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Most employers are communicating more during stressful times

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

A December 2008 survey by international HR firm, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, found that most employers are doing the right thing – they are communicating more with their employees about matters related to the tough times facing companies everywhere.

Watson Wyatt surveyed senior communicators in a broad range of US industries about the impacts of the financial crisis.

Two thirds of employers have increased communication to employees since the crisis began. Around 60% planned to integrate messages related to the economic downturn into their communication programs on an ongoing basis.

Most companies that have been measuring outcomes believe their crisis-related communication has been at least somewhat effective in improving employee engagement and productivity.

Around 90% of the communicators said their senior leaders are delivering the messages, but only half are using their frontline managers to reinforce these messages and explain what they mean for employee work groups. They have been using PR (67%) and HR (59%) to deliver these messages more than frontline managers (56%), which is rather mystifying.

Communicators are using a range of media to deliver these messages. Face-to-face meetings of one kind or another were used by 87% of companies in conjunction with email (86%) and intranet (76%). Social media were being used in 24% of the companies surveyed.

The main goals of the internal communication were to ease anxiety (69%) and manage change (49%).

Employees were asking mostly about job security (43%), company performance and solvency (36%), bonuses or other incentive pay (28%) and customer impact (25%).

However, employers had communicated mainly about company performance and solvency (80%), customer impact (49%) and benefit programs (46%).

In summary, most employers are engaging in intensified communication due to the economic situation. The use of face-to-face communication was good, except much more use should have been made of frontline managers and supervisors to convey messages.

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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