10 Shocking Stats That Will Spook Internal Comms Professionals

10 shocking stats that will spook internal comms professionals
31st October 2017 handh
Halloween Blog Image

It’s that time of year again – when glowing jack-o-lanterns take pride of place on people’s doorsteps, old bedsheets are repurposed into sub-standard ghostly costumes, and swarms of excited children take to the streets ready to fill their swag bags with goodies and consume a wee bit too much sugar.

We’ve taken part in our fair share of Halloween activity here at H&H (last year we had a Halloween Bake-Off, and believe it or not, our offices are supposedly haunted, so a select few brave H&Hers once took part in an overnight ghost hunt (they say they didn’t see anything, but who knows…?).

But we’re not here to talk about ghosts, ghouls, or grim reapers. We’ll be exploring something much more frightening – to internal communicators at least.

While the eyes of those at the top are gradually opening to the benefits and lucrative potential internal comms affords an organisation, the internal comms function still often falls by the wayside, and remains drastically underutilized. Meaning that many organisations lose out on crucial collective understanding, employee engagement, and ultimately productivity.

Some of the internal comms research and data out there paints a rather grim picture of this unfortunate reality. But they enable us to see exactly where internal comms and organisational leaders are falling short – which provides valuable insight into how we can improve.

Since it wouldn’t be Halloween without some proper scares, we’ve rounded up the most shocking and revealing internal comms stats we’ve come across, so you don’t have to go hunting for them yourself.

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Got your Halloween costume to hand? Then let’s get going…

The 13 stats internal communicators don’t want to see every week?

Just ‘24% of global employees are highly engaged’ Source: Aon Hewitt (2017)

We’re hitting the scare factor straight on the head with this one. Internal comms plays a critical role in getting employees inspired, motivated, and truly engaged – so a stat like this will make the IC professional’s heart skip a beat.

But the blame for this worryingly low level of true engagement can’t be laid solely at the doors of organisational leaders and internal communicators.

Over the last year, we’ve seen a drastic level of change on a global scale, particularly on the political stage – which has left many employees feeling uncertain and anxious about the future. Internal comms will play a vital role in reassuring and providing guidance for these employees – so we need to step in to ensure that people across the world feel secure and stable in their organisations, regardless of external turbulence.

Internal communicators must step in to ensure that people across the world feel secure and stable in their organisations

Just 40% of internal comms professionals believe that employees understand ‘well’ or ‘very well’ the contribution they’re making to their organisation’s strategy Source: Gatehouse (2016)

Another kick in the teeth for internal comms pros. One of the cornerstones of any internal communicator’s role is working with senior leadership to articulate and communicate a compelling vision of their organisation’s strategy to inspire employees. When everyone’s working towards a tangible, compelling goal, with an exciting purpose to boot – it has a palpable impact on productivity and engagement.

Likewise, if employees don’t have a clear understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing – the question ‘what’s the point?’ will turn over in their minds. They’ll start to become disengaged, merely going through the motions rather than giving their all.

It’s up to internal communicators to communicate their organisations’ strategies in ways which will inspire employees to truly invest in their work – and really make the purpose come to life.

If employees don’t have a clear understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing – they’ll become disengaged, merely going through the motions rather than giving their all

Only 21% of internal communciators believe employees have a good understanding of why senior leaders make the decisions they do
Source: Gatehouse (2016)

Similar to stat number two, this statistic highlights the importance of Visible Felt Leadership – where senior leaders make the effort to be visible across their organisation to demonstrate their investment and commitment. Organisations are changing constantly, and senior leaders are often tasked with making the difficult decisions about how exactly they’ll be changing to keep up with fiercely competitive markets.

If the reasons behind these crucial decisions aren’t communicated effectively with employees, it will cause confusion and misunderstanding – which bring productivity and engagement crashing down. To truly engage employees, it’s a good idea to get them involved in important decision-making, so they feel trusted to speak their minds and contribute. Fostering a greater emotional connection with, and investment in, the organisation.

Involve employees in important decision-making so they feel trusted to speak their minds and contribute

44% of employees do not feel senior leaders are providing clear direction about where their organisation is headed
Source: IBM and Globoforce (2017)

While this statistic leaves internal communicators out of the equation, as we’ve mentioned already – internal comms is critical when it comes to articulating organisational vision. For employees to feel their work is valuable, they need to know what they’re contributing towards, and how they’re shaping the future of the organisation.

It all comes down to emotional investment – when we know the role we’re playing towards a higher purpose, we’re more committed to making it happen. Senior leaders (and internal communicators too) must remember to communicate what employees want to know – not what they think they need to know.

