5 Digital Workplace Takeaways from the Recent Economist Workplace Comms Study

Since it came out March of last year, many of you may have already poured through the Economists special report on “Communications Barriers in the Workplace” sponsored by LucidChart.  I embarrassingly missed it, and it was only brought to my attention by a recent articlefrom @RaganComms. 

My reckless reading habits aside, I found this survey of 403 senior executives, managers and junior staff on the trials and tribulations of communicating in the workplace fascinating  It provides a wealth of digital workplace and channel strategy takeaways for employee communicators, among other groups. 

One key takeaway is definitely the reported damage caused by poor communication, including lost sales, incomplete projects and a tremendous amount of employee stress. Besides the conclusions that you can read in its executive summary, here are a few more quick ones for Employee Communicators that jumped out at me:

1 – Employee Communications needs to focus more on how employees communicate with each other to do their jobs

This Economist survey is not a study about leadership communications or corporate communications, but about how employees communicate and collaborate with each other to do their jobs. The “management” of this type of communication had been traditionally largely in the hands of managers and IT, while employee communications focused on either leadership communicators or maybe, peer influencers.

However, it is clear that the expertise and knowledge of employee communicators makes them uniquely qualified to drive the business requirements for the digital workplace when it comes to communication and collaboration. Employee communications should know how and when employees communicate with each other within their company, as well as understand the current pain points. 

2 – Driving the use of video conferencing should be an employee communications priority

Across generations, 65% of respondents said that face-to- face meetings are a very effective mode of communication. In the days of increasing global teams and remote workers, video conferencing is the most cost effective ways to make face-to-face meetings the norm. 

In my last company, we used Zoom, which I found very effective, but there are a lot of other options. We used it for everything from one-to-one conversations to global town halls (although there are some bandwidth restrictions for which IT needs to be a partner). 

Again, decisions about whether a company used video conferencing and if it did, which option it chose, were often the sole province of the telecommunications group. However, given its impact on company-communications, Employee Communications should be part of those decisions.

3 – The growing use of IM as a workplace communication channel is a screaming signal that our channels are inadequate. 

While, according to the study, Boomers are not using IM as much, it is significant that over 50% of Millennials and Gen X’ers use IM as a workplace mode of communication “every day” or “most days.” That is a fast-growing majority of your workforce. 

While there is nothing inherently wrong with that (except for confidential information potentially being communicated outside of company firewalls if personal phones are being used), it does mean your communications systems are not fully meeting the needs of your employees. IM is also limiting because usually it is not tied to your global address system, so only those employees who have actively shared numbers can communicate.  

It would be better to have a solution like SlackMicrosoft Yammeror Dynamic Signalthat allow you to fully collaborate with your team within specific projects. 

4 – Maybe we need to get involved in improving meetings too.

I hate meetings, and study after study shows that I am not alone. This study piles on. “Too many unproductive meetings” made 56% of the respondents somewhat or very stressed. In fact, this was the most stressful situation tested in the survey; it even beat tight deadlines (53%).  Add to this fact the recent studyby online scheduling service Doodle that found that the productivity costs of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach $399B in the U.S. and $58B in the UK, and you have a significant challenge for companies. 

Who better than Employee Communications to solve that challenge? To start with, just having clear goals for a meeting would have a very or somewhat significant impact in improving meetings according to 79% of the respondents.  Efficient and effective meeting training and tools are something that is well within the purview of Employee Communications. 

5 – You are better off with more communication tools than less.

Often we debate how many communication tools we should offer employees. On one hand, the more the merrier; on the other, are we overwhelming them to the point where they don’t use the tools at all. According to this study, employees are on the side of the first hand. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that having a wider range of communication tools would significantly improve work communication. 

If you have any other takeaways that you think are significant, please share!