NEW YORK, April 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- More than half of communication executives said employee engagement (63%) and collaboration (58%) have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while feedback on productivity varied, with 40% indicating that it had declined and 25% reporting that it had increased. The findings are according to a new global survey by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and Peppercomm.
The survey, the second in a series of three COVID-19-specific communications reports fielded by IPR and Peppercomm, polled 403 communication executives and senior leaders and analyzed how the pandemic has impacted the workforce.
Overall, communication executives reported their function is a critical component of their company's internal crisis response, with only five percent reporting being uninvolved. Ninety percent said their company's leadership has handled the COVID-19 crisis effectively.
"With lives at stake, companies had to ramp up their communication efforts significantly and quickly, including being flexible and introducing new tools at a rapid rate for a wide range of employees," said Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations. "Companies also appear to be more empathetic toward workers who are stressed, many of whom are living in highly uncertain times while juggling multiple responsibilities."
Looking ahead, return-to-work preparations were in the early stages, as only 10% of communication executives reported having done extensive planning while 60% had not started planning for the return or did not know about return-to-work preparations for their employees. Only 42% of respondents have done at least "some" planning. About one-quarter (27%) said they are planning for a phased or gradual return of their employees, while 12% said they will return all at once.
"One of the other remarkable findings was the near universal lack of preparedness to return to work on the part of senior communicators," said Steve Cody, founder and CEO of Peppercomm. "I understand we are dealing with one unexpected crisis after another, but if CCOs and agency leaders alike don't begin to look up and look ahead NOW for how best to manage their direct reports when they return, they will find major gaps in quality, service and productivity. This is especially problematic for organizations whose teams will return to work on a staggered basis."
Other critical subjects covered in this most recent report include employee satisfaction and productivity; how companies are preparing for employees' return to work; the most trusted go-to sources, topics, and channels; measurement; and how diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives have fared during the pandemic.
Additional key findings include:
- Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The survey also indicates that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) was not a top priority for some communication executives. Only 19% of companies are communicating information focused on DE&I to their employees.
- Working from Home. On average, respondents reported 13% of their company's employees worked from home before COVID-19, compared to 77% during COVID-19, and an estimated 23% following COVID-19.
- Job Reduction. More than half of communication executives said their company is not planning to layoff (55%) or has not furloughed (67%) employees, but only 31% have made a commitment not to do so in the future.
- Focus on Mental, Physical, and Emotional Health. Two-thirds of communication leaders said they were sending their employees information about their physical (70%) and mental (65%) health.
- How Leaders Are Communicating. Communication executives credit consistent key messages, and frequent, personal communication with employees from a reliable source as critical to their efforts. Three-quarters of respondents said the CEO was "very involved" with internal communication.
- Employee Feedback. Respondents reported that employee trust (49%) and satisfaction (32%) increased at their companies. The top methods communication executives used to track results in their internal communication or to seek employee feedback were informal listening tools and methods (e.g., check-ins, web visits, email open-rates, HR feedback). Nearly one-in-four were not tracking at all and only about one-fourth (28%) surveyed their employees.
To read the full report, please visit https://instituteforpr.org/how-companies-are-engaging-employees-during-covid-19/. The Institute for Public Relations and Peppercomm will collaborate on a third report in mid-May that will ask senior communications leaders to look ahead to what will be the new normal for the profession.
The Institute for Public Relations and Peppercomm conducted a global online survey of 403 communication executives and senior leaders from April 6 -12, 2020, to determine how companies are communicating with and engaging their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. The margin of error based on the sample size is +/- 5%, but please note this is not a random sample.
To give context to the survey, as of April 14, there were 609,531 confirmed cases and 26,057 deaths in the U.S. Globally, more than 2 million people have been infected with 130,000 deaths.
About The Institute for Public Relations
Founded in 1956, the Institute for Public Relations is an independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™. IPR creates, curates, and promotes research and initiatives that empower professionals with actionable insights and intelligence they can put to immediate use. IPR predicts and analyzes global factors transforming the profession, and amplifies and engages the professional globally through thought leadership and programming. All research is available free at www.instituteforpr.org and provides the basis for IPR's professional conferences and events.
Peppercomm is an award-winning strategic, integrated communications and marketing agency headquartered in New York City with offices in San Francisco and London. The firm combines 25 award-winning years of expertise serving blue-chip and breakout clients with forward-thinking new service offerings and the freshness of a start-up. This unique mix of experience and energy enables the firm to attract and empower teams with a creative edge, drive and passion for promoting, protecting and connecting clients in a fast-changing marketplace. Founded in 1995, Peppercomm has received numerous accolades, including The Holmes Report's North American Corporate/B2B Agency of the Year and Bulldog Reporter's Midsized Agency of the Year. The agency has been listed as one of Fortune's 10 Best Workplaces in Advertising and Marketing, 100 Best Workplaces for Women, 50 Best Small and Medium Workplaces and 50 Best Workplaces for New College Grads. For more information, visit www.peppercomm.com or follow us @Peppercomm.