The latest Cranet survey shows that British organisations
have intensified their efforts to communicate with employees on major issues
during the past three years.
The most senior HR manager in each organisation was asked whether it had
made more or less use of various channels of communication. The results show a
rise in downward communication through all the major methods.
In particular, there has been an explosion in electronic communications,
with 74 per cent of the 1,115 surveyed organisations reporting a rise in
communication by this method. More direct verbal and written communication to
employees was also reported by more than half the respondent organisations.
One in five organisations also increased their communication through
representative staff bodies, such as trade unions and various types of employee
consultative bodies. Very few organisations reported a reduced use of any of
these communications methods.
Broadly similar results, although with subtle differences, are evident for
the channels used by staff to communicate their views to management over the
past three years.
Again, more electronic communication is the clearest result, and other Cranet data shows a small minority of organisations rely
exclusively on this method. This is followed by team briefings, conducted in 43
per cent of the responding organisations.
The weakest results are for trade union representatives as a method of
upward communication. Although 12 per cent reported an increase in use of this
channel, 7 per cent also reported a decline in its use over the past three
Even the traditional ‘suggestion scheme’ method appears to have retained
more users, with 19 per cent reporting an increased use against 7 per cent
using it less.
Although the amount of communication upwards and downwards has risen in most
organisations, these results may have implications for the quality of
communications in both directions.
The small minority of organisations with a heavy reliance on electronic
communications with staff may suffer from the well-known shortcomings of the
method. One of these is that important communications
may be lost or overlooked in a mass of other material.
The organisations showing heavy reliance on this method tend to be high-tech
companies, where the volume of electronic communication is large.
The proportion of organisations where employees are reported to have the
opportunity to communicate their views directly to senior managers remains
relatively small, at only just over a third.
The general increase in team briefings, attitude surveys and regular
workforce meetings may be considered to compensate for this. On the other hand,
it raises the possibility that senior managers may not be as well informed
about employee views as the general increase in communications would tend to