2018 SOS : In Many Instances, the News is not Good
As a partner of the 2018 State of the Sector Internal Communication and Employee Engagement survey, Gatehouse shared with us an advanced copy of the results and we shared those in the first version of this blog post published on February 7. With the release of the report this week, we have updated this blog post to provide further information.
As we reported on February 7, in many instances, the news is not good.
This infographic provides an overview of the results.
Role, Purpose and Value of IC
Last year, 84% of respondents indicated that internal communication had a clearly articulated purpose. This year, it dropped by 6 points with only 78% now saying IC has a clearly articulated purpose.
If 73% reported in 2017 that leaders and the IC team agree on the role and purpose of internal communication, it is now down to 62%, a drop of 11 points.
Only half of respondents say that there is a long-term strategy / vision for internal communication in their organization.
Seventy-one (71) percent believe that the IC team is viewed by senior leaders as trusted advisors. However, only 67% think that leaders understand the value IC teams add to the organization.
SOS 2018 Q: To what extent do you agree with the following statements?
IC team involvement
In comparison to the results of 2017, respondents said they have been less involved this year in supporting the following activities : helping employees understand your strategy, vision, values; corporate announcements (HR updates, process changes, etc.); employee engagement; making leaders more visible and accessible to employees; encouraging two-way dialogue with employees and collaboration and knowledge-sharing. However, they’ve been developing and launching more new communication technologies ; supporting a bit more specific initiatives and teams (H&S, Quality, IT, etc.) and providing way more communication training / coaching (38% in 2017 vs 62% in 2018). Supporting organizational change remained the same (84%).
SOS 2018 Q: How involved is your IC team in supporting the following activities?
Strategy and vision
Alignment seems to be a real issue. To the question: How well would you say people in your organization understand the following? :
As in 2017, 62% think that the people in their organization understand its vision; 58% (N/A 2017) know how the organization is performing.
It gets worse for the following elements :
for 54 %, people don’t understand the organization's short-term business plan (N/A 2017)
for 57 %, people do not understand the organization's long-term strategy (54 % in 2017)
for 64 %, people don’t know how they contribute to the organization's strategy (60% in 2017)
Finally, only 23 % of respondents believe that people understand why leaders make the decisions they do, versus 21% in 2017.
SOS 2018 Q: How well would you say people in your organization understand the following?
Barriers to success
For 56% of respondents, the first barrier to IC being a success is poor line manager communication skills (52% 2017), followed by internal technology not fit for purpose / legacy systems (54%), (49% 2017).
Hard to reach employees, volume of communication too high / lack of time for employees to read communication, and lack of resource / budget / investment, come in third place with 45% each.
Not being involved in strategic business decisions is perceived as a main barrier by 44% of respondents (it was 44% in 2017) . Only 13% said that lack of skills within the IC team and that lack of structure / organization within the IC team is a barrier to IC being a success.
SOS 2018 Q: What are the main barriers to IC being a success?
The report indicates that "line managers are still the battleground. Last year we hailed improvements being made around line manager communications – but the joy was sadly short-lived. Just like every year since we started asking IC practitioners about barriers to success, line managers were seen as the single most pressing issue to overcome. 56% of respondents this year cited a lack of line manager communication skills as a challenge – up from 52%. Yet despite the scale of the challenge, channels specifically designed to support this key audience are still limited – with most dedicated communications being sent through unengaging digital means like emails. Communication training aimed specifically at this audience has decreased, with only one in three IC practitioners providing this (fewer than in 2016). Disappointingly, just 33% see improving this offering as a priority for 2018 – which, in our view, is insufficient given the persistence of this IC barrier."
Planning, one of the fundamentals of the practice of internal communication, is still an issue for half of respondents admitting they don’t write annual communications plan, while 23% say they have none of the elements (below) in place.
Authors of the report write: "Disappointment continues to be lain at the door of our own industry practitioners as again a fifth of us are failing to invest any time in our own planning and management as a function, with only half of us even writing an annual plan! Under half of respondents this year told us there is a long-term strategy for internal communication – 49%, down from 52% in 2017."
