Focus on Employee Communications

Poor Internal Communication Can Be a Costly Mistake for Businesses

By Sara Jensen

May. 3, 2019

Poor internal communication can have some seriously negative impacts on a company — poor morale, high employee turnover and lower employee productivity, to name a few. Worse yet, these can lead to a lasting effect on a company’s bottom line.

employee communicationsStatistics show that plenty of businesses could stand to improve in this area. According to a 2018 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. study, 60 percent of companies don’t have a long-term internal communication strategy, though about half said they wanted to make improving leadership communication a top priority.

Also read: How to use technology in your internal communications strategy

Additionally, replacing a worker can cost a company 33 percent of that worker’s annual salary. And lower morale leads to actively disengaged employees, which results in reduced productivity. Productivity loss costs the U.S. a whopping $550 billion each year, according to a Gallup report. Turnover and lower morale can also make it more difficult for a company to attract the talent it needs to move forward.

These problems should give businesses powerful incentive to improve communication with employees.

Three Internal Communication Problems to Avoid

Here are some of the most common communication problems companies face and how to avoid them:

  1. Using outdated communication methods. With many companies going paperless, email has become the primary form of communication because it’s quick and efficient. However, it can also be a source of decreased productivity, as employee inboxes can quickly get cluttered with frivolous emails that hide important messages. The constant influx of new messages can also be a distraction from completing important tasks.

Companies can try focusing on mobile-driven communication instead. Company apps such as G Suite, Asana and Slack offer a new way to communicate and engage employees via their smartphones or tablets. This is especially ideal as the workforce demographics are changing to include nontraditional employees like remote workers, contract-based workers and freelancers.

An employee app provides workers with easy access to corporate information and workplace tools while cutting out the clutter of irrelevant messages and keeping all employees on the same page. Many employees also prefer the use of apps over email. For example, our clients and even some vendors prefer communicating via Slack channels rather than email to touch base quickly and share relevant documents.

  1. Not having an internal communication strategy. Many times, companies place their focus on putting a solid strategy in place for external communications with their customers, but developing an internal communication strategy is just as important. In fact, poor internal communication, along with poor coaching of frontline workers, can result in poor communication with customers. This limits a company’s ability to build a sense of loyalty among customers. Here are some tips to help you start building an internal communication strategy that works:
  • Assess your current internal communication and where you want to be. What has worked successfully and what hasn’t?
  • Identify and track key metrics. What data points matter to you? Is it how many people access your intranet, social media shares and comments from your staff, or customer service issues? Identifying and setting goals that align with your business objectives will be important.
  • Identify and segment your internal audience. Not all communication needs to go to everyone.
  • Identify your communication tools. This can include email, face-to-face meetings, social media, an intranet, company apps and more. Pick the channel that works best for the audience and the type of message you are communicating.
  1. A lack of feedback. A lack of feedback can cause employees to feel like their voices aren’t being heard and can have a significant impact on employee turnover. HR professionals and managers often communicate with employees about policies and procedures without taking the time to listen to them. If you want to implement a comprehensive communication strategy, it should include two-way communication.

Not only does listening to employee issues and concerns improve productivity and build loyalty, but it’s also an opportunity to learn about issues or concerns before they escalate into a formal complaint.

Start a feedback loop process through authentic and consistent communication between managers and employees. Providing feedback benefits a company by increasing engagement and helping to move the company forward. Up to 80 percent of an organization’s opportunity for improvement comes from frontline employees.

Now that you understand what’s at stake when a company has poor internal communication, you can begin taking the necessary steps to avoid these pitfalls. If you don’t take the time to develop a solid strategy, you’re putting your company at risk of losing touch with employees in addition to losing money.

Sara Jensen is the vice president of business development at Innovative Employee Solutions in San Diego. Before joining IES in 2011, Jensen was director of distinguished events for the American Cancer Society. She also worked as a development resource specialist for the San Diego branch of nonprofit Social Advocates for Youth.

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