This summary post is by the IPR Street Team. It appears courtesy of the PR Journal and the authors Katy Robinson, Ph.D., and Patrick Thelen, Ph.D., University of Florida. 

The full study, “What Makes the Grapevine So Effective? An Employee Perspective on Employee- organization communication and Peer-to-peer Communication,” can be found here.

To understand why internal public relations is so important researchers must examine employee satisfaction. This study emphasizes the importance of employee satisfaction:

“Previous studies have demonstrated employees who perceive positive organizational-relationships are more likely to identify with and advocate for the organization, consider the organization’s problems their own and share positive organizational news, even during troubled times.”

Employers should utilize possible communications networks that exist within informal peer-to-peer communication rather than employers solely using formal means of communication.

Should organizations worry about the grapevine?

• The grapevine, or the informal and fast-spreading chat between coworkers, offers a rich and powerful tool for organizations to build stronger relationships with employees.
• About 75% to 90% of information disseminated through the grapevine is correct.
• Informal communication tends to emerge in times of company turmoil, but gossip and rumors are found to have little long-term impact on an organization. However, the grapevine makes an impression.
• An environment without the grapevine can highlight a lack of interest. While the grapevine may be more active in certain situations, peer-to-peer communications will always occur. Thus, employers should focus on harnessing the grapevine rather than eliminating it.

How do employees feel about employee-organization communication?

• Communications are usually strictly professional.
• Organizations want to know about employees’ work, not their personal lives.
• Employees do not typically feel comfortable talking to leaders unless a previous relationship is established.
• Many view monthly employee meetings as a good way for the organization to communicate, but the meetings do not provide an opportunity for two-way communication.
• Still, employees see EOR as a way to influence or raise awareness on a certain issue.
• Most believe trust and two-way communication with workers increases when time spent with leaders increases.
• Trust is built by an organization keeping its word and fulfilling promises.
How do employees feel about peer-to-peer communication?
• Among peers, there is a “sense of camaraderie” as many share and listen to each other’s personal life experiences and problems.
• Peers will listen to and engage with each other. Peers care about each other’s opinions, advice, and experiences.
• Peers show a long-term interest in personal life.
• Employees perceive peer-to-peer communication as more casual and with fewer consequences.
• Trust comes easier for peers, as employees spend a must larger amount of time with other employees.

Why is this important? 

An organization can use this research to understand key differences in formal and informal methods of communications, so it can better tap into both.

As employees are a brand’s “most authentic ambassadors,” organizational leaders can do the following to build their trust:

• Maintain frequent, informal interaction between leaders and employees. Informal interactions with leaders help build trust and connection, regardless of the simplicity of the conversations.
• Regularly walk around the organization to observe work processes outside their own specialty. This builds trust with employees, familiarizes leaders with employees’ struggles and provides an opportunity for informal conversations.
• Host informal meetings in common areas topics that can be discussed quickly and within smaller groups. This is ideal for organizations who cannot otherwise schedule a time to visit employees personally.
• Train other leaders on the importance of small interactions with employees. Many may not realize the impact a quick greeting can have on positive EOR relationships.
When leaders use this research to build both strong formal and informal communication means, brands further align themselves with important organizational values such as trust, transparency and positive relationships.

The full study, What Makes the Grapevine So Effective? An Employee Perspective on Employee- organization communication and Peer-to-peer Communication,” can be found here. 

Meagan DiPolois a public relations and political science student at the University of Florida. Follow her on twitter at @MeaganDiPolo.

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