SOS 2018 Q: Which of the following do you currently have in place?
Leader and line manager communication
Respondents were asked to rate their leaders as communicators.
Executive team members are considered to be excellent or good communicators by 55% of respondents
Senior leaders are considered to be excellent or good communicators by 40% of respondents
Line managers are considered to be excellent or good communicators by only 25% of respondents
To the question : How visible and approachable are your leaders?
64 % of respondents say executive team members are very or reasonably visible and approachable
80 % of respondents believe senior leaders are very or reasonably visible and approachable
96% of respondents consider line managers to be very or reasonably visible and approachable
When asked about feedback, the most popular channel respondents are relying on is still email – but it is also known to be the least effective.
SOS 2018 Q: How effective are the following feedback channels in your organization ?
According to the report, "there has been an increase over the past 12 months in the proportions of internal communicators neglecting to evaluate the impact of their communication activity.Impact measurement still isn’t a priority. Although around a third of respondents don’t believe that leaders understand the value of internal communication, we were surprised to see that internal communicators still aren’t prioritising impact measurement. The use of many measurement methods listed in the survey has decreased over the past year, and 12% of respondents say they don’t measure their communication activities in any way. In particular, independently conducted communication audits ranked as the single most effective employee feedback channel (with nearly 70% of respondents saying it is effective or very effective); however, only a small minority of respondents (14%) have leveraged this in the past three years."
Engagement survey is still the top form of measure used by IC professionals, followed by intranet / online analytics (page views, etc.) and feedback from face-to-face events.
Authors of the report indicate: "With internal communicators seemingly struggling to look back on work they’ve already done and determine how effective it was, is it really any surprise that their outlook on the future is also limited?"
SOS 2018 Q: How do you currently measure the impact of your Internal Communications?
In light of those results, what are the top priorities for IC professionals? While improving measurement and evaluation, as well as enhancing line manager communication remains challenges for many IC practitioners, those elements didn’t make the top 5 priority list. Over the next 12 months, respondents said they will be focussing their attention on :
1. Communicating strategy, values, purpose (64%, down 5 points from 2017)
2. Improving digital channels (53%, up 16 points from 2017)
3. Enhancing leadership communication (46%, down 2 points from 2017)
4. Supporting a change and transformation programme (38%, down 8 points from 2017)
5. Developing / Refreshing an IC strategy (37%, up 7 points from 2017)
Authors write the following : "The proportion of people declaring developing / refreshing an IC strategy to be a key priority for the year has increased, and now stands at 37%. Improving measurement is also seen as a more important objective – indicating that 2018 could be the year we, as a profession, shift toward a strategic, insight-led approach from a more reactive one." Positively, we are continuing to see leaders recognising us as trusted advisors, albeit there is a lack of clarity around our purpose and function. If we are to truly influence the top table, we not only need to demonstrate our own purpose, but have the clarity of planning and strategy to support it."
Here’s the complete list of IC priorities.
Where does Internal Communication sit within organizations?
Corporate Communications / PR / Corporate Affairs (48%)
Dedicated IC/ Employee Engagement team (10%)
As part of a Business Unit/other department (4%)
Office of the Managing Director / CEO / Chairman (3%)
What budget is currently allocated to IC?
44% said they didn’t know what their budget was
30 % said there is no dedicated budget
£11 - £50k 14%
£51k - £100k 10%
£101k - £250k 9%
£251k - £500k 7%
£501k - £1m 5%
Average IC spend based on organization size
A good portion of the survey focussed on the use and the effectiveness of communication channels. Those results are available here.
Over 650 communication professionals answered the survey conducted in November 2017 with more than a half, 57%, from the UK, 20% from North America, 13% mainland Europe and 7% Asia-Pacific. 57% said their remit was purely internal communication.
The report is available to download via this link.
The replay of the launch webinar is now available here: www.gatehouse.co.uk/sos-webinar.
A 2018 North America State of the Sector report will be published in May 2018.
Related post: 2018 SOS: How effective are communication channels?
This post was updated on March 14, 2018.