Good communication leads to stronger employee engagement.

Good internal communication leads to stronger employee engagement and therefore better organizational performance

The latest and largest meta-analysis study by consultants from Gallup Inc., the world’s biggest analytics and advisory firm, found highly engaged business units and teams achieved consistent high performance across countries, industries, organizations, and teams. (A meta-analysis is a study of many studies.) “This research method provides a more precise estimate of the influence of team engagement on performance outcomes than any one study can capture,” Gallup consultants state. When comparing top-quartile engagement (in the top quarter of teams) with bottom-quartile engagement, Gallup found significant differences. Teams in the top-quartile achieved higher performance with more positive outcomes and fewer negative outcomes than bottom-quartile teams. Very emphatic results! The firm’s studies over three decades have consistently found that good internal communication creates stronger employee engagement, and therefore better organizational performance.

Reporting their findings in 2020, the researchers examined 54 industries in 96 countries, 276 organizations, 112,312 business/work units and 2.7 million employees. Top quartile performance outcomes for highly engaged teams compared with the performance of bottom-quartile teams:

Greater organizational success

  • 23% increased profitability
  • 66% increased wellbeing (thriving employees)
  • 13% increased organizational citizenship participation.

More positive outcomes

  • 10% increased customer loyalty/engagement
  • 18% increased productivity (sales)
  • 14% increased productivity (production records and evaluations)

Fewer negative outcomes

  • 81% reduced absenteeism
  • 18% lower staff turnover in high-turnover organizations (more than 40% annualized staff turnover)
  • 43% lower staff turnover in low-turnover organizations (40% or lower annualized staff turnover)
  • 28% reduction in theft (‘shrinkage’)
  • 64% fewer safety incidents (mortality and falls)
  • 58% fewer patient safety incidents (mortality and falls)
  • 41% fewer defects (quality).

Source: Gallup 2020 report: “Employee Engagement and Performance: Latest Insights From the World’s Largest Study“.

Higher employee wellbeing is associated with higher productivity and firm performance

Firms with high levels of employee satisfaction consistently achieve superior long-term returns. Economics experts reported from their global study  that “Higher employee wellbeing is associated with higher productivity and firm performance.” They found “correlations between employee wellbeing, employee productivity and firm performance across all industries and regions.” Writing a 2019 article for the World Economic Forum, researchers Ward, Krekel & De Neve, reported on their meta-analysis conducted with Gallup consultants of 339 independent studies in the Gallup database, including the wellbeing and productivity of 1·8 million employees in 230 organizations across 49 industries in 73 countries:

The above graph from the London School of Economics, published in the above WEF article, shows the impact of satisfied employees on firms’ performance, and is based on the Gallup client database, with 95% confidence intervals.

The study by Ward, Krekel & De Neve came to the conclusion that:

“Employee satisfaction has a substantial positive correlation with customer loyalty and a substantial negative correlation with staff turnover. The correlation with productivity is positive and strong.”…”importantly, higher customer loyalty and employee productivity, as well as lower staff turnover, are also reflected in higher profitability of business units, as evidenced by a moderately positive correlation between employee satisfaction and profitability.”

Happiness makes employees more productive

Researchers conducting a study in 2015 found that happiness makes people more productive. In a laboratory setting, Oswald, Proto & Sgroi from the University of Warwick made randomly selected individuals happier (more satisfied), and consequently the participants achieved 12% more productivity. Conversely, when other individuals discussed real-world shocks they had experienced (bereavement and family illness), their lower happiness levels resulted in lower productivity. The authors concluded that “these different forms of evidence…are consistent with the existence of a causal link between human well-being and human performance.”

Better financial performance linked to job satisfaction

Improved employee satisfaction is also associated with improved financial performance in three studies by Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at London Business School. As finance professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania he conducted the third study, below:

