In a climate of inflation, economic uncertainty, and fully distributed teams, employees need clear, frequent communication from leaders.
The challenge: Many executives admit they were never taught how to communicate efficiently, effectively, or profitably. And many more feel poorly set up to lead in an environment that has radically changed: the in-person workplace.
Why it matters: It isn’t a question of commitment. Leaders spend three to 10 hours per week preparing essential communications for employees—but if those communications are overlooked or ineffective, it’s wasted effort that leads to low morale, lost sales, and missed goals.
That’s costing U.S. organizations $2 trillion per year in time and productivity. So while it might feel like there are a dozen fires blazing, the bigger priority is addressing why they started to burn. Most often, the spark is a breakdown in alignment and communication.
The reward in stronger internal communications
More than 80% of employees would rather work for an organization that values open communication than one that only offers perks like free meals and great health plans. And while it may take time to revise your essential communications strategy, the leaders who invest in getting it right say they also pushed their business ahead in four significant areas:
- Better employee engagement. Employees who get enough information to do their job well are 2.8 times more likely to be engaged, and business units that have engaged workers report 23% higher profits.
- Greater team alignment with leaders’ vision. When employees get daily feedback from their manager, they’re 2.1 times more likely to trust their leaders.
- Stronger independent decision making. In the workplace, faster decision making and execution have a direct tie to higher returns.
- Improved teamwork and collaboration. Nearly 80% of workers at collaborative organizations “feel well prepared” for challenges, and 55% report growth in their revenue—almost double what those at less-collaborative organizations say.
Put these together and you have highly engaged teams making smart decisions quickly and collaboratively—a strong recipe for success, rooted in clear, effective communication.
The risk in getting internal communications wrong
“Quiet quitting” and the Great Resignation reinforce what happens when poor communication and softening culture lead to low morale and burnout. Unfortunately, many organizations underinvest in internal communications, leading them to struggle with these issues:
- Lower engagement. In 2021, for the first time in nearly 10 years, employee engagement dropped in the U.S. In 2022, it fell again to 21%, becoming a complex issue in which internal communications played a big role. Boosting engagement requires leaders to remove obstacles to internal information flow, or they will continue to watch engagement, job satisfaction, and performance decline.
- Weaker retention. The intangible effects of poor communication create a ripple that can put top talent at risk. More than 40% of employees say they’re likely or extremely likely to consider changing jobs in 2023. When you consider that a company with only 100 employees loses as much as $2.6 million per year in turnover costs, executives must provide the culture and clarity employees need to stay on board.
- Decreased productivity. When communication fails, so do campaigns, projects, objectives—and sometimes even companies. Recently surveyed employees say miscommunication and communication barriers lead to delays or failures in project completion (44%), missed goals (31%), and lost sales (25%).
- Fractured trust. A prepared team can more easily face the unknown and bounce back from unforeseen challenges. However, employees lose trust in leaders and their organization when communications are withheld, vague, or unhelpful. Only 7% of workers strongly agree communication at their workplace is accurate, timely, and open.
If employees can’t trust leaders to have a plan, communicate it well, and lead through uncertain times, the organization’s ability to function suffers. Employees begin to question the organization’s direction, mission, and goals—leading to doubt and misalignment.
How to elevate your internal communications strategy
Top executives need an open line of communication with managers and individual contributors. That access and direct connection help teams feel seen, heard, and respected as your organization grows—nearly 90% of workers with clearly defined goals say they could see themselves working at their company for the next year.
To improve organization-wide communications:
- Survey your audience. Data has shown a gaping chasm between what leaders think teams value and what they actually do. Ask what insights colleagues are missing. See if updates are too long, wordy, or confusing. Take stock of what’s necessary and what’s adding to information overload. Then take action to fix it.
- Give each channel a unique purpose. When choosing where you should share essential communications, stick with reliable, searchable channels employees can read and revisit. Nearly 70% of employees say they prefer email for these communications.
- Customize the context you share. Only 46% of employees feel they have the context they need to do their jobs. But managers and department leads can cascade and customize important insights only when they receive them regularly from top leaders. Communicate your most essential messages and tailor them to each audience—rather than trying a one-size-fits-all approach—and send these messages on a consistent schedule.
- Create feedback loops. Only 43% of employees say they have an easy way to share feedback on key communications. Fostering a more open culture helps teams feel heard and included. A variety of surveys, polls, and other tools can help gather feedback, and adding time for feedback to one-on-ones and other team meetings can help, too.
The bottom line: Ineffective communication affects your bottom line. Eliminate what you don’t need. Keep your teams focused on what’s essential. Deliver it in a clear, concise, and engaging way. Support the managers around you who need to customize and cascade it. Your teams will be more aligned and engaged because of it. And your organization will be stronger than ever.
Axios HQ’s artificial intelligence–powered software is helping hundreds of leaders plan, write, send, and track more effective internal communications. See how it works.