Improve Workplace Communication in 2024

When done well, communications in the workplace help cultivate positive employee engagement and streamline work processes – and can even help you minimize disruptive events, such as a union organizing effort. When done…not so well…the opposite can happen. This idea is front and center in the 2023 state of essential workplace communications report1 released by Axios, which states that “There’s a lot going wrong in workplace communications right now, and leaders need to fix it.”

We’re breaking down five key findings from the report and providing you with our own customized advice on how to turn your workplace communications around in 2024 to avoid negative outcomes, like a union approaching your employees offering to be the problem solver. 

Poor Communication is Costly 

Report Finding: Ineffective employee communications is estimated to cost $2 trillion annually across the U.S., as it leads to misalignment, disengagement, and waste.

Internal communication tools are plentiful today, from intranets and newsletters to Slack channels and notice boards. But each platform is only as effective as you make it. To avoid wasted time and money, you must determine the best options for your workplace culture and organizational goals.

For example, is your workforce fully remote? Are employees on-site more often than not? Do you have a hybrid workforce? Employees in each of these groups receive information differently, so you must take this into account when crafting your communications. Consider developing more customized plans to meet your employees exactly where they are. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to create detailed and effective engagement strategies for all your employees.

Writing is an Art Form 

Report Finding: 47% of leaders say the toughest step in keeping the organization aligned is writing in a concise, engaging way people will actually read, rather than overlook in the daily flood of information they receive.

Next time you sit down to write a communication piece, whether it’s an email, newsletter, or blog post, consider not just what you are communicating but how you are communicating.

Try a storytelling-based approach, which is especially critical when it comes to labor relations. This is because stories connect us. No matter who we are or where we’re from, we’re drawn to stories that feel innately authentic and ultimately more human. Here are some tips on how to find story-based content that employees want to watch and share.

Are Your Communications Really Helpful?  

Report Finding: Only 46% of employees say essential communications at their organization are helpful and relevant. 

If you’re putting out communication pieces with content that you feel is timely and relevant but are still struggling to actively engage employees, consider if your communications are helpful to each individual.

For example, who makes up your workforce? Do you still have a large Baby Boomer population? Or are your employees mostly Millennials and Gen-Z? This matters because most organizations are made up of multiple generations, and each generation has a different attitude towards work and their employers, as well as how they receive information and what they prioritize in their day-to-day. Because of this, it’s important for employers to adapt to different communication styles for these different audiences.

Organizational Updates are Important 

Report Finding: About 50% of employees agree the two topics that are most critical to helping them do their job well are operational changes, like process and policy updates, and organizational goals, plans, and new initiatives. 

Are your communications focused on what employees want to hear? For many, they are most interested in process and policy updates, which make sense because change is an inevitable part of life – and change is when people seek clear communication, guidance, and comfort.

For example, consider a merger or acquisition, which are two extremely stressful events an employee can go through in their career. They’re likely thinking: “Is my job safe?” “What does this mean for my team?” “Am I going to lose my benefits?” Changes like this are when communication needs to be your top priority. In this ProjectHR podcast, two change management experts discuss how communications comes into play when undergoing a significant organizational change.

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

Report Finding: 67% of leaders say their audience has an easy way to share feedback on the communications they receive. Only 43% of employees agree. 

This is another clear misalignment between leaders and employees. Take employee engagement surveys, for example. Leaders may feel that because they distribute surveys, they are providing employees with a chance to provide feedback. But are leaders touching base enough? Are they doing anything with the feedback to make sure employees voices are heard? Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is often “no.”

An employee engagement survey is another tactic that’s only as effective as you make it. It’s not enough to ask your employees for feedback. You need to have a clear plan with goals, benchmarks, and consistent communication to demonstrate you’re putting their words into action. Leaders should always review survey results quickly and thoroughly, make sure all data is actionable, and establish consistent follow-ups moving forward. Here are more recommendations on how to take action on your employee engagement survey.

Prioritizing a proactive and effective employee communication plan is the best way to foster a transparent and positive environment – and discourage an unwanted third-party like a union from entering.

At IRI, we provide training tools and consulting services to help organizations maintain direct communications with their employees to avoid becoming part of the unionization trend. We believe every business is different, and each requires its own holistic and customized approach to communications and employee engagement. Whether you need an internal communications or engagement assessment, guidance in developing your internal communications or engagement strategy or social media strategy, digital media intelligence, crisis communications services, media relations, or media training, we have expert communications and engagement consultants who can quickly provide a specialized solution. Contact us today to discuss the next steps, give us a call at (313) 965-0350.

1Data was collected from two surveys conducted by Axios in November 2022, one reaching communicators and leaders across industries and organizations of all sizes, and one reaching employees inside similar organizations.

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