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Is technology killing employee communications?


A recent survey by Dynamic Signal brought some fairly interesting facts to light. Consider the following:

  • Three out of four (75 percent) employees report wasting time to keep up with the constant dings, pings, chats and more
  • Two-thirds of employees (66 percent) report losing between 30 minutes and 1 hour every day from pressure to keep up, costing over three billion dollars in annual profits from wasted time alone
  • Two-fifths (42 percent) report missing critical information necessary to do their job caused by ineffective communication tools, with nearly half saying this was at least a weekly frustration

Pay close attention to the words used in responses in this survey:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Constant dings
  • Frustration

I believe a big reason employees are using words like this to describe corporate communications is simple: There’s simply much technology.

And, the technology they are using isn’t easy to use.

Think about it.

Go back to 1998 for a moment–20 years ago. The chief vehicles for employee communication were most likely hard copy e-newsletters, magazines, face-to-face communication and maybe email (still pretty new).

Fast forward to 2018 and the list now looks something like this:

  • Email
  • Corporate intranet
  • Corporate collaboration tools
  • Social media networks
  • Internal social media tools (Yammer)
  • Company apps
  • Corporate blogs
  • Corporate podcasts
  • Internal screens

I mean, I could go on!

We have so many communications tools at our disposal as corporate communicators. But, that’s exactly the problem. There’s too much technology. It’s overwhelming to folks. They’re telling us as much in surveys like the one above from Dynamic Signal.

What’s more, the technology we are using isn’t easy to use.

Think about corporate intranets. What’s the chief complaint we usually hear about them? “I can’t find anything!” is always the #1 grievance. Over the years, intranets have become corporate dumping grounds for information, documents and other corporate “things.”

Meanwhile, when employees go home, they use tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and texting to communicate with friends and family. Very easy to use. Very intuitive. Not a lot of “training” necessary.

Yet, on the work-front, the tools are very difficult to use (usually) and tough to navigate.

So, employees are frustrated.

It’s understandable. Many people are feeling overwhelmed by technology these days–why should the workplace be any different?

The big question now is: What do we do about this?

For starters, I think one big lesson is the same one communicators on the external side could listen to as well: Less is more.

You don’t have to post every corporate announcement to your intranet. You don’t have to include every department notice in your employee e-newsletter. You don’t have to say “yes” to every request.

After all, isn’t that a big part of our job? Being the filter for what’s news and what isn’t. I feel like we need to get back to that a bit.

Second, I think we, as communicators, need to be better students of technology. Clearly, we are failing now. If employees are this frustrated by technology, we’re not doing a good enough job of sending them the right information using the right technology.

This means getting down and dirty and learning a lot more about how some of these tools we use work. It’s not something that comes naturally to many of us. Many of us our “word people”, after all. We’re writers–not technologists.

But, technology has become such a big part of our jobs–we can no longer pawn this off on the IT team. It’s time to take accountability and get our hands dirty. This is our problem. We must own it–or at least share responsibility with tech and IT teams.



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