As baby boomers retire and an increasing number of millennials enter the workforce, internal communicators must adapt to accommodate the shift of generations, the rise of internal social media and the development of metrics to determine employee engagement, according to a Baylor University study.
"Collectively, these issues appear to be strengthening the power and demand for strategic internal communication," said researcher Marlene S. Neill, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
These changes are highlighted in the article "Emerging Issues in Internal Communications: Generational Shifts, Internal Social Media & Engagement," published in the Public Relations Journal. It contains research gathered from 32 interviews with executives from companies listed among Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For," as well as other reputable companies and organizations. Internal communication was studied within 26 companies and organizations representing 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Neill said that a number of trends "indicate a move to a more strategic role for internal communication and more dialogue with employees rather than one-way communication."
Those developments include:
• Organizational structural changes. For most companies and organizations that participated in the study, a communications or public relations department leads their internal communications, with human resources professionals collaborating closely.
• Generational shifts. The loss of baby boomers in the workplace means losing years of experience. Millennials have different communication expectations from their employers, such as mobile communication and short messages. Companies and organizations are learning to communicate with brevity and easy access through channels such as internal social media.
• Employer branding. Millennials have a reputation for being less loyal to their jobs and more focused on long-term careers. However, core values such as respect, honesty, integrity, humility, character, innovation, workplace safety and customer service seem to be very important for millennials when they seek employment. Human resource departments are often in charge of introducing employees to a company brand, while public relations executives reinforce those brand values.
• Metrics for measuring employee engagement. Online metrics such as page visits, returning visitors, time spent with content and referring sites are all ways used by participants. Other metrics include attendance at employee meetings and click-through rates for electronic newsletters. More advanced measurement involves routine surveys related to communication and culture as well as attrition or turnover.
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