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Employee communication needs to be what employees want

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com

During the first half of my PR career, most corporate managers thought all employee communication required was for someone, usually a junior employee, to churn out the internal newsletter regularly.

Slowly it dawned on them that employees wanted more than that. And what’s more, the employees wanted to see more face-to-face communication from their supervisor or manager rather than outpourings from the PR team.

In the past five years, the pendulum has swung further. In most western countries, skilled employees are scarce and labor markets are tight. Therefore, employers have been forced to find better ways to attract and retain quality staff. One of these new ways is better employee/change communication.

However, many communicators have continued to use the traditional arms-length channels of print and electronic media.

Extensive surveys by Australian employee communication consultant, Rodney Gray, show that we have been using the wrong tools to communicate. Gray’s figures relate specifically to Australia but are very consistent with research findings in other countries.

Gray found that the traditional tools of newsletters, senior executive road shows, emails and the intranet usually have little impact on overall employee satisfaction.

The types of communication that employees want most:

  • Senior management communication
  • CEO communication
  • Upward communication (feedback to management and managers ‘listening’)

The types of communication that employees want more, but not as much as the first three types:

  • Change communication
  • Consultation and involvement
  • Cross-functional communication

The lesson for communicators is that employees want to see the CEO and senior managers face-to-face more often. This will have a much stronger impact on employee satisfaction than newsletters, mass emails and intranets. The responses from focus groups confirm these findings.

Your job is therefore to train (or arrange training) and motivate senior managers and the CEO to spend more time talking face-to-face with employees, preferably in small groups. Obviously a CEO can’t meet everyone individually, but can at least be seen to circulate around the workplace periodically and to address employee groups of up to 40-50 people at a time about the direction of the organization.

About the Author

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

 

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