  1. Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices” (2011). This paper analyzes the relationship between employee satisfaction and long-run returns on company shares. A portfolio of the “100 Best Companies to work for in America” (an annual list published by Fortune magazine) earned an annual average return of 3.5% from 1984-2009, which was 2.1% above industry benchmarks [An industry benchmark conveys averages of various factors for similar businesses, which enables direct comparisons of performance.]
  2. The Link Between Job Satisfaction and Firm Value, with Implications for Corporate Social Responsibility” (2012). Edmans studied the relationship between employee job satisfaction and long-run stock market returns using a value-weighted portfolio of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in America.’ He found that during the period from 1984 to 2011, these companies achieved 2.3% to 3.8% higher annual returns than the industry average.
  3. How Investing in Intangibles – Like Employee Satisfaction – Translates into Financial Returns” (2008). This article in the K@W newsletter of the Wharton School about an earlier project of Edmans’ describes a similar outcome. He examined the stock returns of companies with high employee satisfaction and compared them with various benchmarks – the broader market, peer firms in the same industry, and companies with similar characteristics.” His research indicated that firms cited as good places to work earned returns that were more than double those of the overall market.” Between 1998 and 2005, firms with high employee satisfaction returned 14% per year compared with 6% a year for the overall market. Edmans said the survey was a valuable gauge of employee satisfaction because it was based on in-depth surveys of a firm’s employees, rather than just external observations.

Further supportive analysis showing better financial performance from improved support of employees was conducted by Dr Lukasz Bryl from Poznan University in Poland in 2018. He reviewed US company performance for the period 2007-2017 and found “strategy based on human capital orientation provides high profitability and leads to above-average financial performance, mainly in the field of equity growth and stock market valuation.” [Bryl defines human capital [what an awful, dehumanizing way to refer to employees!] as a set of knowledge, company individuals’ competence, skills, experience, expertise and capabilities possessed by individuals. (Greater human capital orientation is defined as higher salaries and benefits, more training, a transformational leadership style, and better equipment.) In his analysis, Bryl found:

“In the case of human capital oriented firms, their performance measured by the increase in the share price amounted to 122.7%, which means that within the period of ten years their stocks, on average, more than doubled their value. Comparatively, the rate of return of the broad studied sample showed only a 5.6% increase. Regarding profitability, the average returns on assets, equity and sales in human capital orientated firms were positive: 7.1%, 15.6% and 9.2% respectively.”

Is satisfaction the same as engagement?

The terms employee engagement and employee job satisfaction are often used interchangeably, but there are actually differences between the two concepts. An article by the national US Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) states that research reveals there is some overlap in the drivers of engagement and satisfaction, but there are also key differences in the components that determine each:

Engaged employees might report feeling focused and intensely involved in the work they do. They are enthusiastic and have a sense of urgency. Engaged behavior is persistent, proactive and adaptive in ways that expand the job roles as necessary. Engaged employees go beyond job descriptions in, for example, service delivery or innovation. Whereas engaged employees feel focused with a sense of urgency and concentrate on how they approach what they do, satisfied employees, in contrast, feel pleasant, content and gratified. The level of employee job satisfaction in an organization often relates to factors over which the organization has control (such as pay, benefits and job security), whereas engagement levels are more directly controlled or significantly influenced by the employee’s manager (through job assignments, trust, recognition, day-to-day communications, etc.).

“Being satisfied at work is a weaker predictor of business outcomes than engagement and lacks the two‐way reciprocal relationship characteristic of engagement,” is a conclusion expressed by Robertson-Smith & Markwick in their 2009 review, “Employee Engagement: A review of current thinking.” The same point could be made about happiness.

The important difference between cause and correlation

The difficulty in discussing the impact of employee satisfaction/happiness/wellbeing/gratification/engagement/commitment/association is that it is not possible to demonstrate that any of these can be directly proven to be a fundamental individual cause of performance improvement in business units or the overall organization. As an example, Edmans cautions in his article, “How Investing in Intangibles – Like Employee Satisfaction – Translates into Financial Returns” that “a correlation between employee satisfaction and stock returns need not imply causation.” Also, the title of Edmans’s paper, “The Link Between Job Satisfaction and Firm Value,” reflects the same problem – there is strong evidence of a link, but not clear proof this is the single direct cause or even one of the most critical causes. A further example – Oswald, Proto & Sgroi say in their paper that various “forms of evidence…are consistent with the existence of a causal link between human well-being and human performance.” But absolute proof can’t be clearly shown.

After the confident headline of their article – (“It’s official: happy employees mean healthy firms”), Ward, Krekel & De Neve drop back from cause to correlation [Words in italics are my emphasis.]: “Our work is suggestive of a strong, positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity and firm performance. The evidence base is steadily mounting that this correlation is in fact a causal relationship (running from wellbeing to productivity).” They admit a causal relationship can’t actually be proven yet.

What is employee engagement? 

Definitions of employee engagement abound. For instance, a 2012 Ragan article lists “50 definitions of employee engagement” [Access by subscription.] As Graber observed in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article, many definitions of the term, “ranging from the simple (‘discretionary effort’) to the mind-bending (‘complex nomological network encompassing trait, state and behavioral constructs’),” have been produced by academics, consultants, and leaders who have tried in vain for decades to find a totally satisfactory definition.

