We recently carried out some research into Internal Communications and presented it at Charity Comms Internal Comms Group. In this blog we present our research on the impact of communication in charities.
Internal communication in the non-for-profit sector is vital and can have different considerations than in other sector. Sometimes, the messages are sensitive, and often there are volunteers to consider as well as your employees.
Throughout human history, communication has been the driving force behind societal developments and technological advancements.
At its most basic, communication allows us to convey information and feelings to other individuals. Beyond this, it is communication that forms the basis for the web of human relations that make up a society and the shared narratives that help create nations. Put simply, without communication societies and communities simply do not exist.
But does communication play the same central role in today’s third sector organisations? Will investment in internal communications help improve employee engagement? Do different groups experience communications differently?
To answer some of these questions, we looked at the aggregated results from 29 Third Sector organisations that had undertaken surveys with Agenda Consulting in the last year.
As we suspected, our analysis found that questions on communications showed a strong correlation (i.e. a strong connection) with questions from a range of topics.
The most frequently used communication statement question in the surveys we analysed was “This organisation practices open, honest communication and shares information”. We found that an organisation’s score on this question was linked to their results on leadership, work environment, colleagues and their employee engagement score.
In fact, of the 31 questions with which we compared it, it showed a good correlation with half. This suggests communication really is the foundation upon which organisational culture is built.
As the graph above illustrates, the higher an organisation scores on communication, the higher they tend to score on the engagement index question, “I would recommend this organisation as a good place to work”.
By focusing internal communications on creating an open, honest environment for sharing information, charities can help employees engage with their work, their organisation’s mission and the organisation itself.
We also found a strong correlation with the leadership topic, which includes questions on making the organisation successful, trusting and respecting the leadership and the acting on the results of the survey.
Better communication about senior leadership roles, increased visibility and frequent updates about new initiatives can help improve perception of the leadership in an organisation.
As well as engagement and leadership, we found the statement question “This organisation practices open, honest communication and shares information” was strongly linked to questions on:
- Colleagues trusting and respecting each other
- Organisations caring about their employees
- People feeling valued.
Good communication really does go a long way to developing your leaders and managers and creating a positive work environment and culture.
Do internal communications affect everyone equally?
So, communication’s influence stretches across almost every aspect of an organisation – but does it affect everyone in the organisation equally? Can the constant updates that come with technological improvement leave some people behind?
A one size fits all approach to internal communications runs the risk of creating a generational divide within an organisation. We found that as employees get older, their opinion on internal communications becomes more negative.
Employees under 25 years old, perhaps more familiar with internet-based comms, are 18% more positive about communication than their colleagues over 65. Tailoring communication approaches to different age groups will help close this gap.
It is a similar story when we look at length of service. Those who have recently joined are 20% more positive than those who have more than 10 years of service at the same organisation.
Perhaps more strikingly, those with under a year of service are 14% more positive than those with 1 – 3 years of service. Any of those likely to have experienced a change in communication methods are more negative. This reinforces the need to ensure a smooth transition into new ways of communicating internally.
The combination of the wide-reaching influence of communications and the need to ensure nobody is left behind by new developments makes the role played by internal comms more important than ever. In an era of continuous advancements in communication channels, it is vital that these are implemented smoothly and effectively.
Internal communications need to find a balance that takes advantage of new possibilities while making sure that no one is left in the dark.
Finding this balance will contribute to higher engagement, more engaged employees lead to higher performance and in turn, better outcomes for your beneficiaries.
Communication really is the rock upon which a strong, happy and productive organisation is built.