Executive Summary: Start the Dialogue


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Executive Summary of Start the Dialogue: Employee Engagement in Tough Times Research

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Executive Summary: Start the Dialogue

  1. 1. Employee Engagement inToughTimes Executive summary June 2009 national.ca/startthedialogue
  2. 2. Starting the Dialogue about internal communications In today’s challenging business environment, we are facing many social, political, economic and regulatory trends that are impacting strategic communications. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in internal communications. Effective internal communications is vital to employee engagement, retention and productivity. The world’s highest performing companies know that engaged employees are more productive, more customer-focused, more loyal, and ultimately, more committed to business success. Industry research tells us that firms that communicate effectively report high levels of employee engagement, low turnover rates and high shareholder value. The goal of this research was to better understand key trends, challenges and opportunities for internal communications. Specifically, we wanted to examine the role of dialogue: how two- way conversation can help stimulate participation, exchange ideas, solve problems, and promote action. We also wanted to gain insight into how leaders and managers could embrace different forms to dialogue to inspire and engage employees, particularly in the midst of a challenging economy. In March and April 2009, we conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with communications professionals at 30 client and non-client public and private sector Canadian organizations. Participating companies included energy, manufacturing, financial services, and pharmaceutical industries firms in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, ranging from 90 and 60,000 employees. Results were compiled and analyzed by NATIONAL Public Relations’ internal research team. This material is the intellectual property of NATIONAL Public Relations Inc. Every digital, printed and oral reference or use must contain a clear and visible acknowledgement of NATIONAL Public Relations Inc. No alteration of the material is permitted without written permission from NATIONAL Public Relations Inc. national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 1
  3. 3. Highlights Top Trends Impacting Internal Communications Respondents identified social media as the primary trend in internal communications. Multi-generational workforces are prompting communicators to re-evaluate their internal communications strategies to better reflect generational preferences. Organizations are being challenged by the sometimes conflicting goals of attracting younger talent while improving the morale, motivation and engagement of current employees who have different preferences and needs. Face-to-face dialogue is viewed as the most effective way to communicate. Communicators identified many positive attributes of dialogue, including the ability to better understand employee concerns, build relationships and trust, improve message 100 retention, and overcome internal silos. 90 Communicators need to create alignment between external and 80 internal communications at their organizations, in order to build 70 trust and demonstrate transparency. 60 50 Employees of all ages are demanding more timely and transparent 40 communications. 30 20 Organizational restructuring, including changes in leadership, L 10 are driving a need for greater visibility and access to senior management. 0 L The most pressing worry for communications professionals is trying to keep up with their workload. L L Source: NATIONAL Public Relations Inc., June 2009 L L Social media challenges Timely, relevant communications expectations Management turnover Demographic New technology Managing employee L L national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 2
  4. 4. 1 Economic uncertainty has created new challenges for communicators The state of the economy and challenges that result from it, such as ensuring stakeholder value, smaller budgets, lower revenues and industry changes, have impacted the way organizations communicate with employees. CEOs are more visible to employees than six months Top Challenges ago. Visibility tends to be episodic, however, rather Current Industry changes than sustained over time. for Canadian economic situation Organizations Recruitment and retention remain a primary challenge, particularly in the current economy when engagement is relatively low. Recruitment and retention Customer service Mergers and acquisitions Executive turnover Information sharing Resources and staffing national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 3
  5. 5. 2 The role of internal communications is evolving Internal communications departments are challenged by organizational restructuring, reduced time, increased workload, and less resources. Communicators are evolving their communications strategies to be more personalized, relevant and timely. Challenges for Internal Communications professionals interviewed felt that the Workload value of internal communications was misunderstood Communications as a tactical function, rather than as a major Organizational restructuring contributor to the overall business strategy. Personalization Budgetary constraints of communications tools Lack of resources and internal communications staff Recruitment and retention Process and structure of internal communications Clarity of internal communications role national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 4
  6. 6. 3 Dialogue with leadership is viewed as essential The majority of respondents indicated that there was more dialogue with senior management now, versus six months ago. When asked why dialogue with senior management had increased, respondents indicated that this was due to recent acquisitions, the economic situation, Advice business model restructuring or a crisis. Increase frequency and to Senior reduce Be available to employees the formality Overall, respondents indicated that the CEO of their Leadership respective organizations communicated very effectively with employees. Other members of the leadership team, however, did not fare so well. The majority of Be more Keep communicating respondents ranked other senior leaders significantly lower in terms of communications effectiveness. More sharing and visioning with departments Be honest Respond in a more timely manner “ Be more consistent interactive Less talking at and more dialogue More personal interaction “ Dialogue helps build a Listen more to employees belief in our leadership Continue to be open, timely and honest with and that our leaders are communications ‘steering the ship’. Have an open door policy Invest time in communication national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 5
  7. 7. 4 Social media is the dominant trend impacting internal communictions 88% of respondents cited social media as the number one trend impacting internal communications at their organization. Internal social media tools mentioned include micro- blogging, shared work spaces, podcasts, blogs and forums. 45% of respondents said that changing demographics in the workplace are a major trend impacting internal communications; younger employees want social media tools as part of the internal communications strategy. 30% of respondents said there is an increased need for timely and relevant communications. “ “ Social media is one of the biggest challenges for internal communications; in particular, how to understand and use these L L tools in a thoughtful and meaningful way. L “ L On a scale of 1 to 5, I think “ we are a ‘2’ vis-à-vis dialogue right now because we’re not listening enough. I think dialogue is very important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be face-to-face. national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 6
  8. 8. Our View We believe that high-performing organizations demonstrate the following characteristics in their internal communications programs Old Way New Way 1. Internal communications programs must have leadership buy-in; not just from the CEO but the senior management team as well. 2. Effective internal communications programs begin with research. Employees are not a homogeneous mass – they are individuals with specific needs and preferences. 3. Internal communications must be supported with appropriate investment – including people, funding, management buy-in, and alignment across key operational functions to present employees with a consistent experience. 4. Internal communications programs must be measurable and demonstrate impact on the bottom line. 5. Internal communications is not a tactical series of events. It is an ongoing strategy that connects employees as active participants in the business. The 6. Programs need to incorporate tools that are relevant and meaningful to specific employee segments and needs – one size does not fit all. 7. Internal communications involves ongoing dialogue across, up and down the organization. Cascaded and the communications simply do not work any more. FROM TO 8. There must be an openness to change. What worked in the past may not work today. Content of communications > Intent of communications Controlled (traditional) > Uncontrolled (online) Mass > Personalized Monologue > Dialogue CEO as leader > CEO and managers as communicators Readership metrics > Business impact metrics For more information, please contact: Carolyn Ray, Vice President, Employee Engagement, NATIONAL Public Relations 416- 848-1423 cray@national.ca twitter.com/carolynray national.ca /startthedialogue Employee Engagement in Tough Times 7