Companies with highly effective internal communication programs are better placed to keep employees engaged and retain key talent, according to a new study.
2009/2010 Watson Wyatt Communication ROI Study
surveyed 328 organizations around the world and found companies that are highly effective communicators had 47-per-cent higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that are the least effective communicators.
“As the economy continues to shift, keeping employees up-to-date on how the company is responding, and how they are affected, will help insure against their becoming demoralized and disconnected,” said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt. “Effective communication helps engage employees, and that has positive implications for productivity and the bottom line.”
The study also found 61 per cent of companies that are highly effective communicators report their managers are effective at dealing openly with resistance to change, compared with only 18 per cent of low-effectiveness communicators.
Similarly, 64 per cent of highly effective communicators report their managers are effective at addressing the needs and concerns of their current employees, compared with only 22 per cent of companies that are low-effectiveness communicators.
The study identified the best practices of companies that are highly effective communicators. These include:
1. Communicate how employees will be affected as the business changes.
More than six of 10 companies (62 per cent) that are highly effective communicators have a clearly defined employee value proposition (EVP), compared with just 23 per cent of less effective communicators. The EVP, or “employment deal,” lets employees know what the company expects from them and what they can expect from the company.
“Employees will be aware that their EVP is changing — from the company culture to their own rewards and benefits. They’ll be looking to management to redefine and communicate the new employment deal, to help them understand what they need to do differently in the future and what they can expect from the company in return," said Yates.
2. Trust and train leaders to talk about change.
For messages about business change, face-to-face communication channels such as town halls and staff meetings are preferred over social media, the intranet or printed materials. The survey found that 73 per cent of highly effective communicators say their managers are effective at supporting the executive management vision through their actions, compared with only 29 per cent of low-effectiveness communicators.
“Managers need some time to come to terms with the organizational changes on a personal level before they’re asked to help employees,” said Yates. “At that point, they can reasonably be expected to communicate and endorse changes.”
3. Follow up with measurements and metrics.
Highly effective communicators are up to three times more likely to have a documented communication strategy than low-effectiveness communicators. Fifty-three per cent of highly effective communicators are including more communication outcome metrics in their strategies, compared with only 34 per cent of low-effectiveness communicators. Despite this, a relatively high percentage (43 per cent) of all respondents report having no formal measurement or assessments.
“Highly effective communicators measure to see exactly what they are accomplishing at each step,” said John Finney, senior communication consultant. “Communication does not exist in a vacuum — it always serves a larger business purpose. The best-performing companies plan communication strategically, like any other business area.”
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