Probably the firm best-known globally for specializing in employee engagement and its 12-question survey is Gallup Inc., whose consultants have been measuring engagement for more than 50 years. “Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace,” and that “engagement describes the basic psychological needs that must be met in order to perform your work well.”

Why is engagement considered important?

Increasing employee engagement levels is a primary objective of many organizations seeking to strengthen their productivity and financial performance – because better performance is generally recognized as developing from higher employee engagement. “Engaged employees go above and beyond what is expected of them because they feel part of a purpose larger than themselves. Purpose is the foundation of engagement it’s the vital element that makes an engaged organization possible and the first step to creating an engaged culture,” according to Engagement Multiplier consultants.

However, the wide variation in factors present in each individual workplace defies clear analysis. For instance, major factors determining the extent of individual employees’ engagement are most likely each employee’s unique personality, needs, motives and goals, which interact with organizational factors and interventions to influence engagement levels. Also, some employees, including individual managers and supervisors, will always be more (or less) engaged and motivated than others. Consistent with this view is the fact that Gallup has found “70% of the variance in employee engagement is due to the manager” or supervisor.

Key drivers of employee engagement

Aon international consulting firm published a report, “2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement” showing an ‘engagement model,’ (below) which lists 20 factors that can contribute to employee engagement. (A business driver is a key input or activity that drives the operational and financial results of a business. Common examples of business drivers are salespeople, number of stores, website traffic, number and price of products sold, units of production, etc.) Notice in Aon’s ‘engagement drivers’ how communication doesn’t get a mention(!), although it is central to the successful implementation of many of these factors. It is amazing how many business consultants fail to acknowledge the value of employee communication.

“Develop a culture of high development through engagement”

“The ultimate goal of engagement is the growth and development of the individual,” according to Gallup, who go on to state this goal is “about meeting employees’ ongoing needs through a culture  –  ‘how we do things around here’ –  that helps them be their best self and produce their best work.”  Also, from their decades of experience with engagement, Gallup consultants believe that “successful organizations integrate engagement into all of their most important business processes, from performance management to executive strategic planning to employee learning.”


The above Gallup graph shows average US employee engagement levels, 2000-2022.

Global employee engagement levels mixed in recent years

There is a heartening improvement in US employee engagement over the past two decades, except it started drooping when Covid-19 struck, and hadn’t recovered to the same level by 2022. Gallup reported in January 2024 that the 2023 level of US employee engagement showed a stagnation in engagement but at least a good reduction in actively disengaged employees.  Gallup further reported that:

In 2023, employees in the U.S. continued to feel more detached from their employers, with less clear expectations, lower levels of satisfaction with their organization, and less connection to its mission or purpose, than they did four years ago. They are also less likely to feel someone at work cares about them as a person.

Good internal communication is a driver of high employee engagement

Effective internal communication is considered to be a highly important foundation for employee engagement, as shown in the responses of participants in a 2013 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services global survey on the impact of employee engagement on business performance. The graph below shows that communication was the key factor in at least the top 5 of 8 most impactful drivers of employee engagement, as reported by the 568 respondents (largely senior level executives, who were all from organizations with 500 or more employees.)

Above table sourced from the 2013 HBR Analytic Services survey

On the other hand…

In his email newsletter of 29 August 2020, international business consultant Dr Leandro Herrero offers a skeptical view of employee engagement. What do you think of his comments?

The industry of Employee Engagement (and there is a big one) says that companies with high employee engagement (as measured by some kind of artificial tool) are more successful. And produces ‘studies’ to prove it. Employee engagement is clearly portrayed as the reason for success, so the path is clear: how can we get more of it? My view is that success creates employee engagement, not the other way around. If you want high employee engagement, run a successful organization. I know it’s rather inconvenient to think this way.

The book The Halo Effect (2014) by Phil Rosenzweig opened my eyes to this. I would put this book in the list of obligatory reading to anybody in management. The subtitle of the book is explicit: ‘and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers’. Rosenzweig quotes the case of the UK retailer Marks and Spencer, a company which at some point scored at the top in employee engagement rankings. Then a terrible year in business performance came up and employee engagement scores went down significantly. Not a single iota in benefits, programmes, employee care, or anything had changed. Just abysmal market performance.