Communicate what employees want to know – not what you think they need to know

Only 13% of employees strongly agree that their leaders are effectively communicating with the organisation
Source: Gallup (2017)

This drastically low statistic will likely give plenty of internal communicators the willies – but it relates to the same core idea we all know to be true: effective communication = greater engagement = increased productivity. If leadership communication is ineffective, internal communicators need to step in to offer guidance and support. Why might communication be breaking down? What needs to be communicated that’s missing? What’s the best way to communicate in the organisation? All crucial questions when it comes to improving internal comms.

If leadership communication is ineffective, internal communicators need to step in to offer guidance and support

75% of employees would stay longer at an organisation where they were listened to and had their concerns addressed
Source: Ultimate Software (2016)

Perhaps not as scary, but still an apt reminder that the employee voice counts – and counts a lot. Part of internal communication is to ensure that employees are heard – not just talking to them, but talking with them, establishing an inclusive, productive two-way dialogue where employees feel safe in the knowledge that they can speak out and raise any issues, ideas or suggestions.

Employees whose thoughts and opinions are taken on board will feel valued and trusted, and will have a deeper sense of commitment to the organisation – which, as this stat suggests, will reduce the risk that top talent will end up walking out the door.

Employees whose thoughts and opinions are taken on board feel valued and trusted, and have a deeper sense of commitment to their organisation

35% of employees have to wait more than 3 months to get any feedback from their manager
Source: Officevibe (2016)

Internal comms isn’t just about communicating organisational strategy, values, or change programmes. It’s also about ensuring that there’s consistent communication throughout the organisation, and championing the employee voice. Of course, it’s not the internal communicator’s job to directly impart feedback to every employee. That would be nigh-on impossible.

But internal comms professionals must help to facilitate effective and proficient communication channels across the organisation – including senior leaders-managers, and managers-employees.

Internal comms professionals must help to facilitate effective and proficient communication channels across the organisation

Over 50% of employees undertake their own detective work to understand company performance
Source: Geckoboard (2015)

Ask any leader about their biggest fears for their organisation, and one they’ll likely list off is untruths being spread about it, both externally and internally. While it can prove incredibly difficult to quash rumours that catch fire with external audiences, the easiest way to prevent them percolating inside the workplace is simply to keep employees in the loop about everything that’s relevant to them.

Obviously, internal comms plays a vital role here too. If employees are left in the dark about the facts that impact on their day-to-day performance and livelihood within the organisation, they may start drawing their own conclusions, which could lead to substantial damage being done to the level of engagement – and the organisation’s reputation.

If employees are left in the dark about the facts that impact on their day-to-day performance and livelihood within the organisation, they may start drawing their own undesirable conclusions

69% of managers feel uncomfortable communicating with employees in general
Source: The Impact of Managers on Workplace Engagement and Productivity, by James Foster (2017)

This stat should send shivers down the spine of any internal comms practicioner. How can managers begin to communicate with employees effectively and beneficially – if they’re uneasy communicating with them in the first place?

This is where internal communicators need to step up to the mark. Upskilling managers so they have the know-how and abilities to communicate productively. Aiding with communication cascades. Helping to find communication channels that work for everybody. And providing support and advice to managers who are particularly struggling, so they don’t stay stuck in a rut.

How can managers begin to communicate with employees effectively and beneficially if they’re uneasy communicating with them in the first place?

21% of employees feel they’ve been kept in the dark during change
Source: H&H (2017)

This statistic is from our own research, where we expored people’s attitudes towards and experiences of organisational change and made some pretty surprising discoveries (you can download our IC Field Guide containing the juiciest insights here). But perhaps our most pertinent finding for internal communicators is that nearly a quarter of all employees feel that information has been kept from them during a change.

Considering just how much crucial activity occurs during the cut-and-thrust of change (think crafting messages to get buy in, writing manager cascade comms documents, mobilising leaders in rallying town halls etc.) – and on top of that, how much change now happens simultaneously – don’t you think it’s shocking that so many employees are denied all the critical information they need to adapt to the change and help make it successful?

Given that the employees who are most affected by change are those on the bottom-line, it’s only fair and right that they’re kept up to speed with what’s happening, how it’s progressing, and the new ways of working – and advantages – that will come from it. Something that should be high up on the to-do list of internal communicators.

Given that the employees who are most affected by change are those on the bottom line, it’s only fair that they’re kept up to speed with what’s happening, how it’s progressing, and the new ways of working

We don’t want to scare and alarm you any more than we need to, so we’ll stop there. But this is only a snapshot of all the data about internal comms and employee engagement we have at our fingertips.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Much of the data out there paints an optimistic vision of the future of IC – but that’s for another article.

And one last thing – Happy Halloween, from all of us here at H&H!

104,748: The number of global senior leaders our dedicated Leadership Development team have equipped with the skills to communicate and engage authentically over the last 12 months.


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