Employers Opening up Communications on Economy Crisis Effects

December 19, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Recognizing the significant amount of employee anxiety about the nation's continuing economic crisis, a new survey found most U.S. employers are communicating with their workforce about their financial picture in a variety of ways.

Watson Wyatt said its poll found that 77% of respondents have already sent, or are planning to send out, communications on the impact of the financial crisis – and that more than two-thirds (69%) of these employers cited easing employee anxiety as one of the top two goals of their crisis-related internal communication. The second, at 32%, was earning employees’ trust.

Employee Concerns

The employer survey found that job security, company financial performance and solvency are at the top of employees’ concerns. Some 80% of those who are communicating about the financial crisis have already sent messages to employees about company performance and solvency, while 38% have communicated about job security.

“Employers clearly understand the impact the financial crisis is having, not only on their business but on their employees as well,” said Kathryn Yates, global director of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt. “With no end in sight to the recession, communicating regularly with employees will be critical for companies to keep their workers engaged and productive.”

Watson Wyatt said its data showed varying perceptions of the effectiveness of employers’ communication with 44% thinking their communication to have been moderately or very effective in maintaining/improving employee productivity, 43% believing it had helped reduce employee stress/anxiety, and one-in-four saying it had been moderately or very effective at improving employee engagement.

However, many respondents admitted they do not know how effective their communications strategy has been. For instance, 27% cannot say how effective they have been in improving employee engagement and 38% cannot say how well they have done in maintaining or improving employee productivity.

Of the companies that have already started to communicate with their employees, 91% say that the messages are being delivered by senior management while 59% gave that job to human resources or line managers (56%).

As far as the venue of the communications, town hall meetings, staff meetings and/or other face-to-face discussions are the most popular medium of communication, cited by 87% of respondents and closely followed by e-mail, cited by 86%, according to Watson Wyatt. Interestingly, 24% of respondents involved in the communications efforts used social media outlets such as Facebook.

Watson Wyatt's survey, "Communicating to Employees During the Current Financial Crisis," was conducted in December 2008 and includes responses from 92 employers.

Employers Are Communicating on Topics of Concern to Employees

align="center"> Issues employees are asking about

align="center"> Topics employers have sent out communications about in the past 60 days

Job security

align="center"> 43%

align="center"> 38%

Company performance and solvency

align="center"> 36%

align="center"> 80%

Bonuses or other incentive pay

align="center"> 28%

align="center"> 34%

Customer impact

align="center"> 25%

align="center"> 49%

Benefit programs

align="center"> 15%

align="center"> 46%

Base pay

align="center"> 14%

align="center"> 17%

Source: Watson Wyatt Worldwide