Do companies talk more then they listen?

You have two years, two eyes and one mouth so you should be listening and observing twice as much as you should be talking” is a phrase often used by elementary school teachers to convey one of the most basic principles of learning: it does not happen when you are talking,

Imagine if companies followed this advice when communicating with employees?

From the Intranet to newsletters to kiosks, companies use lots of tools to communicate an even broader array of topics to employees – wellness programs learning opportunities, activities and more.

But as one CFO recently lamented incredulously to me, “We make everything available to employees but they still complain about not being informed.”

That’s because availability of information does not mean it is accessible. Nor does accessibility equal understanding. It’s mind boggling to consider the millions of dollars companies c spend creating and publishing content that is never read. Interestingly, lots of companies settle for this – during a meeting with a team managing the intranet for a Fortune 100 company, they cited the 8,000 weekly readers of a wellness blog post as success. 8,000 sounds like a lot but only represent 2% of the total population. Why spend millions of dollars supporting something that 98% of employees don’t interact with?

Employee participation rates for creating content are even lower.  A recent study[1] looking at social network usage found that less than 1% of the participants create over 90% of the content and 90% of participants contribute nothing at all.

But everyone communicates – emails, phone calls, text messages and shared experiences are just some of the many forms it takes. And despite massive budgets allocated on knowledge management systems, corporate intranets, wiki sites, blogging communities, it’s shocking to think so few people actually utilize them for their intended purpose.

In our experience, the best place to start is to ask employees (ideally on a continual basis) and engage them in the communication strategy process. Not only does this build ownership and transparency (key elements to building an engaged workforce) but it will dramatically increase the level of participation.  Create systems not just for pushing information out, but listening and understanding what your employees are telling you.

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