Manager engagement is a problem

Gallup research has found about 70% of an individual’s engagement is driven by their manager, and this has resulted in severely low worldwide employee engagement levels because many managers are poor at team management and low satisfaction. Obviously communication isn’t a high priority for those managers.

The issue is that engagement is often a cascade of behavior stemming from the very top of the organization. In particular, the CEO is crucial to employee engagement. Gallup research shows that employee engagement comes from leaders –  people look to their leaders to set the tone and expectations. Managers who work for engaged leaders are 39% more likely to be engaged, and employees who work for engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged, according to Gallup. Read more about this in my article, “Your CEO and senior executives are crucial to employee engagement.”

Employee experience

Employee engagement is an ongoing part of the employee experience, according to Gallup. Employee experience has been an increasing focus in recent years because “the path to engagement is through employee experience,” in the view of corporate communicator, author and lecturer Aniisu Verghese in a 2020 IPR article. Also, business consultants believe it is a more tangible concept than employee engagement. Gallup simply defines the employee experience as “the journey an employee takes with your organization.” It is the sum of all interactions an employee has with an employer, from pre-recruitment to post-exit and everything in between. “It includes everything from major milestones and personal relationships to technology use and the physical work environment.”

The following are three key phases Gallup says every organization should consider when developing an employee experience strategy:

  1. Align your employee experience to purpose, brand and culture.
  2. Focus on the 7 essential stages of the employee life cycle (diagram below).
  3. Remember the core needs at the heart of every stage.

Out of all the interactions an employee has with their employer, Gallup identifies 7 critical stages that have the most influence on employees’ perceptions of their organization. An effective communication strategy is needed for all of these stages to make a fulfilling employee experience:

Above: Gallup diagram of the employee life cycle.

The benefits of focusing on employee experience

“When organizations make real gains, it’s because they’re thinking longer-term. They’re going beyond what engagement scores are telling them to do in the moment and redesigning employee experience, creating a place where people want, not just need, to work each day,” said Jacob Morgan in his Harvard Business Review article, “Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us So Little,” (2017). A consultant reader of Morgan’s article backed his point: “I shifted to focusing clients on employee experience rather than engagement and it’s transformative. I find that having leaders think about employee experience is more tangible and more actionable than thinking about engagement.”

Based on his analysis, Morgan says he identified three environments that matter most to employees: cultural, technological and physical.

Effective workplace communication leads to better organizational performance

Good workplace communication is widely seen as a significant contributor to high levels of engagement that lead to better organizational results.

However, as noted above, myriad other factors can also be associated with engagement. Professor Ana Tkalac Verčič says in her 2016 article, “Exploring the Connection Between Internal Communication and Employee Engagement” that engagement “is defined in multiple terms and has different operationalizations” and that “there are many organizational and situational factors as well as individual differences, that influence employee engagement or disengagement.”

Consistent with this conclusion, Verčič & Vokić (2018) say, “Key drivers of employee engagement include nature of the job and work environment, recognition of one’s work, social climate, personality traits, and internal communication satisfaction, as an integral part of internal communication.” Verčič also comments in her article that “what matters most is that internal communication and employee engagement ‘feed’ each other in a continuous virtual circle.”

PR professionals believe good employee communication is a primary cause of high levels of employee satisfaction, but again there is no clear, simple proof of this because other reasons can also be perceived to be significant contributors. The situation is therefore that good employee communication is associated with or there is a correlation or a link or connection with high employee satisfaction. What is concerning is that many definitions don’t even mention communication.

What type of internal communication is strongest? Verčič & Vokić conducted a survey of 104 participants to investigate “[the] relationship between:

  • internal communication satisfaction (e.g. feedback, communication with superiors, horizontal communication, informal communication, corporate information, communication climate, communication media, and communication during meetings), and
  • employee engagement (specifically work engagement; vigor, dedication and absorption).”

They said “our study confirmed that internal communication satisfaction has a significant role in high employee engagement,” pointing out:

“Three aspects demonstrated a greater importance: satisfaction with feedback, informal communication, and communication during meetings, and thus are the most relevant internal communication satisfaction dimensions for employee engagement. The study confirmed that feedback, open channels of communication, communication between supervisors and employees, and sharing information with employees are vital enablers of engagement.”

Verčič & Vokić go on to advocate that organizations should:

  • communicate the importance of the broad set of drivers for enhancing employee engagement, namely satisfaction with feedback, informal communication, and communication during meetings, and
  • incorporate engagement into strategic planning to encourage organizational support and belief in the importance of engagement as an organizational value rather than a short-term initiative.

