© Tobias Tanzya

Employee communication: Current trends and scientific findings

Lesezeit: 3 Minuten

In July 2023, the Research Dialogue 2023 was hosted by the University of Vienna. Professor Sabine Einwiller and her team presented the latest scientific research on employee communications with insights on trends, CEO activism, appreciation, and virtual collaboration.

We have summarized the presentation of Sabine Einwiller, Professor of Public Relations Research, on current trends in employee communications.

The importance of employee communication is growing

As talent scarcity is becoming a growing challenge, companies are coming to realize the value of their employees. This has also increased the importance of employee communication. 

Employee communication comprises all communicative and informative processes in which organizational members are addressed as employees or potential employees. But it also includes when employees on all hierarchical levels communicate themselves internally or also with external audiences.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller - University of Vienna - Trends in employee communication

“As employees’ role as communicators in the organization is becoming more significant, the role of internal communication managers is expanding. While internal communication used to be mainly about informing employees and sending corporate messages, it now also means to be a listener, enabler, moderator, motivator, and strategist.”

Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller, Universität Wien

As employee communication is constantly evolving, several trends can currently be observed:

Virtualization or hybridization: Work and, along with it, communication are becoming more virtual. This means, first of all, the use of technology raises questions regarding suitable technologies and how to increase employees’ digital fitness. It also leads to more distance, raising questions about how to keep up the emotional commitment and the organization-employee relationship. 

Relationship communication: Maintaining and building relationships with employees is key. To foster the organization-employee relationship, it needs closeness, not necessarily physical but emotional; it also needs possibilities for employee participation and appreciation of employees. 

Enabling of executives and co-workers: Employee communication is mainly performed by employees themselves. To do so, they need to be enabled to be good communicators – internally, to communicate appreciatively, motivate and support each other, and point out when things go wrong; and externally, to fulfill their role as ambassadors.

Mental health: Work has become stressful, and technology often adds to this stress, as research by the University of Vienna shows. It also shows that particularly emotionally supportive communication from team members can lower employees’ perceived technostress and overall work stress.

Research Dialogue 2023 - Trends in employee communication - Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller
Research Dialogue 2023 - Trends of employee communication - Discussion
Research Dialogue 2023 - Trends in employee communication - Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller

Content orientation and newsroom structure: Many companies have shifted their focus in communications from target groups to topics and content. They try to remove silos by implementing newsroom structures that foster agile work. This leads to blurring boundaries between internal and external communication. 

Internal discussions of conflict issues: The conflicts in the external world do not stop at the company gates. Employees, often very emotionally, discuss such conflict topics on internal media. Internal coms needs to function as a moderator. 

Significance of employer branding: Talent scarcity is a major challenge, which enhances the significance of employer branding. People with diverse characteristics and talents from Gen Z must be addressed while considering their specific communication needs and demands. As studies show, employees can be very successful “recruiters” if they identify with their company.

Artificial intelligence: AI is the buzzword of the time and also affects internal communication. Simple writing tasks are likely to become obsolete, while AI can be supportive in many ways. Yet, it must be used with care and AI guidelines to be developed.