Ian Harris, Associate Director at Gatehouse Group writes about their newly published State of the Sector survey – one of the largest, most authoritative surveys of Internal Communication professionals.
Since 2009, Gatehouse has run its annual State of the Sector – an industry-wide census that aims to investigate the challenges internal communicators are facing, and where their focus will be over the coming months.
With responses from 270 communicators operating in organisations ranging in size from a few hundred people to more than 50,000 employees, the 2014-2015 results paint a fascinating picture of the state of internal communications today.
The report first investigates the use of channels. It finds that face-to-face communication is still considered as one of the most effective channels. Whilst traditional team meetings take the lead with 85% of responses, away days and conferences with senior leaders follow closely. The vast majority – 81% – of respondents now use large-scale events as part of their internal communication mix.
Digital channels are still largely dominated by e-mail (used by 91% of respondents), closely followed by intranets (80%) and electronic newsletters (75%). However, around a third of respondents say that their organisation has implemented an Enterprise Social Network or some sort of social media platform, as well as an internal video channel. A surprising 17% of respondents stated that their organisation had developed an app.
Although office desktops and laptops remain the norm to access digital channels, around two-thirds of respondents say employees in their organisation access those channels from home or through business-owned mobile devices. 43% say it was now commonplace for employees to use their personal devices – demonstrating that the shift towards Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is beginning to happen.
Although social media appears to be gaining ground rapidly, this is certainly not the case for all organisations. Almost as many respondents describe their use of social media as non-existent (15%) as they do ‘advanced’– i.e. organisations where a number of social media channels are already in place and being used by a large proportion of employees (16%).
Almost 50% said use of social media is at present rather limited (one or two social media channels exist, but they are used by less than half of employees).
When asked about their feedback channels, results show little progress since 2013. The vast majority (85%) of respondents say this is largely done by email and 72% mention team meetings. 26% have a formal ideas scheme.
Download the full report free of charge at www.stateofthesector.com
Manager and leadership communications
Only one in ten respondents say they do not provide their line managers with any communication support. Most commonplace were toolkits/cascade packs (50%) and dedicated forums (45%), closely followed by face-to-face sessions (43%).
However, only 46% of respondents have a dedicated communication programme focused exclusively on senior leaders – a disappointing result given the vital importance of leadership communication.
Impact & Measurements
The two most popular measurement tools are employee engagement surveys (used by 72% of respondents) and intranet analytics (50%). The use of focus groups and dedicated IC surveys is limited to around a third, with just one in five (21%) saying they have conducted a comprehensive IC audit. Worryingly, 18% of respondents say they do not measure the impact of internal comms at all.
When asked about their priorities in 2015, the three top answers are similar to last year: improving electronic channels (61%), leadership communication (61%), and developing / refreshing an IC strategy (60%).
Interestingly, a worrying 64% of respondents think there is no clearly articulated IC strategy within their organisation. This group represents organisations of all sizes, suggesting there is no link between the robustness of the IC strategy and planning and the size of the organisation.
53% of respondents agree that internal communicators and senior leaders are on the same wavelength – leaving 47% who are struggling to connect with those at the top!
A quarter of respondents stated that there is no dedicated IC budget within their organisation. This continues a trend observed in recent years towards centrally held budgets where communicators and others have to establish a business case to secure budget for specific activities. Of those who do have access to cash, the results are marginally more positive than last year – the proportion of people saying their budget is under £50k has slightly fallen.