UK BOARDROOMS in Communications Chaos

Guilty of Outdated and Ineffective Internal Communications

London, July 21st 2004: CEOs are becoming increasingly detached from their employees and poor internal communication is rife throughout UK based global organisations, according to independent new research published today by Vanson Bourne and Forbidden Technologies.

The results show organisations are in a state of internal communications chaos with departmental heads admitting they are failing their global audiences, with poor communication leading to a lack of understanding of company direction and core messages.

  • Internal Importance. Internal communications is a dedicated function in seven out of ten corporates, and over eighty percent of directors state internal and external communications are of equal importance
  • Theory Not Practice. Despite this importance over sixty percent of directors admit their organisations do not communicate well with employees, and forty percent admit employees are not aware of the company vision or future direction
  • The Detached Boardroom. Global employees receive infrequent or no contact from senior executives who prefer traditional, but increasingly impractical, methods of communication
  • Technophobia. Traditional tactics are failing but less than one third of companies believe email and intranets are the most effective ways of delivering a message to their global internal audience

The survey questioned 100 heads of internal communications within the UKs top 500 corporates – from corporate communications, HR and marketing departments – about the challenges of communicating to a global internal audience.

"Despite the best efforts of departmental heads, the research shows that effective internal communication across a disparate network of global offices remains a huge challenge,"

said Graham Opie, research director, Vanson Bourne.

"Its importance is clearly understood, however the study confirms that many corporations lack either the understanding or commitment to turn theory into reality."

Effective communications needs the buy-in of all management layers within the organisation, from staff and office managers in regional offices to boardroom executives. The findings suggest the problem often comes from the top down.

"The board must take the lead on this issue,"

said Greg Hirst, business development director for Forbidden Technologies.

"With only forty percent of board members presenting to employees once or twice a year, senior executives are unlikely to have visibility within their own organisations, and boardrooms are becoming increasingly detached."

Over three quarters of firms questioned operate offices throughout Europe and across more than one continent. Synchronising communications activity across these regions is the most common challenge, while the most favoured form of interaction with employees is the face to face meeting or presentation.

"This creates a clear conflict,"

continues Hirst.

"Despite being the most favoured form of internal communications, the time and financial pressures of face to face presentations and CEO tours make this an untenable strategy. Truly effective internal communications and boardroom visibility requires a constant, unchallenged flow of information to and from the employee."

"If current forms of electronic communication are perceived as being ineffective, and face to face presentations are impractical, costly and infrequent, it is unsurprising that firms are failing to provide effective internal communications,"

commented Opie.

"With the failure of existing tactics it is clear that firms must look to new ways to deliver the corporate message."

The report identifies video streaming as one such new media development that is gaining increasing support. An overwhelming majority (sixty four percent) of department heads see value in delivering a highly visual, compelling internal corporate message using video over the Internet. However, less than one in ten firms use video steaming, citing out of date perceptions of high cost and technical complexity.

"Video streaming can solve many of the problems facing todays internal communications heads, and because no IT investment is required, it is a very cost effective medium,"

said Hirst.

"CEOs no longer need to travel to deliver a personal message to global employees, and instead can present live and direct via the Internet to PC users across the global organisation, regardless of Internet connectivity speed."

In addition to streaming live events direct to the PC, such as CEO presentations, financial statements and even AGMs, video streaming also enables internal departments to deliver recorded video content via email, including introductions from new senior staff, new product demos, health and safety training and HR policy.

"The research concludes that many UK companies need to rethink communications strategy if they are to get their message across to a disparate global audience,"

said Opie.

"Current tactics are ineffective and organisations must be prepared to adopt new media technologies to ensure real impact."

"The report indicates that the importance of internal communications is clearly understood, but the key enabling role of new technology is not,"

concludes Hirst.