Communication activities that build employee engagement

The head of a PR consultancy specializing in communication for successful employee engagement and change management offers 10 strategies for improving employee engagement and therefore organizational performance. Alison Davis, CEO of New Jersey-based Davis & Company has written an excellent article, “How to communicate to improve employee engagement” (2018), based on her decades of frontline experience. Davis defines engaged employees as committed to the organization’s goals, understanding how they make a contribution to the company’s success and are committed to doing their best work. This desired end state simply can’t be achieved without robust communication. Here are her 10 essential strategies for communicating to create engagement:

  1. Make sure leaders and managers understand their critical communication roles. Senior leaders need to articulate where the organization is heading, clarify priorities and share progress and accomplishments. Key leaders must reinforce big-picture messages and provide specific objectives for their groups or functions. Managers need to define what their employees need to do to help the organization succeed and answer questions and address concerns.
  2. Keep working to help senior leaders be visible. Do leaders at your organization spend more time communicating with external stakeholders than with employees? Do employees report that they seldom see senior leaders? If so, your leaders need to improve their visibility. High-visibility leaders reach employees by holding face-to-face meetings, being interviewed in intranet articles, leading webcasts or web meetings, engaging in online conversations such as live chats or jams, and participating in social media.
  3. Provide managers with the information they need to understand key topics – and answer employees’ questions. One valuable approach is to create a communication toolkit, a package of information that provides essential information and inspires busy managers to take action. Key elements often include a brief message from the CEO or other senior leader to reinforce the importance of the topic, expectations about how and when managers will communicate, a key message document that clearly outlines what’s happening, and FAQs (and answers) that help managers respond to team members’ questions.
  4. Develop a system for internal communication channels. Communication channels. Every tool – from the simplest to the most sophisticated – serves a purpose. There are two keys to using tools effectively. The first is to choose the right tool for the job. The second comes in knowing how to use each tool. For example, a short video can illustrate and inspire. But if you try to pack too much information into the video, it won’t hold employees’ attention. Whichever tool you choose, make sure you define clear objectives for what you expect that channel will achieve: Are you trying to increase awareness about certain topics? Provide inspiration? Encourage action? Once you know your desired outcomes, you can build a channel that will get the job done.
  5. Create content that’s really compelling. As channels become less differentiated (Who even knows the name of your intranet or news vehicle?) and devices become interchangeable, the only thing that matters is content – fresh, unique, useful, personal, compelling content. That means your success will depend on your ability to create, curate or facilitate (by managing social media) content that employees are attracted to. And the best way to do that is to provide ‘how-to’ information that will help employees solve a problem, learn what to do in certain situations and make their lives easier.
  6. Move the needle on meetings. Meetings are an essential communication form in organizations – whether face-to-face in a conference room or virtual via web, video or teleconference session. Yet meetings are universally reviled: For example, nearly 45% of leaders and managers believe that meetings accomplish nothing. So make meetings more compelling and meaningful, at least for the big-impact sessions (town halls, leadership forums, internal conferences). Two ways – change the chairs (to bring people closer together – when not in a pandemic!) and reboot timing (to create more opportunities for interactivity).
  7. Make a start with mobile. You need a mobile strategy. There are certainly obstacles (including technology and budget), but digital media are a reality. And employees will increasingly expect you to provide information ‘to go.’ So even if you can’t develop an app, you can start with a simple step, like making sure your emails are accessible and readable on mobile devices.
  8. Move from describing (words) to showing (visual). Images and visuals dominate external communication – 95% of marketers believe visual content is critical. On Facebook, for example, posts including photos generate 100% more engagement than the average post. That points to why writing is on the wane. Visuals – photos, video, infographics, etc – are the communication method that will pack the big punch.
  9. Embrace segmentation. Most employee communication follows the broadcasting model – send the same content to everyone. But too much of what’s shared is irrelevant to recipients, so they simply ignore it. What’s on the horizon? Narrowcasting, defined as tailoring communication to smaller, more selective audiences (even individuals). Seek opportunities to segment messages, even to significant groups (all managers, people in a certain location or those who do a certain type of job).
  10. Reduce friction. In communication, friction occurs when an audience member is intrigued by a topic, but then encounters resistance on their quest to engage with content. Whatever the source, friction always leads to the same result: When communication requires too much of a commitment, audience members abandon ship. So look at ways your communication is causing friction and plan fixes. Maybe email doesn’t open on mobile devices. Or content is impossible to find on your intranet. Or employees are frustrated by the search function. No, you can’t solve everything, but you can address low-hanging friction.

