Employer Support Resources: Effective Employee Communications
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Employer Support Resources: Effective Employee Communications
The need to get your message out to your stakeholders including customers, governments and regulators, is key to ensuring that you can sell your products or services, contribute to policy development and secure your ability to continue to operate in your communities.
If you are a publicly-traded company, you have the added requirement to ensure your shareholders and potential investors have a clear understanding of your current and future business plans and how your company will generate a return on their investments.
But how much thought do you give to ensuring that those same business-critical messages are effectively communicated to those who work for you—the ones doing the work to ensure that you achieve the outcomes you have been communicating to the external world?
“The reality is that most businesses don’t do a very good job at communicating with their employees,” says one Vice President of Human Resources. “We expect them to do their jobs but rarely does the organization explain how that work fits in to the overall strategic direction of the company.”
The challenge is only compounded when an organization has staff working in a variety of locations. That is often the case with organizations in the energy sector in Canada, especially if they have field workers in remote locations.
Working at facility sites, on pipeline rights-of-way, drilling locations and other remote locations can significantly impede site workers’ ability to regularly access corporate messaging platforms such an intranet or e-mails for any number of reasons including shift timing, communications infrastructure, or, a general lack of professional connections to teams or leadership at a central office.
Internal communications encompass not just the messages or the “content” that you need your workers to know, it also includes the ways, tools and channels that your organization uses to communicate internally upwards, downwards and laterally.
Why It’s Important
Effective and efficient internal communications are critical to business success, it’s as simple as that. They help everyone in an organization understand the “why” behind decisions and business strategy development they might not be actively part of but contribute to every day through their work and contributions.
Annenburg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California
Employees at every level of the organization must understand and demonstrate the company’s key values for a business strategy to work effectively. It’s not enough for upper management to understand this strategy; leaders must have key lines of communication in place to properly disseminate this information to others, down to the front-line employees.
Companies often place a significant importance on the role of teams in their organization and the need for everyone to drive towards the same goal. Effectively, a company is a single entity trying to achieve a goal – financial returns, growth, sales or other measurable metric of success. It is often a key element of compensation programs where a portion of any bonus is tied to the success of the organization overall.
Therefore, having everyone understanding and working towards the same goal(s), provides a sense of purpose and gives all workers the opportunity to contribute. The challenge is that if your workers don’t know what those goals are, or what your plan is to get there, your team is not going to drive to that post as effectively or efficiently.
Did you know?
71% of employees said they don’t read e-mail and other internal communications, 36% of employees were unhappy with the format in which most communications are delivered, and some employees didn’t even know where to find company information.
Again, the impact of these numbers can be amplified among field workers, particularly if there are challenges accessing communications infrastructure.
W7Worldwide.com, a leading public relations firm with significant oil and gas experience, says this disconnect with corporate messaging and internal communications can go beyond employee disengagement at the field level. “The industry has long been grappling with high employee turnover and attracting talent to often remote or difficult locations. In the current downturn, employee engagement to retain and attract the best talent has therefore taken centre stage in the industry. In addition, when employees become disengaged, safety incident rates increase, productivity drains to a halt, and turnover rates rise steeply.” Business success therefore depends on people’s engagement in the company culture.
The flip side is good internal communications can be a real boon to your organization. According to research by Gartner, having employees understand how their work connects to the goals of a company can increase productivity by 10%. Internal communications offer a prime example of a strength-based management practice and some statistics provided by Gallup show that companies which implement these types of practices average:
- 10% to 19% increase in sales
- 14% to 29% increase in profit
- 3% to 7% higher customer engagement
- 6% to 16% less turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
- 26% to 72% less turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
- 9% to 15% increase in engaged employees
- 22% to 59% fewer safety incidents
What Can You Do to Improve Your Internal Communications?
Take a look at how your organization communicates within itself. If you are a leader, who do you interact with mostly? Is it with your peers on your leadership team? Is it with your immediate direct reports? When was the last time you had a meaningful engagement with junior members of your organization and discussed the company’s strategic direction and goals? Do you have a structure in place to receive questions or feedback from those who report to you. What about those who might not report to you? Does your company use broadcast e-mails or intranet posts to communicate with everyone in the organization? Are line managers expected to take messaging they have received and actively convey those communications to their teams? Are your communications primarily top-down, or is it more collaborative and open?
Depending on your organization’s size, office and field staff make-up as well as worker preferences, there are many ways your organization can improve its internal communications.
- Assess the ways your company communicates internally and determine if additional channels are required or if changes might be needed to existing practices:
- Broadcast e-mail
- Leadership town hall meetings
- Team meetings
- Feedback or question opportunities
- Onboarding packages
- Informal meetings (water cooler chats)
- Evaluate whether your internal audiences receive the same messages you send externally and whether they understand how their work contributes to your results, strategic direction and business decisions.
- Develop and implement a strategy to fully exploit your communications channels to ensure all employees have the opportunity to receive your messages.
- Tailor your initiatives to meet the needs of various worker groups. Office-based and field-based staff and contractors will likely have different abilities and availabilities to access corporate communications channels.
- Ensure there are mechanisms for feedback and three-way communication, up, down and laterally (between employees).
- Maintain regular communications – don’t commit to more robust communications, begin to execute and then stop or slow them down dramatically. Your employees will question your commitment to the initiative.
- Make use of your corporate structure—ensure that leaders at all levels take on the responsibility to communicate company news, strategy, business decisions and successes and failure with their teams and hold them accountable to ensure they provide the context of how individual employees contribute to the content of those communications.