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Employees say this is the essential communication they want

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

In 2005, international HR consultancy, Towers Perrin, reported their findings from a research project in which employees said they thought effective communication with them should involve:

  1. open and honest exchange of information;

  2. clear, easy-to-understand materials;

  3. timely distribution;

  4. trusted sources;

  5. two-way feedback systems;

  6. clear demonstrations of senior managers’ interest in employees;

  7. continual improvements in communication;

  8. consistent messaging across sources.1

The study identified five key elements as most influential in shaping employees’ opinions about the state of communication within their organization. In order of influence, the key elements were:

1. Supervisory effectiveness in communication

This centers on how well supervisors respond to employee questions and concerns, explain complex concepts in plain language, seek employee input, help employees understand their role in the organization’s success, and take time to explain events affecting the organization.

2. Basic communication tools

Employees indicated they had definite preferences on how they receive news relating to pay and benefits, the organization’s performance and other types of information. The survey found that printed materials remain relatively popular, especially in providing information about pay and benefits, and email messages were their next preference.

3. Market understanding of competitors and customers

Employees were generally interested in information about competitors and customers, eg feedback on customer satisfaction, and they wanted to know what differentiated their organization’s products and services in the marketplace.

4. Understanding the business (how the organization succeeds)

Employees were eager to understand their role in the organization and how their individual contributions could help achieve business objectives. They wanted to know the specific factors that would make their organization successful, and they welcomed discussions on their own role in helping the organization reach its goals.

5. The employer-employee deal

Employees like to receive lots of information on pay and benefits programs, provided it is useful and clearly explained, along with information on learning and development opportunities that can help them in their career.


Participants in the study said senior managers needed to play a larger role in demonstrating sincere interest in their employees; currently fewer than half of those surveyed felt their leaders currently show a sincere interest in them.

They also reported that the extent of two-way dialogue was disappointing. Only 45% said their senior leaders listen as well as talk. And only 49% said there were procedures in place to raise questions and issues with senior management. 2


  1. 1 Towers Perrin. “Study offers insights on effective communication from the perspective of employees.” Retrieved from

  2. As above


About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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