The failure of employee communications2004-08-28
I try to avoid duplicating material in my blog that appears in my newsletter, but this one is just too important. Too alarming. Too consequential.
I have spent more than 25 years working, one way or another, in employee communications. In that time, i have come to believe all the usual arguments about the value we deliver to our companies and clients. Chief among these, we create “line of sight”—that is, we help employees understand how their individual work efforts contribute to the company’s high-level business plans and strategies. Through this effort, we contribute to the company’s competitiveness.
At least, that’s the professional line. If it’s true—if that’s what employee communications is all about—we’re failing. And we’re failing badly.
Accenture surveyed 244 high-level executives about their workforces. While nearly 80% of the execs surveyed said that it’s important to align learning strategies (that is, what we teach to employees) with company goals, only 11% were satisfied with their organizations’ efforts.
Only 26% of executives believe that three-fourths of their employees understand the company’s goals, and only 30% said three-fourths of their employees understand how their jobs conatribute to the company’s ability to achieve its strategic goals.
These results are easy to analyze. Internal communications professionals claim their worth comes from helping employees understand how their jobs contribute to company goals. Executives say employees don’t understand how their jobs contribute to company goals.
While the study pointed mostly at training departments within Human Resources, we communicators know that communications is at least equally accountable—if not more—for ensuring employees understand the company’s business plan and the effects the marketplace has on those plans. “Alignment” has become a communication mantra. The concept of “line of sight” appears now in more articles about internal communication than the word “newsletter.” Sooner or later, executives distressed that their employees don’t understand the company’s plans will wonder why they’re paying for an internal communication function.
Some other findings:
Sixty-six percent of executives think facilitating organizational change is important; 12% are satisifed with progress.
Sixty-five percent think it’s important to improve employee engagement; 11% are satisfied with progress.
Sixty-eight percent believe the business needs to be more adaptable to new opportunities; 11% are satisifed with progress.
Sixty-five percent said developing effective leadership capability was important; 8% were satisifed with progress.
I would suggest that the internal communications profession needs to take a hard look at itself and figure out how to turn this situation around, lest management find someone else who can produce the results they need.