A majority of companies worldwide say they are becoming more knowledgeable about the use of social media tools to connect with and keep their workforces informed. In fact, more than two-thirds of companies surveyed by global professional services company Towers Watson plan to increase their use of social media tools over the next 12 months though many question their cost effectiveness. The biannual study also found that companies with the best communication programs enhance the communication skills of their leaders and managers, and continuously evaluate performance.
“The way companies handle employee communication is fundamentally changing, largely due to increased expectations, diversity and globalization, as well as the growth of social media and networking,” said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Towers Watson. “Change and communication professionals can no longer do things the way they’ve always been done. There is a greater need than ever to deliver information to employees in a manner that creates a sense of community and motivates change.”
The 2011 Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI Study found that roughly two-thirds (64%) of respondents are more knowledgeable about using social media tools than they were a year ago, and 69% plan to increase their use over the next 12 months. However, only 28% report these tools are cost effective at their organization, and just 15% have measurement tools in place. The respondents that find social media tools cost effective are investing in social networks (63%) and leadership journals or blogs (58%).
“Companies are staring at a clear opportunity to use new media to increase engagement with employees,” said Yates. “Social media and networking clearly open an opportunity for dialogue, rapidly integrate employees into the company culture and create a sense of community. Companies that are reluctant to try social media may end up limiting their ability to attract, retain and motivate certain key groups of employees.”
The 2011 Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI Study includes responses from 604 organizations from around the world. The research identified the best communication and change management practices at top-performing companies. These findings include the following:
Measure and evaluate effectiveness
More than half (56%) of companies that are highly effective communicators measure the communication function’s contribution to meeting strategic business goals, and 62% use their measurement findings to plan future initiatives or make business decisions. That compares with less than one in four low-performing companies taking these initiatives.
Across all participants, only 37% are measuring progress against their change goals. The high-effectiveness change management organizations are six times as likely as low-effectiveness companies to be taking this important step.
“Frequent evaluation and measurement not only help ensure that an organization’s communication initiatives are both accessible and effective, they also provide the clarity required to build employee confidence in the direction that the company is heading,” said Yates.
Promote the employee value proposition
More than one-third of highly effective companies have managers who are effective at promoting the employee value proposition (EVP), compared to relatively few (4%) of the low-effectiveness companies. The EVP, or “employment deal,” lets employees know what the company expects from them and what they can expect from the company. The survey notes that even among highly effective firms, there is room for improvement in this area.
“Clearly articulating the EVP to employees before they join and while they are employed is another hallmark of effective communication programs. Companies with managers who do this effectively will find themselves in a much stronger position to attract, retain and integrate top-performing employees,” said Yates.
• The study confirms that effective communication is an important element of change management, and if both are done well, there is a stronger relationship with financial performance. Companies highly effective at both communication and change management are 2.5 times as likely to outperform their peers as companies that are not highly effective in either area.
• When compared with companies with low change management and communication effectiveness, firms that are highly effective at change management are nearly five times as likely to create an integrated communication and change management strategy — and more than eight times as likely to continue to exhibit new behaviors and use new skills after changes are made.
• Nearly two-thirds of respondents report that managers are taking on more responsibility when it comes to communication with employees, but only 28% are evaluating managers on their communication effectiveness. While the majority of firms are training managers on communication and change management skills, relatively few find it effective.