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How To Identify Communication Needs Within Your Organization

Posted by Becky Holzman Garzone on February 26, 2015

How do organizational communication professionals identify communication needs within their organizations, especially when it pertains to filming video in different locales? Perhaps, the right question should be, do internal communications departments get the resources needed to communicate effectively and if not, why? And one step further, in this pivotal post-recession period, how can internal communications departments reimagine and innovate their role within the organization?

Internal Communications Challenges

Bruce K. Berger, Ph.D., Professor at the College of Communications at University of Alabama in his article READ MY LIPS: Leaders, Supervisors, and Culture Are the Foundations of Strategic Employee Communications  states “Globalization and the arrival of the digital age, for example, have added critical new dimensions—think volume, velocity, and variety of information—to communication in and out of the workplace. In addition, organizational demographics have changed, organizations are flatter, teams are the primary work structure, and communication is fast, multidirectional, and continuous.”

According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014 report, our post-recession workforce looks more diverse than we have ever seen it. The disparity of age ranges from younger workers (Millennials) to Baby Boomers who are working longer. More flexible schedules are required from working mothers to a workforce who is also caring for elderly parents. The growing gaps in workforce ages, different ideologies, and ever growing demands on the family are breaking up old HR and communications models. The report says by 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.  This is both good and daunting news for internal communications because it means the shift from highly crafted top down communications to multi-directional, transparent, easily digestible, mobile/wearable information.

Pre-recession Communications: Under-resourced, Undervalued, No Seat at the Table

  • Under-resourced: A recent study shows that for every one internal communications professional there are 500 to 1000 employees.  To put this in perspective, a survey reported by HR Daily Advisor that was conducted in August of 2013 states that 42% of HR departments have a ratio of 1 to 101 or 1 to 200 employees.
  • Undervalued: In Engaging Employees: Why Do You Think We Don’t? David Therkelsen, School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Minnesota, hypothesizes organizational, individual, and systematic reasons why corporations don’t communicate well with their workforce.
  • No Seat at the Table: Therkelsen said “Employee communication is not recognized in MBA and other management training programs.” This could be a reason why IC Managers aren’t invited to join conversations at the executive level like their HR Directors counterparts.

Pivotal Time

Jeff Schwartz, Principal Deloitte Consulting, says in the Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2014 report video that this is a transitional time from a “…recession mindset to a growth mindset. There is also a shift from the twentieth century employee to the twenty-first century employee.” Bill Pelster, Principal Deloitte Consulting takes it a step further to say “…this is not about incremental change anymore, this is about takes big steps that are bold and innovative.”

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 80% of people globally distrust business. The Barometer also states that CEO’s are only trusted by 4 out of 10 people. These statistics may sound negative but for internal communications this is an unparalleled time for potential growth.  Time and time again we see studies that demonstrate that communications equals trust, if we don’t have trust we aren’t productive workers, and money talks.

Effective Internal Communications are the Solution

Berger said “Effective employee communications are the result of many interrelated factors—research, executive support, employees’ communication needs, communicator capabilities, communication climate, channel availability and use, measurement, organizational culture and history, messaging and listening, and employee empowerment, among others. However, research over the years has consistently highlighted the crucial importance of three factors or foundations in effective communications—leaders, front-line supervisors, and organizational culture.”

HR Daily Advisor states HR Directors reported that recruiting and employee motivation and retention are two of the top three HR challenges in 2013. Professor Berger cites Izzo, J. B., & Withers, P. Values Shift: The New Work Ethic and What It Means for Business “Organizations with engaged and committed employees were 50% more productive than those organizations where employees weren’t engaged, and employee retention rates were 44% higher in organizations with engaged employees.” It is easy to draw the line between HR challenges and IC solutions here.

What drives internal communications, strategically filling needs or answering requests?

Reineke Reitsma cited in the article ESOMAR Shopper Insights Conference: Innovative Methodologies Can Improve Internal Communication, a presentation given by Stephanie Grootenhuis, Shopper Insights Kraft International, at the ESOMAR Shopper Insights Conference 2011 in Brussels. Grootenhuis opened by saying “All the presentations until now have talked about understanding shoppers better and the difficulties you encounter when doing (global) research. But to be honest, that’s not my biggest challenge. What my team struggles with is HOW to share our knowledge and communicate our findings effectively into the organization.”

What international communication professional hasn’t felt the same way? Reitsma summarized Grootenhuis’ presentation, Kraft “…together with their partner 4Dshopper, use virtual shopper simulations not only for gaining better understanding on shopper behaviors, category management, placement, and packaging, but also as a way to get mindshare in their organization. In these videos, one minute max in length, a speaker takes the viewer on a guided in-store tour to highlight the best areas for intervention. The videos show the situation, possible improvements, and the expected effect on sales (in Kraft language: Insight, Actions, and Sales Uplift). These videos can be viewed using a phone, PC, or iPad, which makes it easy for sales and category managers to bring them to the store to support their case.”

What types of internal communications videos is your department responsible to produce? Do you see an increase in organizational communications efforts within your company?

1) Employee Engagement
2) Change Management
3) Sales
4) Employee Benefits
5) Safety
6) Philanthropy
7) Training
8) Compliance
9) “C” Level Communication
10)  Quarterly Meetings

Communications Audit

Do you need to jumpstart your internal communications efforts?  A good place to start is with a communications audit and social media audit.  Berger has outlined 48 checkpoints in his article as well. We would love to hear your take on #internalcomms trends. Share your thoughts on our blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or LinkedIn page.

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