Study: Internal comms seen as a business afterthought

New data show that most communicators in the U.S. and Canada are smothered within a larger department, which stymies progress, growth, influence and productivity.  

Communicators get no respect

Internal communication is the Rodney Dangerfield of the business world—it gets no respect.

According to new research released by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., 86 percent of the more than 100 internal communication pros surveyed said they are under a “broader department.” That lack of autonomy, influence and resources continues to shape the roles and responsibilities of the profession, rendering many as mere corporate “order takers” (an apt metaphor conjured by Ragan Consulting Group co-founder Jim Ylisela).

Read on for more salient takeaways from Gallagher’s findings:

Measurement is still a problem. Twelve percent of respondents admit “not measuring their communication effectiveness at all.”

Manager communication is a barrier. Most respondents give their executives high communication marks, but the mushy middle remains a problem. Just 17 percent of respondents think line managers are “effective communicators,” and 51 percent “report poor line manager communication skills as a barrier to success.”

Email and intranets are necessary evils. Ninety-six percent of respondents use email, but just 5 percent rate it as a “very effective” channel. Intranets garner a similarly salty assessment. Eighty-percent of respondents use an intranet; 7 percent believe it to be a “very effective” means of communication.

Yammer is rising, but good luck getting everyone on a single channel. Sharepoint (59 percent) ranks as the top internal “social channel.” Yammer (36 percent) and Twitter (32 percent) are the second- and third-most popular choices, respectively. Just 14 percent of respondents say they use Slack, and a mere 5 percent have switched to Workplace by Facebook.

Getting colleagues to use said “social channels” is another story. As the report found: “Just 12 percent of employers have social channels used by large segments of the employee population. In fact, 46 percent report that less than half of their employees take advantage of existing channels.”

U.S. companies are willing to experiment. The data show that the U.S. tends to lag Europe in terms of prioritizing and measuring internal comms, but North American companies are open to tinkering with new tech. For instance, 67 percent of respondents indicate they plan to use chatbots in the coming year.

Image via Gallagher

This might sound familiar to communicators toiling daily in the workplace trenches. If you do find yourself backed into a defensive, reactive “order taker” role, remind your boss about the bottom-line benefits you bring.

As HR Dive reports:

“Companies risk being shortsighted if they view employee communication as a cost center rather than a revenue driver,” she said. “High-quality internal communications can improve employee morale, engagement and wellbeing, which helps boost productivity and reduce turnover.”

Every workplace activity or program strategy should be measured for effectiveness, and internal comms is no exception. Technology can provide internal comms experts with the quantitative data they need to make communication decisions, plan strategies, and justify their contribution to their organizations’ goals.”

Internal communications is not a tangential, ancillary “necessary evil” of doing business. It is—or can be—a revenue driver. Have you convinced your supervisors that this is true?

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