Executives Getting More Gold Stars for Internal Communication

September 7, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new Towers Perrin survey suggests that senior leaders are achieving some success in communicating with employees - at least compared to where things stood a year ago.

A Towers news release said that nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents say senior leadership effectively communicates the company’s progress in meeting business objectives, up 9% from 2004. Sixty-three percent also say that leadership has communicated a clear vision for the company’s long-term success, an eight-point increase from 2004.

“The data from this year’s study show a real improvement in the perceived effectiveness of senior leadership communication,” said Katherine Woodall, a principal in Towers Perrin’s HR Services business. “This is especially significant given that employees in the study also identify senior leadership communication as one of the most important elements of communication effectiveness overall.”

Overall, the study shows an increase in the credibility of communication. Seventy-one percent of respondents say they trust information from company sources more than from the news media, up from 66% in 2004. Survey participants also report greater consistency of messages. Seventy-two percent say accuracy has improved, compared with 67% last year.

Twenty seven percent of respondents maintain that information on competitors’ products and services is not widely available within their organizations. Almost four in 10 say there is too little information on competitors and 60% feel it is not at all effective. Communication about customers receives low scores as well, with 45% saying there is too little information and a further 24% saying what they do receive is ineffective.

Not surprisingly, the study confirms that supervisors are still critical to overall communication effectiveness. However, in contrast to general normative data on supervisory effectiveness, respondents in this study gave supervisors relatively high marks in some critical components of effective communication. For instance:

  • 70% of respondents say their supervisor is effective at explaining complex ideas in plain, understandable language
  • 69% say their supervisor responds effectively to questions and concerns
  • 65% say their supervisor strongly solicits input from subordinates and is effective in helping subordinates understand the importance of their roles to the company’s overall success
  • 57% say their immediate manager takes the time to explain company strategies and important company developments.

On the other hand, when it comes to communicating about compensation and benefit packages, companies are doing a mixed job. The survey examines this issue both in terms of quantity and effectiveness. Interestingly, while 64% of participants say they receive the right amount of information about their pay and benefits, almost 20% say that what they get is ineffective.

The 2005 survey, titled The Communication Effectiveness Survey, includes more than 18,000 employees at multinational organizations across a diverse set of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, technology, energy and health care.