Topic: Best Practices in Employee Communication

Author(s), Title and Publication

Gay, C., Mahoney, M., & Graves, J. (2005). Best practices in employee communication: A study of global challenges and approaches. San Francisco: IABC Research Foundation.


This comprehensive study identified four primary challenges facing employee communicators. The project included a review of case studies, interviews with 22 best-in-class communicators, and an online survey of employee communicators in 472 organizations on four continents. The biggest challenge (mentioned first or second by 82.8% of respondents) was motivating employees to align with business strategy. The second challenge (ranked first or second by 46.1% of participants) was educating and engaging leaders and front-line managers in their roles in organizational communication. Though important, the issues of managing information overload and measuring the ROI of internal communications were ranked significantly lower as critical challenges.

Four key drivers accounted for 72% of variance in aligning employees with business strategy: 1) employee understanding of how they can help achieve company goals, 2) employee commitment to business strategy, 3) the use of technologies to enhance understanding of strategy, and 4) building trust between leaders/managers and employees. The study found no magic bullet for resolving the alignment challenge, but best practice organizations used a combination of creative and customized approaches such as online contests and quizzes, mobile technologies, strategy maps and other illustrations, storytelling, and manager-led dialogues.

Barriers to dealing with the second challenge of educating and engaging leaders and front-line managers in communication roles were leaders not being on the same page, lack of leader visibility, lack of trust, and managers not understanding their roles. Effective strategies and tactics included training and coaching on verbal and nonverbal communications, along with preparation of effective communication toolkits for leaders and managers.

Implications for Practice

The crucial point is that communication best practices may provide guidelines for organizations, but one size does not fit all. The most successful companies were able to customize and creatively apply strategies and tactics to fit their cultures and specific needs. The booklet containing this study included six comprehensive case studies and many examples of tactics and strategies that companies used to meet the four major challenges.

Location of Article

This article is available for purchase only, but it is currently out of print. Copies might be obtained through some university or public libraries. The online purchase site is:

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply