Study: Organizations need to do more in internal communications

The Institute for Public Relations launched Wednesday a study on organizational clarity, which surveyed 1,500 employees in five countries across six sectors on their employment.

The Institute for Public Relations revealed Wednesday a study on organizational clarity that could amount to "a condemnation of leadership," as Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty put it during the study’s launch held at the W2O Group’s New York office.

"Organizational Clarity: The Case for Workforce Alignment and Belief" is an online survey conducted by the IPR’s Commission on Organizational Communications. The study examines how employees comprehend their organization’s "vision, purpose, mission, strategy, opportunities, challenges, priorities, and competitive reality."

In other words: Where do I fit in this organization? What is its strategy? And will it allow me to pursue better employment opportunities?

Presenting the findings were Dr. Sarab Kochhar, IPR’s director of research, and Gary Grates, principal of W2O. "Organizational clarity from an internal perspective seemed to be a challenge on many CEO’s priorities," Grates said. "We see this as a beginning piece of research. We’re just dipping our toes in the water. The first step of this study was to introduce this concept of organizational clarity as an effectual measure for how businesses can succeed or fail in this environment."

The study looks at organizational clarity through the eyes of employees in three dimensions: job, strategy, and market. 

The job dimension examines whether an employee understands how his/her job fits into the organization’s strategy. The strategy dimension rates the employee’s trust in an organization’s ability to execute its strategy "while verifying their knowledge of the marketplace."

Employees in the study indicated they understand the organization's purpose and find meaning in their work, IPR said in a press release. But employees said organizations leave much to be desired when it comes to communicating strategy internally.

The failure of internal communications especially bubbles to the service in the last category: the market dimension, in which the employee grades their future employment opportunities and how the organization interacts with the larger market. 

All six sectors included in the study — automotive/transportation, energy, financial services, food and beverage, healthcare, and technology — received an F. And Brazil, China, U.K., and the U.S. all received Fs. Only India escaped the lowest grade with a D.

"I have a 23-year-old and a 26-year-old, both out of college now," said Flaherty, an attendee at the launch. "But if they were in high school or college now and brought home that report card they would be on double-secret probation. Think about it as this: a newly released global study of employees found a devastating lack of clarity about the employees’ jobs, their organizations, strategy, and the role and future of the organization in the marketplace."

India was ranked the best overall country when it comes to organizational clarity, followed by the U.S. in second, then China, Brazil, and finally, the U.K.

Other extraneous factors outside communications (e.g. Brazil’s economic collapse) were not taken into account.

IPR hired Mettle Consulting, U.K. to help put together the survey and do the sample, according to a spokesman for IPR. The six sectors included in the survey were chosen because the IPR considered them economically significant.

"What we plan to do is look at the findings and make sure this can be applied by the industry not just as a consulting piece, where we go and cater it to every company," Kochhar said. "One of the best places would be to sit down with an organization and look at how they do in each dimension because that would give clear meter of where they are in organizational clarity."

Kochhar later added they plan on expanding on the research.

The study was sponsored by AT&T, General Electric, Hormel Foods, Shell, Southwest Airlines, Standard Chartered Bank, USAA, and Dr. Bruce Berger.


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