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Internal Communications: A Force Multiplier for Alignment, Achievement, & Retention

While most professionals receive thorough training in the specific technical and operational skills needed to perform their jobs, few learn how to communicate effectively, and that gap often follows them and is amplified  when they become supervisors and leaders. But communications is a force multiplier. It keeps people on the same page — prioritizing work that’s valued by leaders and valuable to the team’s success — and is an essential skill for leaders of all stripes, including CEOs, directors, and managers, because, as Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, recently put it, “You can’t execute it if you can’t communicate it.” 

The new “2024 State of Internal Communications” report by Axios HQ provides strong support for that claim and, using data from two November 2023 surveys — one for communicators and leaders in industries and organizations of all sizes and another for employees — reveals that an organization’s success, in terms of characteristics including profitability, employee motivation, and team retention, is directly tied to the effectiveness of its internal communications. 


These surveys identified several challenges that directly relate to ineffective communication and 

resonate throughout organizations of all sizes, including: 


Salary Waste. 55% of workers said they lose up to two hours a day clarifying details they need to do their jobs. This wasted time translates directly into wasted money and chips away at employee and team motivation, but most executives aren’t aware of this issue. 81% of leaders surveyed said that their employees are energized and motivated, while only 52% of employees agreed. Disconnects like these are often the result of a breakdown between alignment and communication, and identifying, understanding, and effectively addressing them is key to an organization’s ability to succeed and scale. 


Executive Distraction. 48% of C-level leaders said they’ve found themselves getting involved with lower-priority tasks outside of their direct scope of responsibilities to clarify details they’ve shared before, which can often stem from the fact that many of them are struggling to communicate effectively enough to prevent or alleviate the issue. 


Alignment Breakdown. 44% of leaders reported that their staff is fully aligned with the organization’s business goals, but only 14% of workers agreed. An organization’s success depends on two things: strong goals and an engaged workforce capable of achieving them. So, alignment breakdowns like these frequently result in internal divisions, team conflicts, and demotivated employees, and they almost always stem from less-than-effective internal communications. 


The 2023 Axios HQ “State of Internal Communications” report revealed a glaring gap in the perceived efficacy of internal communications: 77% of leaders thought they were helpful and relevant, but only 46% of employees agreed. This year, that gap grew, revealing that 85% of leaders feel that their internal communications are helpful, relevant, and offer the context that teams need to do their jobs, while only 45% of employees agree with that assessment. These employees also reported that the topics they receive updates about most often are the ones least critical to staying aligned with their leaders, and the ones that they value most are the ones they hear about the least. There’s vast disagreement about the clarity and accessibility of these communications as well, which can derail the efficacy of even well-crafted communications that otherwise meet employees’ needs. 


Retention Risks. Effective internal communications foster employee alignment, engagement, collaboration, and productivity. When employees don’t feel well-aligned and sufficiently motivated, they often leave. Nearly half (49%) of the 86% of workers who don’t feel well aligned with their organization’s goals and 44% of employees who reported feeling unmotivated said that they’re planning to leave their jobs within two years, which comes with considerable costs to the business, its productivity, and its goals. 


To overcome these pervasive challenges, the report offers several key takeaways: 


  • Communication is a team sport. C-suite leaders are typically among organizations’ most active mass communicators, but leveraging leaders at every level creates consistency and empowers them to add the context and dimension that only they can for the employees closest to them.

  

  • Don’t wait! Have company-wide conversations about big issues early to get ahead of the questions that will naturally arise in a communications vacuum. 


  • Clarity is everything. If your messaging is difficult to understand or feels overwhelming, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve your goals.


  • Repetition = Winning. Axios CEO @Jim VandeHei advises leaders to think of their brand as a political candidate because when you’re sick of hearing yourself harp on your big mission, it’s only just starting to sink in for your audience. 


  • Cadence is key. 81% of leaders said that their internal communications are timely and on a cadence that teams can rely on, but only 42% of employees agreed. Without consistency, it’s nearly impossible to establish trust, and it’s crucial to build it before you need it. 


  • Data is your friend. Leaders who acknowledge this and try to collect, understand, and leverage data to improve their leadership strategy will see an impactful difference: employees who are more motivated and better equipped to deliver business results. That alignment and motivation ladders up to something equally important — retention. Most leaders wouldn’t build a business plan without data or launch a new product without user input, but many will communicate without asking their teams about topic, cadence, and channel preferences. 


  • Sloppy communications are costly. The report found that the more senior a leader is, the more time they lose dealing with the avoidable impacts of ineffective communication, like searching for information they need to do their jobs, chasing a timely response, or clarifying context in a communication they’ve received. Effective internal communications are essential to every organizational strategy and initiative. Leverage the data available to you, listen to your team, and be visible, accessible, and adaptable. 


For additional insights into the new Axios HQ report, visit https://rb.gy/mn2f82.

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