I had the opportunity last week to present the latest Aptitude Research findings on employee communication technology at GuideSpark’s Engage 2016 event. This research included data from over 350 organizations collected in February of this year. And it probably won’t surprise you to find out that the current state of employee communications is pretty sad. According to our data:

  • Existing providers aren’t keeping up – only 39% would recommend their current employee communications technology provider;
  • Companies don’t know what works – Only 1 in 4 measure the impact of their communication efforts; and
  • Many have given up hope – 46% are not even reaching their employees with basic written communication

Despite the many challenges that organizations face when it comes to getting the attention of their employees, top-performing organizations understand the value of communications and are looking to new platforms to help them take a multitouch, multimedia approach. In fact, 70% of high-performing companies are adopting employee communication technology strategies to help improve productivity and reduce turnover.

There were many great examples of this approach shared at the conference, but my favorite was articulated by Rick Merritt, SVP and CHRO at OSI Systems. As he put it, “employee communications require consistency in message and variety in format.” People want choices about how they receive information, and organizations need to maintain compliance and consistency. And many are looking to technology to help them manage this growing complexity and are looking beyond single function tools to true communication platforms.

Regardless of the tools or platforms organizations use, there were a few key communication takeaways from the research to keep in mind:

  • Ensuring employee communication occurs requires a shift in not only the tools, but the skill set and strategy for HR leaders. It can no longer be about broadcasting information, but opening a dialogue.
  • Expectations are everything. Communication is really about setting expectations. No matter what your business strategy, your performance management philosophy, your organizational culture, people are more comfortable when they know what to expect. And they can align behind efforts when they know what’s going on. Communication should be all about setting the right expectations in both directions.
  • If you open a dialogue, be ready to reply. In addition to tools to facilitate dialogue, organizations need to make sure that they are ready to execute on everything they communicate. This means thinking through how the organization is structured, and the responsibilities managers have to ensure communication has occurred.
  • When offering choices around communication tools, be personal, but not creepy. Communication requires a certain level of permission, and employees might feel that a video personalized for their role or career stage is helpful, but benefits recommendations referring to personal health details might be uncomfortable. Know where to draw the line – and realize it may be different for different people.

True communication is difficult, and George Bernard Shaw famously said that “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” But with new tools to manage and measure, successful organizations are hoping to solve that critical problem.