Restructuring: Good and bad news for employee communications
Value, responsibilities of role are increasing, but resources are fixed, new survey reveals Competitive pressures and corporate restructuring are rapidly expanding the roles of employee communications executives in implementing corporate objectives, according to a comprehensive study recently released by the Conference Board.
This greater responsibility and enhanced status, however, has brought with it pressure to accomplish more with the same--or fewer--resources.
Corporate communicators now say that their top four employee relations responsibilities are improving morale, informing employees about internal changes and new strategies, explaining benefit plans, and helping to make employees more productive and quality-conscious.
"Nowhere is the impact of restructuring more evident than in the rising responsibility of corporate communications units," comments Kathryn Troy, author of the study, which surveyed communications executives at 281 leading U.S. businesses. "Increasingly, employees are demanding better information about their firm's performance and future direction. Virtually all those surveyed see these trends intensifying during the 1990's."
Doing more with less
Since 1984, more than two-thirds of the organizations of those surveyed have undergone major restructurings. Almost half have had substantial staff reductions, and about 45 percent have been involved in merger and acquisition activities. Sixty percent of the respondents from manufacturing firms and 45 percent from service companies say their employee communications missions have changed significantly in the past five years.
The result, according to corporate communicators, is that they are under increasing pressure to "do more with less." Currently, the median staff size of those surveyed is three full-time professionals and one part-time professional. Almost three-quarters of respondents report that their staff size has remained the same or decreased. Almost 60 percent of respondents' departments are hiring freelancers to help them shoulder the increased workload. Nearly a quarter of respondents who have not used outside help expect to do so in the near future.
The specific projects now being handled by these executives include: an annual plan for employee communications (75 percent say they prepare one), which often becomes part of the corporate plan; communications audits (almost half report doing one recently); and employee surveys of the effectiveness of communication programs …