Why your outdated internal communications system is failing your employees

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Currently, many internal communication systems that organisations are not catching up to a very modern Generation Z workforce.

Employees want to feel connected

Management consultant Peter Drucker writes that modern day work complexities have created a “shift in work mentality and [work] ethic” which in turn have contributed to changes in the expectations that employees have of their leaders and supervisors.

The workplace today is changing and increasingly reliant on networks. But Gallup reported last year that 13 percent of employees consider themselves “actively disengaged.” The problem is that the kinds of experiences employees want to have at work and the experiences they actually have are simply not the same. Little wonder then that productivity is suffering, because a disengaged person will feel less in tune with what’s going on around them, and feel less excited about getting those deliverables done on time.

Existing internal communications are a one-way street

Our research team at Rungway discovered some alarming workplace trends. More than half (52%) of employees feel that their organisation broadcasts important updates rather than genuinely involving them in the discussion. They feel what’s being put out there doesn’t involve them and it doesn’t celebrate them. Furthermore, 56% feel that the ways in which their organisation communicates sometimes make it difficult to respond, which can make them feel alienated, less able to contribute, and isolated from overall company objectives. 46% of employees say that meetings are tough to schedule with their managers, with 10% saying they really have to make a concerted effort to make a meeting with their manager happen.

The result is a vicious cycle. Employees feel unheard, unsupported, and disengaged. All of which is most likely contributing to climbing rates for mental health issues in the workplace.

As a result, only 17% feel they work for a compelling and engaging brand. So the repercussions for the workforce and overall company productivity are finally being noticed by senior leaders. According to Forbes:

  • 79% of leaders polled believe they have significant retention and engagement problem

  • 26% see this problem as urgent and needing to be addressed

  • 77% feel they do not have the right HR skills and resources to address the disengagement crisis

The thing is, communication is not taught explicitly in schools or most colleges. Few postgraduate courses in business leadership schools take a look at how communication is integral to a functioning, healthy workplace. Unfortunately, lack of exposure to a good, open channel of communication leads to increasing neglect, more emotional and mental stress for employees, and damages whatever fragment of employer/employee relationship that remains.

Good leaders recognize that effective communication is a two-way street

Leaders must take notice that one-sided communication (emails, newsletters, meetings etc where employees are merely expected to listen and take notes) is not piquing anyone’s interest. Instead, leaders must be flexible, good listeners, attentive to the overall and individual moods of their workers, and most of all, able to motivate people so that everyone is striving towards the same goals.

Good leaders understand that:

  • They must genuinely listen to what employees need, and how they feel about their role. They must figure out what moves their employees and what support they might need in order to maximize their potential.

  • They must either use existing channels of communication already in place more efficiently or create new ones to bridge the communication gap. This could mean instilling digital mentorship programs (for example, Rungway explored how banks and law firms benefit from new forms of mentorship).

  • They must be willing to provide and welcome feedback that is ongoing, frequent, honest and non-judgemental. Employees must feel they can express their views safely, freely, and without fear of negative consequences.

  • They must invite brainstorming and free exchange of ideas. This is not only healthy, but drives a sense of mutual accountability and fresh innovation.

  • They must be willing and proactive in resolving issues that employees bring to the table. Listening is a start, but great leaders are skilled in demonstrating that they act on feedback and effect change for the greater good.

Insightful and thoughtful leaders realize that regular discussions, celebrating wins together, sharing results, and always teasing out additional feedback - are ways to prove that they are rooting for them to win in life, that they are in it for the long haul, that they truly are all on the same side. As a direct consequence, employees feel involved and that their role genuinely matters. This way, nobody needs to demand productivity - people are more engaged because they know now that they are part of the success story. More importantly, they want to be part of it.

Julie Chakraverty