|Intranets, e-mail remain top channels, but social media is gaining steam, according to IABC
In what could be deemed the most unsurprising survey results of the year, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) announced this week that company e-mail and intranets are the two most common ways to communicate with employees.
Nearly 900 communication professionals responded to the “Employee Engagement Survey” conducted by the IABC Research Foundation and Buck Consultants. The results revealed e-mail is used 83 percent of the time while an organization’s intranet is used 75 percent of the time to “engage employees and foster productivity.” The survey also found that nearly half of employers—a slight increase from last year—communicate with employees via Facebook, instant messaging and Twitter.
“What the survey suggests is that there is still a huge requirement in many organizations for education and raising awareness of social media tools and channels,” said Neville Hobson, ABC, director of social media Europe for the communications firm WCG in London, England. “People at all levels need to better understand the business value of social media from their perspectives.”
What Hobson says is especially true for younger employees, according to Danielle Weller, corporate responsibility specialist for Jackson National Life in Okemos, Mich.
“The younger workforce is demanding more two-way communication with management,” Weller said. “Social media tools are a great way to engage that generation in meaningful discussions without adding extra expense for an organization.”
The survey results weren’t surprising because e-mail and corporate intranets remain the better medium to share information internally, said Nekolina Berlie, internal communication specialist for The Forzani Group Ltd. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“Sharing on widespread social media sites is not always the ideal medium, but corporate intranets are changing and becoming more social,” Berlie said. “Rather than being a place for companies to push information out to their employees, many corporations are incorporating social components, such as blogging and commenting directly into their intranets in an effort to increase two-way dialogue and employee engagement.”
Integrating social media platforms into employee communications is seamless for the younger generation, according to Weller.
“Employees in their 20s and 30s use social media in their personal lives. Integrating it into business communication tells employees you’re listening to what they want,” Weller said.
Listening to employees is essential to employee engagement and retention, Bruce Spiegel, principal at Buck Consultants said in a news release about the survey.
“Surprisingly, 32 percent of survey respondents indicate their organizations rarely or never conduct employee listening activities,” Spiegel said. “This is a huge opportunity for organizations to mitigate their risk of employee turnover and diminished performance.”
Spiegel’s comment struck a chord with Berlie.
“While sharing information with employees is critical, we need to ensure we provide them with the information they are craving,” she said. “The only way to do this is to ask them and really listen to what they say. Rather than setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts for the company to feed more information to employees, companies should be using these sites to listen to what their employees are saying about them and how they are interacting in these mediums.”
Regardless of whether you’re using e-mail, the company intranet, Facebook or Twitter, engaging with employees needs to take precedence over the medium being used, Berlie noted.
In the survey, increasing productivity (66 percent) and retaining top talent (65 percent) were the most important goals employers cited to keep employees engaged. Increasing employee morale and creating a new culture or work environment came in third and fourth, respectively, at 59 and 52 percent.
“Increasing employee engagement and the value of internal communication is not about what specific tools you use – it’s about knowing your audience, understanding their needs and giving them what they are looking for,” Berlie said. “In some cases, this may be by using Facebook and Twitter, but in others it will always be e-mail and intranets.”