The most common communications challenges in organizations from big enterprise businesses to small startups are so widespread that dealing with them can start to feel normal. It’s easy to forget that internal communications issues can have a big impact. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can safely back burner internal comms because communication challenges and barriers are so widespread.
The fact is that poor internal communications can seriously harm your business. It’s a domino effect of frustrating communication, poor morale, lower productivity, higher absenteeism leading to higher employee turnover, and finally, higher costs and smaller profits.
Of course, when you’re in the thick of things, the relationship between poor internal comms and your bottom line might not be very clear. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that communication was thought of as a nice but not necessary soft skill.
We put together this article to lay out some of the ways communication challenges and barriers can sap a company’s resources along with strategies for making your internal comms more effective (also see the best way to improve internal communications).
The deep impact of communications challenges in organizations
The idea that internal communications problems can make a business less profitable can seem overblown. The statistics, however, show that having a weak internal comms strategy (or having no strategy at all) can have a detrimental impact on everything from employee engagement to your business’ bottom line. Here’s how communications challenges in organizations affect success.
Communication challenges and barriers lead to increased employee turnover
Studies looking into the real cost of employee turnover often show different results. Some studies show it costs employers 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement while other research suggests that it costs three times that salary. What all of the data has in common is that employee turnover definitely costs companies big bucks. Employee retention and profitability go hand in hand, and the good news is that research shows that 75% of employee turnover is preventable.
Relationships suffer when communication is a problem
Two heads are better than one, but whole teams of heads are necessary for long-term success. When people can’t communicate with one another effectively because of technical barriers or, worse, can communicate but feel uncomfortable doing so because there’s not a culture of openness at a company, collaboration may slow or even stop. That means innovation can’t happen and problems languish with no solutions. Your employees just can’t be as productive when relationships with colleagues are strained and everyone feels like they’re working in isolation. Less productivity means less profit.
Customer service suffers when there are communication challenges
Internal communications and external communications are inexorably linked. Employees need access to information to answer customer queries, respond to sales inquiries, or help customers get what they need. When they can’t get that information easily, they’re apt to feel a strong sense of disengagement that can actually lead to everyone—workers and customers alike—feeling frustrated and dissatisfied during encounters. Dissatisfied employees leave, and as we’ve shown above, that costs money. And dissatisfied customers take their business elsewhere, costing you even more.
Poor communication = Stress = Higher healthcare costs
This might seem like a stretch, but stress costs the United States $300 billion every year—a figure that includes costs shouldered by businesses that provide insurance to their employees. While there’s no way to show a hard and fast causal link between frustrations caused by comms issues and increased healthcare costs, it’s worth mulling over the idea that the communications challenges in organizations that stress workers out may also be contributing to expensive physical and mental health issues in those same employees. Healthcare is expensive, after all, and effective internal comms is cheap in comparison.
Internal communication problems can be a motivation killer
Workers who don’t feel like they have an important role to play, who don’t understand what is expected of them, and who feel like they don’t have a voice literally can’t give their all. Time that would otherwise go toward productive (and profitable) work is instead spent trying to navigate a confusing company culture or to figure out what that company’s priorities are. There’s no passion among employees because they feel totally disengaged from their tasks and their teams.
The Gallup State of the American Workplace report put it succinctly: “Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work—they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”
Communications challenges in organizations lead to mistakes
Workers who have access to the information they need to really contribute to a company make fewer mistakes because they feel comfortable concentrating on the work in front of them. Employees who are focused on trying to figure out what their priorities should be or simple emotional management are more prone to error. In a retail environment, the result of this kind of disengagement may be fewer sales. In industries like healthcare, however, mistakes can lead to hugely expensive regulatory issues or even injury and death.
Poor internal communication makes boosting employee satisfaction impossible
You can’t boost your workers’ overall satisfaction if you don’t have a clear idea of what employees like and don’t like about their day to day. At companies with strong internal communications strategies, managers regularly touch base with employees to get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t. When comms just isn’t a priority, chances are slim to none that workers will open up about what changes could make your business better.
Absenteeism rates are higher when communications is an issue
Employees who can’t jump ship at the moment may show their communications-related dissatisfaction by simply not showing up. A Gallup study conducted in the UK showed that disengaged workers miss 10 more working days each year compared to peers who feel a strong connection to the company vision and are clear on what’s expected of them.
The biggest challenges facing internal communications teams
The factors that have contributed to the biggest communications challenges in organizations are well documented at this point. Lack of clarity, platform. and targeted messaging.
The main problem that companies have faced has always been how to address those factors effectively and economically. Email and Dropbox alone are outdated. Just having a clear vision doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy to share and then reinforce that vision. A company intranet portal that provides a platform for internal comms may not actually facilitate good communication. And getting the right information into the hands of the right people has always been tough.
Luckily, solving the big communications challenges in organizations has become easier with tech tools like an internal communications tool. Intranets have evolved over time from simple information repositories to a kind of mobile base of operations where business happens from anywhere.
Blink, for instance, can help you communicate administrative and benefits information, but is also a platform for collaboration, a place to store and search for data, a way to solicit feedback (including anonymous feedback), and a social hub for employees to share with one another. It lets internal comms teams curate messaging so employees stay on the same page without getting overwhelmed by emails, meetings, memos, and Slack chatter.
Up-to-date internal comms tools like Blink’s employee app are even more important for businesses with a lot of frontline workers—especially now that nontraditional employees like remote workers and long-term contract workers make up such a large percentage of the workforce. By automating paper-based processes, microapps like this help increase productivity overall.
How effective internal communications will change your business for the better
Curious about what effective internal communication can really do for your bottom line? Here are some statistics that might surprise you:
- Companies that communicate effectively are 50% more likely to report below average turnover levels.
- A 5-point improvement in employee attitude results in a 1.3% increase in customer satisfaction and an increase in company revenue.
- Higher engagement can mean a 40% reduction in absenteeism.
- Employees who feel fully informed and more engaged may be 21% more productive.
- Companies with effective communication strategies see 47% higher total returns to shareholders.
- Poor communication is cited as the main cause of failure for IT projects.
- 69% of employees say they’d work harder if their contributions were recognized and praised.
Knowing what you know now, we also want to offer you a quick list of steps you can take right away to gauge how your internal comms is currently working and to enhance your internal comms strategy.
- Assess your current strategy — Assuming you have one, that is. If not, you’ll want to make one. But if you do, take the time to consider your internal communications objectives, who has ownership of comms, if the tools you are using are effective, and whether your current strategies are really getting the job done.
- Poll your employees — Do they feel like they have a voice in your company? If they have an idea, can they easily share it? When they have questions, can they find answers quickly and easily? Does dealing with administrative tasks take up way too much time? Do they like your communications tech? Let workers answer anonymously and adjust your comms strategy accordingly.
- Put everything in one place — Make this the year you finally commit to storing your company data in one place so tracking down a file is never again a half-day affair. When you use Blink to store the information your employees need—from HR docs to project guidelines—they can easily find it all.
- Stop sending so many emails — Lengthy, reply-all type email threads are frustrating and, frankly, easy to ignore. Worse, they interrupt the flow of work and often contain irrelevant information leaving workers feeling resentful instead of informed.
- Send information to the right people — Use a comms platform like Blink that lets you send information to specific employees and teams instead of the entire company. You can even label posts priority and check to make sure that your messages were received and read by recipients.
The bottom line is that employees at every level of your company will be happier, more productive, and more passionate about their work if they feel informed. The internal communications strategy you put into place now will not only make it easier for your employees to do their jobs, but will also make your company more profitable in the long run.