The state of Internal Communications 2013-2014

GatehouseStateoftheSector2014Gatehouse have released their fifth annual State of the Sector report, looking at the key challenges facing Internal Communications in 2013-2014.

Conducted in November 2013, the survey received 157 responses from organisations ranging in size from a few hundred people to more than 50,000 employees.

The full report is well worth a read, as always, but I’ve pulled out some of the findings that I found most note-worthy.

Responsibility for Internal Communications remains fragmented and patchy.

  • 68% of the survey’s respondents felt that Internal Communications and senior leaders were on the same wavelength – leaving almost a third apparently struggling to connect with those at the top
  • This lack of commitment is endorsed by the fact that 38% of respondents thought there was no clearly articulated Internal Communications strategy within their organisation.
  • 71% of respondents had dedicated Internal Communications roles, leaving almost 30% with additional responsibilities including external communication, PR, HR and marketing. 12% looked after both internal and external communication.
  • Nearly half of respondents’ organisations employed between 1-5 dedicated Internal Communications personnel. 20% had an IC function with more than 20 people (most of these in organisations with 50,000+ employees), 10% had no dedicated IC personnel at all.
  • Only 7% of respondents were part of a dedicated IC function. 45% were part of integrated corporate communications function, with the remainder split across a number of other departments incl. HR and Marketing.
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) say there was no dedicated budget for internal communication within their organisation. This seems to reflect a trend towards centrally held budgets where communicators and others have to establish a business case to secure budget for specific activities.

Face-to-face communications are still key

Unsurprisingly, face–to–face communications remain some of the most effective channels for leadership and line manager communication; team meetings, away-days and conferences with senior leaders were all being used by over 70% of respondents. Formal cascade meetings, senior management site visits and roadshows were also widely used.

88% of respondents used events as part of their internal communication mix (up 8%  on last year) with almost 50% of respondents holding more than three events per year for audience groups of 100+.

Interestingly, whilst 90% of line managers are given dedicated communication support, just 43% of respondents had programs focused exclusively on senior leaders, which looks like a real missed opportunity.



Print still has its place.



New Social Media are being added to the Digital Communications mix

E–mail is still the most popular digital channel, used by over 90% of respondents, closely followed by intranets (83%), electronic newsletters (76%), then video conferences, blogs and plasma screens, all at around 50%.

At last, it seems that Internal Communications teams are getting to grips with some of the new social media tools available. Around a third reported that their organisation had implemented an Enterprise Social Network or some sort of social media platform. 50% of respondents are using some form of instant messaging to communicate with their audiences. And 16% said that their organisation had developed an employee app (this is the first time that apps have appeared in one of these reports).

Some of these innovations are no doubt in response to changes in the way users are viewing communications. Two thirds of respondents said employees in their organisations were accessing content from home or through mobile devices – a trend that is likely to increase over the coming years. Interestingly, given the cautious approach taken by most IT depts, 38% of respondents said employees were now using use their personal devices to access business content.

The report offers a rather strange warning about the dangers of ‘being seduced by social media chatter’. The numbers clearly reflect that fact that most organisations are still finding their way with social media – 17% describe their use of social media as ‘advanced’, over 40% describe their situation as limited, whilst 15% say social media use is ‘non-existent’. Whilst no-one should be deploying social tools simply because they are there, there is equally no point ignoring them altogether. There is plenty of evidence as to the value of these new social media, and those organisations seeing the most benefits are those that are using and learning about them now.



Measurement and Evaluation

The two most popular tools used to measure the effectiveness of Internal Communications are employee engagement surveys (used by 75% of respondents) and intranet analytics (64%). Focus groups and dedicated IC surveys were used by around a third, whilst just one in five (21%) had conducted a comprehensive IC audit. Worryingly, 12% of respondents say they do not measure the impact of Internal Communications at all.

Encouragingly, nearly two thirds of respondents thought people understood the values and the mission and vision well or very well. However, less than half of them said the same for the organisation’s short–term plans or strategy. This suggests organisations are seeing more success in long-term, set-piece communications but are less able at delivering day-to-day news and responding to changing business priorities.



Priorities and Challenges for 2014

The five key areas for focus in 2014 –

  • Improving electronic channels (61%)
  • Leadership communication (61%)
  • Developing / refreshing the Internal Communications strategy (60%)
  • Improving communication planning (52%)
  • Improve face-to-face communication (52%)

Enhancing line manager communication, building the Internal Communications function and capabilities are less of a priority than 12 months ago.

The top five challenges –

  • Communicating the organisation’s strategy (685)
  • Ensuring channel effectiveness (37%),
  • Re-engaging employees (31%)
  • Communication planning (29%)
  • Communicating the organisation’s values (20%).

Financial challenges appear to be less of an issue this year: restructuring, cost–cutting programmes, headcount freezes have all declined in 2013.



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