Last updated on March 9, 2023 at 05:45 pm
There are a lot of challenges facing the modern workplace, which vary depending on your type of organization, industry, what kinds of workers you have, and what tech you’re using. But we are seeing trends of communication issues in the workplace that impact all industries. These are all big challenges with no simple solution. So, we wanted to dive in and give you a roadmap for pinpointing the problems and overcoming them.
Why Should We Care About Communication Issues in the Workplace?
Determining the top communication challenges in your business and implementing the right solutions is an important practice that too many companies don’t engage in.
Because internal communication is fundamental to the success of any business. Communication builds trust and efficiency. It’s what enables us to change our practices and all march in one direction. It’s the foundation of culture. Just like any relationship, you can’t run a business without communication.
Therefore, finding the communication issues impacting your workplace is essential.
Workplace Communication Issue 1: The Communication Isn’t Driven by Goals or Data
Internal communication professionals are being asked to show their results more than ever, but measurement still remains one of our biggest challenges.
In fact, the 2022 State of the Sector found that the top factors preventing IC pros from measuring their impact are a lack of:
- Time and resources (68%)
- Metrics available (50%)
- Tools to analyze the data (43%)
- Benchmarking data (41%)
- Knowledge and skills in data analysis (31%)
- Interest from the business (27%)
- Support from others in the organization (17%)
These measurement challenges lead to internal comms pros not setting objectives and measuring their impact properly too often. This is a big problem for a few reasons:
- “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” — Peter Drucker. You won’t know what’s broken or what you can do better for your employees if you don’t have metrics that you can track over time.
- Not being able to show our results to leadership hurts our chances of getting approvals on budgets, campaigns, and ideas.
- Without data, it is complicated to show how you contribute to the business’s success and how you support other departments in their successes.
Start by asking yourself a few questions about every message and campaign.
- What’s the why?
- What’s the end goal?
- How will you be measuring the impact?
- What’s the behavior change that you expect to see?
If you can’t answer these questions, go back to the drawing board. Not only will it be impossible to prove success to your stakeholders, but it will also fall flat with employees and not have the impact you intend.
Okay, but how? Start with a Do, Say, Think, Feel exercise and try to define at least one clearly:
- DO: What action do you want your employees to take?
- SAY: What do you want employees to be able to say about it? Or what do you want your managers to be able to say to their direct reports on a topic?
- THINK: What do you want your employees to think after receiving the message(s)? Are you trying to change or reinforce a way of thinking?
- FEEL: How do you want them to feel?
For all of these, try to define your own why for each goal. It’s not enough to know you want employees to feel supported by your wellness campaign. Do you want them to feel that way to reduce turnover? Or to improve morale? Or because it’s part of a living your values campaign that will help your company mission?
Workplace Communication Issue 2: We’re Out of Touch With Our Employees
The second big workplace communication issue we’re seeing is being too removed from our target audience. We either don’t take the time to understand their needs and wants, or we can’t. Sometimes, we are aware of the issues but don’t have robust plans to actually create change. In any case, this leads to employees feeling like their voices and needs don’t matter. And then engagement, culture, productivity, and retention all start to plummet.
You might be reading this and thinking, “but I do care about my employees and what they have to say!” We aren’t saying that a lack of caring is causing this issue. In fact, 88% of communicators said they value employee feedback in the 2022 State of the Sector. But the problem is:
- Only 64% report learning from and acting on that feedback
- Just 47% have a robust process for capturing employee feedback in the first place
Our intentions and actions aren’t lining up. We want to understand, but our current tools, strategies, and priorities aren’t enabling us to take action.
Whether it’s budget, time, or pushback from leadership, it’s important to start making your case for why you need better processes for gathering and acting on employee feedback. It’s important to make time for this so your communication can improve and address the challenges your employees face. Currently, only 7% of US employees strongly agree that the communication they receive is accurate, timely, and open (Gallup). That just proves that we have a long way to go and need to make this a priority.
So, what can you start doing?
- Employee Surveys. Annual engagement surveys are problematic because they take forever and don’t give you a real-time snapshot of how things are going. But regular pulse surveys, communication preference surveys, and touch bases are easier to implement and keep you current.
- Employee Listening. This is just like what social media managers do to curate their content to match what their audience wants and engages with. Use this to track trends in what questions your employees are asking and what they engage with and get excited about.
- Start a Virtual Suggestion Box. One of the easiest things you can do is create an open forum where employees can submit their suggestions to you. This takes next to no effort to set up. Even if you don’t get a lot of employees submitting their ideas and thoughts, it is a good step in the right direction for showing employees that you are listening and do care.
- Create Empathy Maps. One of our favorite tools for getting to know your audience to create actionable plans is an empathy map. This exercise allows you to walk through how a certain group might be impacted by an event or scenario. Creating this map then helps you learn what you need to communicate with them.
You shouldn’t just stop with gathering feedback, you should also tap into the employee voice and give them a voice in communications. Doing this can improve trust between employees and the company and it can be a huge culture driver.
Workplace Communication Issue 3: We’re Not Using the Right Channels
The final big communication issue in the workplace is reliance on outdated tools and channels. We do this for a variety of reasons:
- Lack of budget to invest in new communications channels.
- Not enough staff to scope and implement a new channel.
- Uncertainty about what tools they really need.
- Resistance to new tools and technology at the organization.
We understand that internal comms teams are often stretched thin and don’t always have the budget to buy the right tools. Not to mention, it can be hard to convince leadership that “the way it’s always been done” isn’t cutting it anymore. But we have to try.
Unlike several years ago, there are now an abundance of channels for internal communication. But picking the right one is another story altogether. In fact, this has become such an overwhelming marketplace that, “internal technology and channels not fit for purpose” is now one of the top challenges facing communicators (22%).
The 2023 State of the Sector went into more detail than ever on comms channels this year, breaking down their use rate and effectiveness. Here’s just a sample of that analysis.
Main Internal Comms Channels
|Communication Channel||Use Rate||Effectiveness Rate|
|Enterprise Chat Tools||70%||86%|
|SMS Text Messaging||17%||76%|
This is a decent variety of tools—all with relatively good effectiveness ratings. But enterprise chat is really most effective for office workers. Texting would be more effective for a frontline worker. Not all tools are meant for all segments of your audience. It’s finding the right tools for your audience that’s key.
The best thing you can do is conduct an internal communications audit at least once a year (we recommend timing this around next year’s planning and budgeting). These audits help you map out your existing channels, audiences, and messages and write down what you’d like to be able to do or will need to communicate in the future. You can then see any gaps that exist. And then this is a great report to show to leadership. They’re going to want to see your business case and rationale for any new channel, and your audit is a great part of telling that story.
And consider new channels that might be more effective for your various groups. Your office/deskbound workers are always going to use email or Slack, but that’s because it’s more effective for them.
But consider this. The State of the Sector’s channel analysis also found that while only 30% of companies currently use a mobile app, they were found to be 70% effective. So, maybe it’s time to consider an employee app.
With Great Challenges, Come Great Opportunities
At theEMPLOYEEapp, we don’t like to linger on the negative. These communication issues in the workplace are a huge opportunity for change and progress. Like we say in marketing, quality is better than quantity. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by taking on all the biggest comms challenges in your company at the same time. Start with one that will have the biggest impact to address and really get it right. Focus on change management best practices, getting employee input, and, as always, getting executive sponsorship to help lead the change.
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