Home > Consulting, Internal communication, PRSA > Face-to-face not preferred, after all (for certain info)

Face-to-face not preferred, after all (for certain info)

Employees prefer electronic sources over face-to-face.













For more than a decade (until 2007), I was responsible for internal communication strategy at an 1,800-employee government social service agency.

I felt extremely fortunate to have attended workshops by employee communication leaders such as Pat Jackson, Roger D’Aprix, Angela Sinickas and others. I learned a great deal from them about the importance of listening to employees — through surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews,  town hall meetings, discussion boards, informal observation and more.
After all, communication is about more than telling. It’s vitally important to listen, respond and take action.

Employees really appreciate a chance to be heard. Executives like the opportunity to harvest helpful ideas from the frontline, dispel rumors, and explain actions. They can manage expectations and possibly share updates on initiatives (perhaps forgotten) in place to address concerns of staff.

Despite my recent focus on external PR, I try to keep abreast of the latest in internal through membership in the Public Relations Society of America’s Employee Communications Section.
This week, for example, Sinickas shared an excellent article on the PRSA Employee Communication LinkedIn group.
The piece on Reasearch and Measurement was titled Why face to face isn’t the preferred information source after all: Employees prefer Intranets to supervisors 2 to 1.
It was an update to a 2004 report by Sinickas that had a great influence on how I worded survey and focus group questions — and adapted methodologies by D’Aprix and Jackson.
As Sinickas writes: “Supervisors really are not employees’ preferred information source on most business topics. Even in the ‘glory days’ of face-to-face communication, before widespread availability of email and intranets, supervisors were among the top two preferred sources on only about 40 percent of typical topics communicated in organizations.”
Her research showed that “all face-to-face is losing ground” and “supervisors trail publications and intranets.”
Sinickas concludes: “I absolutely believe that supervisors and other managers can and should play a critical role in employee communication. What the data show, however, is that supervisors should generally not be used as the broadcasters of new information.
“…as soon as the first supervisor tells staff something new, most other employees will hear the news first from colleagues who attended a meeting before they did. In other words, using a cascade is what actually creates rumors.”
Supervisors, however, can provide context after big announcements made via e-mail and Intranet. They call tell individuals in their units how the news impacts them directly.
Something to keep in mind the next time you’re planning announcement of changes at your organization to the most important audience — in my opinion — the internal one.
For the full article, please click here.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about employee communication.
  1. March 24, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I wonder if some of this is generational. I personally would prefer to meet with my boss in-person for many things, but I could definitely see someone from the millenial generation prefer the e-mail and intranet.

    E-mail and intranet communication often works more efficiently than an in-person meeting for a group, to communicate news. But if some back and forth interaction is warranted, I believe an in-person or phone conversation is more efficient, especially because you can better pick up facial expressions and tone of voice. And these are lost in text-based communications.

    • mikeboehmer57
      March 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks for your comments. It’s not a matter of replacing face-to-face with online, but rather using each for different purposes — and letting your feedback from the target audience guide your strategy. It seems to be a good practice in many situations to break major news via e-mail/Intranet, and follow up with face-to-face (one-on-one, unit meetings, town hall meetings). Thanks again, Daniel. Best of luck on your new job!

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