Internal comms collapse? A third of U.S. workforce missed by traditional company communications

by | Mar 23, 2022 | Public Relations

Traditional internal communications efforts are missing the mark for too many employees—according to new research from comms giant MSL, 34 percent of employed people say internal comms have little to no impact on how they think about their employer’s reputation.

This communications gap is more intense when you compare the impact of internal communications between employees that work at a desk for the majority of their time (desk-based) and those that do not work at a desk the majority of their time (deskless). Desk-based workers are influenced by traditional internal communications channels and company public statements on forums such as company websites or intranets. In contrast, a higher proportion of deskless workers are most influenced by other employees and family members.

The distinction between deskless and desk-based workers is a key predictor of sources of influence

Deskless workers comprise 37 percent of the U.S. workforce and include professions such as nurses, pilots, delivery drivers, teachers, factory workers and retail salespeople. A full 41 percent of this group confirm internal communications have little to no impact on how they think about the reputation of their employers.

“Most internal communications have an unintentional but inherent bias toward desk-based workers, so many traditional tactics and channels fail to connect,” said Kelly Jankowski, MSL managing director of corporate reputation, in a news release. “Companies that want to create lasting bonds with all employees must turn to non-traditional channels and rethink their strategy to include efforts that intersect with the natural workflow of their employees, particularly those who are deskless.”

Key findings of the study, which was conducted by The Harris Poll, include:

  • 69 percent of deskless workers’ perceptions of their employers are affected a great deal or moderate amount by other employees. Family members are the next highest source of influence at 62 percent.
  • Desk-based workers consult a broader diversity of sources than deskless workers do. The top two sources of influence are internal announcements (70 percent of people report a great or moderate amount of impact on their perceptions of their employers) and what their company says in public (69 percent).
  • Desk-based employees’ perceptions of their employers are also affected a great deal or moderate amount by other employees, almost the same rate as deskless workers (68 percent and 69 percent, respectively).
  • The data shows that internal communications are more critical than ever because employees are key to defining corporate reputation. In fact, three in five Americans believe a company’s employees are a more credible source for positive information about a company than company executives (59 percent vs. 41 percent) or a news outlet (60 percent vs. 40 percent).

“Employees have the power to be an organization’s greatest ambassadors or its greatest agitators, making them one of the most critical audiences of a company’s reputation plans,” said Vickie Fite, MSL senior vice president and leader of its internal communications offering, in the release. “Our study shows exactly why moving beyond the traditional boundaries of internal communications to find the true sources of influence of an employee is imperative to success. This influence-centric orientation to your internal communications puts the focus on impact over volume to drive more meaningful outcomes.”

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of MSL between September 29, to October 14, 2021, among 2,300 U.S. adults ages 18+. The full composition of the survey respondents included 1,198 employed respondents. Of the employed respondents, 736 are considered desk-based employees designated as workers who spend the majority of their working time in front of a computer and 462 deskless employees, designated as workers who do not spend the majority of their working time in front of a computer.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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