A prison warden in the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke” famously lamented “a failure to communicate.” The theme applies to a recent IDG survey for GuideSpark of 270 HR decision-makers, 270 business managers and 1,050 employees regarding workplace communication. It also provides brokers and advisers with a strategic opportunity to craft a holistic program design around more targeted communications that bolster talent management.

Most of the employers examined faced an uphill communication battle, given that just 39% of all employees view their communications as readily accessible, 35% say the materials are comprehensive enough and 28% are happy about the level of personalization.

Researchers described other “alarming” findings in terms of employee engagement and retention, with tenured employees less satisfied than new hires. For example, satisfaction levels fell noticeably across several metrics after just the first year of employment (39% for ease of access to information; 41% for timeliness; 30% for use of engaging content and formats).

Understanding of overall compensation also declined after a year (65% for new hires vs. 54% for employees with more than one year of employment) as did benefits comprehension (64% of new hires vs. 58% for employees with more than one year of employment).

“The study really reinforced for me the rapid rate at which employee expectations for internal communication have changed in the past few years and the pressure it puts on HR organizations to keep up,” says Keith Kitani, co-founder and CEO of GuideSpark, whose employee communication software is used by more than 600 customers with about 10 million employees.

It also casts a light on the growing need for more meaningful employer consultations. “I definitely believe communications will become a critical strategic component of the offering from brokers and advisers,” he adds.

Embracing advances
A key to success is embracing technology advances, the survey suggests. Employees at firms using mobile and instant messaging technologies to convey HR information said they were more likely to recommend their company to others (75%), highly satisfied with their jobs (71%) and rated employee communication highly (69%). A similar upside was found to use of video: 73% of those employees were highly likely to consider their company a good place to work and 68% were highly satisfied with their job.

HR teams used a range of employee communication channels, including email (86%), intranet (76%), mobile (37%), video (36%) and direct mail (54%). Noting an explosion of mobile communication technology in the past three years or so, Kitani says it harnesses tremendous power by combining an employee’s personal and professional life. Another point is that while email and video are convenient and appealing, his sense is that erring on the side of brevity will be more effective in terms of engagement with time-challenged employees.

The survey noted the importance of frequent employee communication. For example, all audiences preferred outreach on a monthly basis or more often (36% for HR and managers; 42% for new hires and 47% for employees with more than a year of employment). Companies need to create an ongoing communication flow beyond single events such as onboarding or enrollment, he suggests. “It’s not just about educating or informing,” he adds. “It’s also about inspiring and reinforcing.”

Finally, Kitani sees movement beyond benefits to broader total-rewards programs that include anything from communication about talent management to the importance of culture. “All of those things are really important,” he adds, “and I think leveraging some of these new technologies is going to be critical to that connection.”

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