Further communication initiatives for increasing engagement

In addition, SHRM recommends a further range of communication initiatives (below) to help build employee engagement, saying that “targeted communication initiatives can enable managers and HR professionals to stay on top of employee engagement issues, get ongoing feedback from employees and anticipate changing needs of workgroups.” These communication activities relate to the HR role, which is to be expected.

Communication opportunities

Employers have numerous opportunities for ‘engageable moments,’ when they can motivate and provide direction for employees. The SHRM lists several formal and informal ‘engageable moment’ opportunities:

Formal opportunities include:

  • Recruitment; onboarding
  • Performance reviews
  • Goal setting
  • Training
  • Communication by senior leaders
  • Employee surveys.

Informal opportunities include:

  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Career development discussions
  • Ongoing performance feedback
  • Recognition programs
  • Company social events
  • Personal crises.

Communication channels

The size, composition and expected responses of the target group of employees should guide the type of communication used for engagement activities. Some of the communication methods that can be used include:

“Keeping in touch.”

  • Ongoing communication with workgroups can occur through regular weekly or fortnightly meetings, ideally with 10-15 employees in each meeting. In this forum, issues can be aired or ideas can be discussed to gain immediate feedback.
  • Another component of keeping in touch is one-on-one coaching meetings with team members.

Remote communication.

Different technologies allow contact to be made, including:

  • Employee listening platforms where workers can be surveyed, comments and suggestions collected, exit interviews to be conducted, etc.
  • Social media and mobile app resources to discuss issues, share ideas, conduct surveys and vote on issues. Alex Turnbull from the Groove blog wrote a list of “18 Tools Our Remote Team Uses to Stay Connected, Productive and Sane.” You can check the tools in that list. Many readers (91 of them at the time of writing this!) also added other suggestions or comments. You can also Google other useful tools for remote teams.
  • Blogs that routinely inform and update employees on new initiatives and allow employee responses to be recorded and openly available.
  • Videoconferencing and teleconferencing.
  • Emailed newsletters.
  • You can read more in my article about “How communication can hugely lift employee engagement.”

What’s needed for internal communicators to drive business value

The US-based Institute for Public Relations (IPR) initiated a research project that looked deeply into the factors that are important for internal communication to become more valued and therefore contribute directly to greater corporate performance. Firstly, the researchers investigated the internal communication practices of 10 leading organizations from around the world, based on “global scope, market leadership and perceived effectiveness in internal communications (frequently on the most-admired or best-places-to-work lists, and award winners.” Then the research team reviewed the qualitative findings and conducted interviews with internal communication leaders in the US, UK and Europe. The two projects were:

1. Qualitative IPR research project – “Best-in-Class Practices in Employee Communication”

The first phase of the overall IPR project comprised qualitative research on “Best-in-Class Practices in Employee Communication” (2013). The resulting report identified 4 factors that contribute to top internal communication teams strengthening employee engagement and therefore driving business value:

  1. An organizational structure that connects internal communicators with the rest of the company – up and down the chain of command;
  2. An innate understanding that strong internal communication will have a positive return for the brand and the company that need not be proven at every juncture;
  3. An arsenal of tools and practices for both listening and communicating a message; and
  4. A strong commitment to keeping employees across the company informed in a timely fashion, often before stories break in mass media and digital channels.

2. Quantitative IPR research project – “What Does Good Look Like? A quantitative perspective on best-in-class practices in employee communication”

The second phase of the IPR research project comprised a quantitative industry survey following up on the qualitative survey mentioned above, titled  “What Does Good Look Like? A quantitative perspective on best-in-class practices in employee communication” (2014). In-depth interviews conducted in the survey with 156 internal communicators helped identify 22 factors that communication leaders credited for their success in effectively communicating to employees across large, multi-national organizations. Even if you are not the communication leader in your organization, you can still use these “22 Factors of Success” from the survey report as the basis for discussion with your boss and other members of your team.

Above image: “The 22 Factors of Success” identified in the Institute for Public Relations research report, “What Does Good Look Like? A quantitative perspective on best-in-class practices in employee communication.”


All the research results are consistent with the view that strong employee communication leads to higher levels of employee engagement, which in turn are associated with stronger corporate performance. The takeaway: treat your employees genuinely better and your organization will perform better – a win:win situation.

Further reading

My ebooks on developing successful communication plans offer you a generous number of helpful, practical insights. Tremendous value – just like having your own comms coach at your side!

This article was updated in January 2024.

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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