You can’t e-mail face time

Face time. Those two words best describe the most preferred way for employers to communicate with employees, according to Randstad North America’s Employee Review, an annual workplace survey based on findings from in-depth telephone interviews conducted by RoperASW.

Newsletters, voice mail and e-mail rank far behind face-to-face meetings as the means of communication most preferred by both employers and employees. In short, everyone wants face time.

For routine communications, group meetings were preferred by 41 percent of employees and 49 percent of employers; meetings with individual employees were preferred by 40 percent of employees and 39 percent of employers. Thirteen percent of employees preferred e-mail, and 5 percent, a newsletter; for employers, the figures were 7 percent and 3 percent respectively.

When communicating about important changes, 46 percent of employees prefer group meetings, a setting favored by 58 percent of employers. Forty-four percent of employees and 37 percent of employers want individual meetings. Five percent or less in both groups favored e-mail, newsletters and voice mail.

Employees who rate their employers as excellent communicators have higher morale, are more loyal and have more faith in their supervisors and top management than employees with lower opinions of their employers’ communications skills. Employees who rate their employers as excellent communicators are also more likely to say they are more productive than usual.

Although the survey found effective employee communications have potentially big payoffs for employers, it also found employers are not realizing all the benefits they might. That shortfall is due to the gap between how employers evaluate their own performances as communicators and how employees perceive those efforts.
In looking at nine specific ways employers can provide information to their employees, we find areas of strength and areas of weakness.

While 55 percent of employers rate themselves as excellent communicators, only 35 percent of their employees agree. In fact, 31 percent of employees rate their employers as only poor to fair communicators, ratings that only 8 percent of employers gave themselves.

The survey found that 83 percent of employees who rated their companies’ employee communications programs highly say morale is excellent or good.

The survey also underscored the importance of not just talking to employees but also of listening to them: in companies where employers solicit and implement workers’ ideas resulting in positive change, 78 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good. At companies that ask but do not take action on employee feedback, only 25 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good.

The importance of two-way communication is apparent in the finding that employees at companies that at least ask for feedback and take action — even if no positive change comes about — report good or excellent morale (51 percent), which is higher than companies that ask for feedback and don’t act (25 percent).

As Randstad North America’s managing director of human resources, GAIL AUERBACH is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company’s more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. Reach her at [email protected]. For more information about Randstad’s Employee Review, visit