Listening is key to employee engagement, says study

NEW YORK: Companies succeeding at internal communications have established listening models to stay in tune with employees, according to a study from KRC Research and the Institute for Public Relations.

NEW YORK: Companies succeeding at internal communications have established listening models to stay in tune with employees, according to a study from KRC Research and the Institute for Public Relations.

The study, “Best-in-Class Practices in Employee Communication,” evaluated internal communications practices among 10 leading global organizations: General Electric, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Cargill, Chevron, Navistar, McDonald's, IBM, Petrobras, and Toyota.

One method companies had in common was developing feedback channels for employees, such as focus groups, said Keith Burton, partner at Brunswick Group and a co-author of the study.

“They were willing to consider feedback as a gift,” Burton said. “Setting up a listening model within an organization helps you understand the effectiveness of the way you deliver information and helps with real-time measurement.”

Employee communications leaders are more effective when they create a detailed internal stakeholder map, the research found.

Rather than focusing on how to deliver information, communications execs should recognize the unique needs and expectations of different employee constituencies to make their messages more relevant to each group, Burton explained.

Additionally, communicators have greater success with employee engagement when they approach their jobs as businesspeople first, according to the study. Internal communications professionals will have a greater voice within an organization if they can demonstrate an initiative's value to overall business objectives, Burton said.

“We have to understand it's about performance,” he added. “We have to be a strategic asset to business leaders and shape programs through a business mindset.”

The IPR and KRC Research plan to publish two additional studies on employee communications in the coming year, Burton said.

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