You can't beat face-to-face communication

Nov 02 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Despite the rise of emails and intranets, employers still value face-to-face sessions the most when it comes to keeping staff up-to-date, according to a British survey.

The study by specialist journal IRS Employment Review found that, while organisations do now use an extensive range of communication methods, including online systems, handbooks, newsletters and memos, team briefings, executive briefing sessions and roadshows tended to work best.

Only a minority (one third) of the employers surveyed had a formal written communications policy.

While two-thirds tried to evaluate the success of their internal communications, fewer than a quarter of those who did used any formal evaluation methods.

Despite such limited formal planning and evaluation, more than half the organisations polled believed their communications strategy was working.

Other key findings include from the study included that, while internal communications often had several aims, employers believed the most important goal was to keep staff informed about organisational changes.

This was followed by improving employee engagement and staff performance and enabling workers to do their job better.

Communications approaches were more effective in keeping employees informed than in improving engagement and performance.

The most popular methods of encouraging employee involvement were team meetings, attitude surveys and focus groups.

Forty-three of the 74 organisations polled had a staff council and 42 recognised a trade union.

More than three-quarters had a staff feedback mechanism in place. These included intranet forums, executive "time on the floor", a confidential email address, an "open-door policy", "pizza clinics" and "breakfast banter".

Many people often contributed to the communications policy in most of the organisations, including the HR department and directors or executives.

In just over a third of organisations, a communications team was involved at the planning stage and 37.8 per cent sought input from senior managers.

IRS Employment Review managing editor Mark Crail said: "Any successful organisation has to communicate effectively with staff. Most employers think they are getting it right Ė and in some areas such as business and change awareness they are.

"But our survey reveals that they rarely succeed in going beyond that to involve employees in improving the company. Just over half believe that engagement has improved and only 19 per cent think that performance has got better," he added.

Even in the modern, remote, globalised workplace face-to-face communication has its place, he concluded: "Given the importance of good internal communications, employers may want to revisit the methods they use or consider introducing more formal planning and evaluation systems to help them achieve better results."