Reports Roundup Part 2: The IC Index 

Lee Smith

21 July 2023
Research Reports
This is the second of three posts showcasing a number of recently published research reports with an EX focus. This time we're shining the spotlight on the IC Index by Ipsos Karian & Box and the Institute of Internal Communication, a new UK-focused annual survey of employees looking at communication, culture and change.  
The primary aim of this study is to identify what employees across the UK really want and need from their internal communication function, but it touches on many other aspects of employee experience, so it's a worthwhile read.

Thematically, it’s similar to other studies, like Gallagher’s annual State of the Sector survey, but the big difference is that this one is based on responses from employees, rather than IC professionals themselves. So, importantly, it’s the view from the other side.

A sample of 3,000 employees from larger organisations (those employing 500+) was used. Unlike the Gallagher research, which has a global footprint, this one is purely UK focused.
Overall, the report paints a fairly positive picture of the IC function itself, notably with 6/10 respondents rating their organisation’s internal communication as ‘excellent’. Moreover, where employees are aware of the existence of an IC team, the scores across a whole range of metrics (intent to leave, engagement, trust in CEO, etc) are improved, underlining the positive impact professional IC can have on a range of outcomes.

When it comes to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of communication, there are no real shockers here.

In terms of what employees want to hear more about, it’s the stuff that matters most to them, with pay and benefits and career and personal development opportunities at the top of the pile, alongside my organisation’s strategy and direction, and both well-being and guidance to help them do their jobs not far behind. But there’s a fine line between too little and too much, so organisations need to tread carefully here.

From a channels perspective, not surprisingly, email remains the most relied upon and preferred channel inside most organisations. Indeed, the vast majority of employees (82%) are hardcore traditionalists who prefer established channels like email, one-to-ones with their line manager, team meetings and newsletters. Most employees spend very little time reading and viewing official comms - on average just 15 minutes per day. People prefer to snack rather than binge, dipping into comms briefly during their day.

 There are lots more useful insights into this side of things in the report.
But what does the IC Index tell us about the role of communication in shaping employee experience?

Well communication, of course, is the lifeblood of any organisation and it’s at the heart of employee experience, so all of this is valuable insight. But, if an experience is, as we at The EX Space believe, something that has an emotional impact on an individual, then how we communicate and connect with others is a vitally important part of that. Experiences are rarely solitary. Communication is about much more than the flow of information, it’s about human connection and belonging too. It’s about creating the climate in which great experiences can take place. It's about hearts as well as heads.

The research identifies four broad groups of employee. The most positive group, known as ‘informed cheerleaders’ makes up 44% of the sample, while 26% are described as ‘miserable moaners’, 17% ‘confused followers’ and 14% ‘unconvinced cynics’. This alone paints a fairly grim picture of the UK employee psyche and shows the enormous amount of work we all need to do still to win over employees!
Approaching the research from an EX perspective, there are some really interesting (and rather depressing) nuggets in here:

  • On listening and dialogue – only just over half (53%) of UK workers say that their organisation welcomes open and honest feedback, while fewer (45%) say their employer shows how feedback is used to inform action. This is a particularly shameful statistic. The dial has hardly moved on this in over a decade, showing just how far away from being genuinely ‘human centric’ most organisations remain.

  • On line managers, the gatekeepers of ‘everyday EX’ - over a third say they don’t feel equipped to lead conversations with their teams about what is happening across their organisation. And around 40% of UK workers want their manager to better inform them about the team’s priorities and goals. Again, a dismal state of affairs – we know how critical the role of the line manager is to unlocking engagement and creating positive everyday experiences for employees, not to mention more directly as a conduit for communication, but still we’re not doing enough to equip and support them.

  • On trust in leaders - only a whisker over half (54%) trust communications from their CEO. Without trust, how can we create a positive climate at work?

  • On strategy, one in four employees neither understand nor believe in their employer’s strategy and a third of employees say they don’t hear enough about where their organisation is heading… Without a rational understanding of strategy, how can we expect employees to commit to supporting it?
For us, these are the areas where we really need to raise our game.
It’s now almost 15 years since the publication of the Macleod Report, which identified the four big enablers of employee engagement – strategic narrative, engaging managers, employee voice and integrity. We know this stuff and we’ve been talking about it for years - and yet still performance across most organisations is well below par. Is it any wonder a quarter of our people are ‘miserable moaners’?!

The final word goes to Sarah Meurer, BA. MA at Elsevier, who is quoted in the report: “The next opportunity for internal communicators is to be relentlessly curious about the employee experience people are having, from the moment they join to the moment they transition, identifying how to improve the moments that matter, continuously raising the bar for our people.”

We couldn’t agree more Sarah. It’s time to kick-start the EX Era!

Want more? You can access supporting information and download the full report here.

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