Employees Want to ‘Talk Back’ to Companies

April 2, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Email | PR | Social Media

Nearly three-fourths (71%) of US communications and human resources professionals in a recent survey say are getting the right amount of information about the current state of their company during the recession, but many would like more opportunities to use social media and have face-to-face communications with company leaders, according to a survey by Heyman Associates Executive Search.

The survey, which was conducted to gauge the effectiveness of corporate communications in today’s tough economic climate amidst repeated company failures and layoffs, found that 85% of survey respondents say their CEO, among other managers, is communicating with them, though 65% would still like more informal, in-person communication.

Companies are Talking to Workers

When asked if they were getting the right amount of information about their company, 71% of the 550 respondents answered “yes,” while 17% said “somewhat” and 68% said “no,” the survey found.
More detailed, verbatim responses indicate those who are satisfied with their communications are receiving information about the company’s short- and long-term prospects and challenges on a regular basis from an official and credible internal source. These sources included presentations, town-hall meetings, email newsletters, CEO blog teleconferences, intranet postings and staff meetings from their manager.
Many professionals also noted that the frequency and depth of communications have increased in response to the economic climate as their organization strives for transparency.

Among those who are only partially satisfied with receiving the right amount of information, some feel their company lacks follow-up to information initially provided, presents conflicting information, communicates only when it is about to take away a benefit (such as a raise or 401K matching), portrays an overly optimistic long-term scenario without evidence of action, provides weak and “meaningless” jargon, or only speaks to upper management. Ultimately, Heyman Associates said, the sense of a low level of quality and quantity of the communications is causing employees to mistrust the information.
Among those who say they are not receiving the right amount of information at all, many note their company does not provide any information about its situation, even in the face of layoffs. Some of these respondents note that the recession has caused their normally cautious company to be even more so, the research found.

CEOs Stepping Up

When asked who in their company is speaking with them about the current state of affairs, respondents overwhelmingly cited their CEO:

  • 85% said their CEO was speaking with them
  • 43% cited their department head
  • 35% cited their direct manager
  • 30% mentioned the CFO
  • 15% cited a human resources representative
  • 5% said no one communicated with them

Among those who say nobody in the company communicates information, some have found out information about their own company in the newspaper, while others tap the grapevine, which they acknowledge is not always reliable.

CEOs Can Do More

When asked who they would like to see communicating with them more, a slight majority of workers (231 out of 517, or 45%) said “no one,” while 33% pointed to the CEO, 16% referred to the department head, 15% noted the direct boss, 14% said the CFO, and 9% mentioned HR.

Heyman Associates saithat many respondents might have said they do not desire more communications because they already are satisfied with the amount of communication they receive.

Need for In-Person Communication, Social Media

Though many respondents are already receiving a large number of electronic and mass communications within their company, the survey uncovered an important need for more in-person communications, Heyman Associates said.
When asked how they would improve the way they receive information about their company, a majority of professionasl responded that they would like increased, informal, face-to-face communication. Out of 452 responses:

  • 65% want increased informal in-person communication
  • 50% want increased formal in-person meetings
  • 31% want increased formal written materials

Narrative responses show that informal, in-person communication is the most credible – especially for subjective matters – because it demonstrates company commitment to provide the latest information and encourages feedback and questions. For data, such as cash-flow and debt status, however, most respondents said formal, written communication is the most believable.

The responses also indicate a desire for more social media because of its interactive nature. Some respondents suggest that an increased mix of in-person communication and social media will create and repeat frequent and trustworthy messages, while others want the communications to better explain how any given situation affects them personally.

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