The Importance of Knowing Your Employees’ Communication Preferences

By Ben Eubanks | 2-min read

Ask an HR leader how to figure out what their workforce is thinking, and you’ll hear them recommend an employee engagement survey. This tool helps leaders quickly gather data and analyze it for insights into worker motivations, behaviors, and expectations.

However, one critical area that leaders often overlook is an employee communication survey. Different from assessing general employee sentiment and feedback, an employee communication survey analyzes your workforce to find out what communication tools they use and how they prefer to receive and consume information. These survey results are helpful in understanding your employees’ communication preferences and avoiding assumptions that are based on generalization. For instance, some employers might say, “most of our blue collar workers aren’t tech savvy,” defaulting to other methods for communicating with this audience. However, statistical data from Pew tell us that about three-quarters of those workers have smartphones. An employee communication survey can help you understand how your specific population uses communication tools, thereby helping you better deliver your employee communication.

While simple, this example about blue collar workers shows that we should not take our employees’ capabilities and needs for granted, as we might miss critical opportunities to reach them. The reality is that your workforce is highly complex and differentiated from the workforce at any number of other firms around the world, and their communication preferences will mirror that. In all cases a multi-channel, multi-format approach will ultimately deliver the best results. 

The three rules for crafting great employee communication surveys are straightforward: 

  1. Ask questions designed to understand channel and format preferences
  2. Take action on the data to benefit employees
  3. Repeat as necessary to ensure a high-impact communication strategy

Getting the Most From Your Efforts

How might you apply the information gathered in the survey? This information should be wrapped into your company’s overall plan and strategy for communicating with employees. For instance:

  • If employees prefer video, that should take a higher priority slot than text-based communications as the budget allows.
  • If employees prefer shorter content, employers can provide more digestible bites, spread out over a period of time.
  • If your employees use a mix of mobile and desktop devices, try using a mix of channels, like posters with SMS codes, e-mails, and web banners on your intranet.

Whatever the case, the information is meant to be actionable – in fact, the biggest issue with surveys in general is the data is gathered and left to become stale. In short: Take action on your survey results! From a mechanical perspective, employers should schedule a short review into their survey planning in order to identify pain points that need to be addressed. 

In all likelihood, your findings won’t point to a single avenue. Your diverse workforce will have diverse preferences. The objective of employee communication should be to use a high-impact mix of channels and relevant content types that engage each worker’s attention.