Published Research on Employee Communication

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Published Research on Employee Communication

Q: I have the 1999 Communication study from IABC/Watson Wyatt, but would like to consult other research results.

Do you know of any which would give us insight on some of the following topics: satisfaction level of exchanges between top management and employees; perceived consistency between messages sent by management and their actions; percentage of employees who know and understand their companies’ strategic directions, annual objectives; percentage of employees who understand how their work contributes to reaching their company’s business objectives.

Also, I remember seeing some 10 years ago a study on preferred information sources of large company employees (i.e. top executives, immediate supervisor, union representatives). Have you ever heard of it or of a similar more recent one?

Thanks for taking the time to help!

Lise St-Arnaud

A: Dear Lise,

The study from 10 years ago you are referring to is probably a survey sponsored jointly by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and Towers Perrin over a period of time starting in the 1980s. The overall findings were that employees said they currently receive most of their information through the grapevine, but would prefer to receive it from their supervisors. HOWEVER, these are the answers provided for overall communication when respondents were allowed only one response for each question. (You might want to see an old IABC Communication World article I wrote in November 1992 that explains the problem with this question in more detail.)

In practical reality, employees currently rely on different sources for different topics, and prefer to rely on different sources by topic as well. The results vary quite a bit from company to company, and even at a single company over time as some channels become more or less effective for employees.

Beyond the IABC/Watson Wyatt survey you mentioned, another published survey report that might be helpful is one done a couple of years ago by IABC/William M. Mercer, Incorporated, about communication of change at different companies.

However, the specific type of comparisons you’re looking for tend to be proprietary to firms that conduct communication surveys for clients. For example, my own database has normative data on all but one of the questions you’re asking about. To the extent that the questions you asked on your survey (and the response scales you used) are close enough, you could compare your results against other organizations in one of these databases. However, because the data are proprietary, you would need to pay for the comparative information you’re looking for from survey firms.

Let me know if you need more information,

Angela D. Sinickas

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