part of the enterprise, there is likely no single function or department that “owns” all of the initiatives. But using the ‘Team of Teams’ function, we can visualise what activities are actually going on and the degree to which they are interconnected (or not, for that matter).  

When the call comes for reporting on the enterprise’s sustainability performance, we need look no further than the performances of these teams as a sustainability collective. 

By leveraging your demonstrated conversation-leaders in the mission, your path to success will become much smoother. 

Summing up 

The Ladder of Engagement introduces two additional rungs to those traditionally viewed by Corporate Communications functions.

By facilitating transitions from “Awareness to Connection” and then “Connection to Action”, Corporate Communications are also transitioning from “Crafters of the Message” to “Facilitator for Action”. 

Tip one: Engage Senior Leaders into energising a connections network around personal accountability. 

Tip two: Use the identified influential people as agents for behavioural change. 

Tip Three: Where appropriate, enrol these informal and formal leaders in execution teams for large scale change. 

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