What would you say are some of the most important conditions for success for companies competing in a global economy?

At the beginning of the millennium, human capital consultants Watson Wyatt (now Towers Watson) surveyed 2,000 top executives in 23 countries to find out what they thought. Here are the top three:

  • First, people are the key to maximizing shareholder value and increasing profits.
  • Second, growth now hinges on creating a culture where behaviours are aligned with goals.
  • Third, it means having leaders who can manage the people side as well as the financial.

Internal communication isn’t mentioned. It doesn’t have to be. It is implicit: none of the three conditions listed above could possibly be achieved without it.

That same year, another survey by the same firm, Effective Communication: A leading Indicator of Financial Performance revealed the positive impact internal communication can have on the bottom line.

For example, companies with effective communication experienced a 57 per cent higher Total Return to Shareholders (TRS) over a five-year period than companies with ineffective communication. They were also 20 per cent more likely to report lower turnover rates than their peers.

But what do employees today feel – the so-called millennial? Do they even care whether they are communicated with or not?

Apparently they do. According to a recent survey conducted by Geckoboard, a London-based software company with operations in the UK and the US, more than 80 per cent of employees said they want to know more about how the company is doing. Only 10% said they had any knowledge of the company’s progress in real-time.

When they heard nothing, 60% said they do their own detective work to find out. Ninety per cent said they would rather hear bad news than no news, and 75 per cent said they didn’t trust managers who don’t share information.

In contrast, 60 per cent said they are more productive when they know more, and 50 per cent said more information motivates them to perform better.

The evidence is there, the case is clear, and yet organisations in Barbados are still reluctant to recognise the strategic value of internal communication. It’s as if no one wants the responsibility for making it happen.

All too often, senior management distances itself from any real participation and delegates the responsibility to Human Resources or Marketing & Communication. The mandate is, “Put employee communication on the menu and cook up something tasty. But try not to bother us too much because we are busy with the real work of the organisation.”

The problem is neither department really wants the responsibility. Human Resources, while they may support internal communication in principle, seldom possess the skills set needed to develop it and produce it. Since it is “communication” they feel it should belong to Marketing & Communication.

But Marketing & Communication aren’t all that keen either. They are focused on getting consumers to “love” the brand through advertising and social media campaigns: the really cool and creative stuff. Internal communication is so dull by comparison; besides, it will divert valuable staff and resources.

Companies in Barbados need to turn this around and soon, because their employees are turned off by old-fashioned command and control management with its emphasis on need-to-know only. They are disconnected from issues, goals and decisions, yet at the same time the marketers want them to be ambassadors – cheerleaders – for the “brand”.

Most of them of them want to know – need to know – where the company is going, how it plans to get there and how they can help. There is no good reason why we shouldn’t tell them. And there is no way we will get the behaviours vital to success if we don’t.

About the Author

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas -

Richard Thomas is the Principal of Clarity Communication, and has been a corporate communications practitioner for more than 30 years. He is a founding member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Barbados Chapter.