Internal communication strategy at low premium in financial services

60% of financial institutions have no clearly articulated internal communication strategy.
That was one of the key findings of the recently published State of the Sector 2010 survey focusing on the financial sector, undertaken by internal communication consultancy Gatehouse in conjunction with the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC).

Achieving and sustaining a joined-up, strategic approach is not assisted by another key factor emerging from the research – 48% of respondents felt that senior managers were not on the ‘same wavelength’ as them.

The survey also revealed that almost three-quarters of employees did not have a good understanding of short-term business plans, while over 50% of respondents believed staff had a poor grasp of company values– worrying statistics at a time when clarity and confidence in relation to goals is vital, although understandable in the context of recent major change.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Face to face – this channel remains very much at the fore of the communication mix, with team meetings taking place in nearly 100% of organisations surveyed.  Away days and road shows were used in almost three-quarters of businesses, while large-scale conferences took place in over a half of firms. However, ‘walk-the-floor’ and ‘drop-in surgeries’ were not nearly as common, suggesting less use of spontaneous opportunities in this sector.

  • Digital – almost 100% of organisations used intranet, while central emails and newsletters scored above 90%.

  • Social media – blogs are used in 50% of organisations, but, to date, podcasts are making little impact.

  • Print – despite the ascendancy of digital, print is still well used. Employee magazines and newspapers were used by almost 60% of respondents, and posters scored extremely highly with 90%.

  • Feedback – all organisations had some kind of formal feedback mechanism in place. However, around a third of organisations do not have formal team meetings or line-manager/counsellor meetings.

Simon Wright, Gatehouse director, says: “This was a timely piece of research focused on a sector which has experienced more than its fair share of change. It suggests that many communicators have spent the last 12-18 months fighting fires – responding well to the immediate and most pressing needs of the organisation – but have lost sight of longer term goals. Now is the time to move on – to focus on enabling the business strategy, rebuilding trust, enhancing employee engagement, improving core channels and measurably adding value.”

IoIC chairman Dominic Walters comments: “It’s been a hugely challenging time for the financial sector in terms of reputation and performance, which can clearly take its toll on employees in terms of motivation and sense of direction.

“For employees to remain engaged in difficult times, it is very important that they understand the big picture in terms of where the company is headed and their role in achieving this – something that the findings of this survey suggest is proving a challenge for businesses.

“To enable a joined up approach, senior management needs to be aware of the importance of internal communication and how it should be an integral part of overall business strategy.

“In turn, internal communication practitioners need to understand the concerns of leaders, be able to talk their language and ensure that the actions they wish to take are inextricably linked to the successful achievement of overall business objectives.”

A free copy of Internal Communications in Financial Services: State of the Sector 2010 is available from Simon Wright or Lee Smith at Gatehouse on 0207 754 3630 or email [email protected]

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