Despite AI's rapid integration across industries, a staggering 71% of organisations neglect to furnish their communication teams with directives on leveraging this transformative technology effectively.
Gallagher's 2023/24 State of the Sector report unveiled a disconnect in organisational support for internal communicators amidst the burgeoning era of artificial intelligence.
Moreover, the study, drawing insights from over 2,300 communication and HR leaders across 56 countries, shed light on an alarming uncertainty, with 1 in 10 communicators (13%) unsure whether their organisation even utilises AI.
This data underscores not only a crucial need for clearer AI adoption strategies but also a fundamental shift in how organisations empower their communication professionals in navigating the evolving digital landscape.
"For many organisations, it's the Wild West with regard to how they are adopting and implementing AI. Because so few organisations have an AI plan, we can connect the dots to better understand why half of the respondents (50%) are sceptical or even fearful about the impact of AI. That said, with an AI plan in place, the technologies may help communicators overcome what they've identified as two of the top three barriers in 2024, which are the lack of time and lack of financial resources," said Ben Reynolds, Global Managing Director of Gallagher's Communication Consulting Practice.
According to the findings of the State of the Sector report, communicators who embrace AI are significantly more optimistic about its potential benefits. Specifically, those utilising AI are three times more inclined to believe that the technology will alleviate workloads. Moreover, AI adopters express a 20% higher confidence in its capacity to enhance the quality of communications.
While AI offers the promise of streamlining processes and revolutionising communication methods, Gallagher experts advocate for a balanced approach. They advise organisations to prioritise foundational practices, while also pursuing training initiatives and feedback mechanisms to maximize the ROI of AI implementations.
This approach ensures that organisations not only harness the efficiencies of AI but also cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and innovation in their communication strategies.
While new technologies aimed at enhancing efficiency are continually evolving, they have not diminished the significance of human connections. Surprisingly, over 8 out of 10 communicators (84%) affirm their reliance on managers for communication to varying extents.
Managers are consistently engaged in communicating crucial topics such as strategy, vision, and purpose, as well as values, behaviours, and organisational culture. Additionally, they play a pivotal role in facilitating communication related to organisational change integration or M&A activities.
These findings underscore the enduring importance of interpersonal relationships and managerial communication in fostering understanding, alignment, and engagement within organisations.
Despite the acknowledged importance of manager communication, the survey reveals that expectations are not always met, with 3 out of 5 respondents expressing dissatisfaction with manager communication. Additionally, 18% of respondents identify "poor people manager communication skills" as one of the primary barriers to success in 2024.
In response to these challenges, organisations are deploying various tactics and tools to enhance communication outcomes. The most prevalent resources include on-demand learning opportunities (82%), written or downloadable resources designed to facilitate communication (74%), dedicated forums or communication channels exclusively for managers (67%), and personalised one-to-one coaching or mentoring focused on communication skills (63%).
These initiatives demonstrate a concerted effort by organisations to address communication gaps and empower managers with the necessary skills and resources to effectively engage their teams. "Managers who were evaluated on their communications skills were twice as likely to meet/exceed expectations as those who were not evaluated. And those who weren't evaluated/accountable were more likely to receive tools, training & resources," said Reynolds.
In addition to assessing best practices and areas for enhancement, the State of the Sector report delved into the wellbeing of communicators themselves. Alarmingly, nearly 40% of communicators (38%) reported a decrease in their wellbeing in 2023.
Many respondents cited various challenges that likely contributed to this decline, including dwindling employee attention spans (12%), a lack of leadership buy-in and understanding of the communication profession (27%), and the pressure of having to accomplish more with fewer resources (23%).
These findings underscore the multifaceted nature of the challenges faced by communicators and highlight the importance of addressing not only organisational communication dynamics but also the wellbeing of communication professionals themselves.
"Communicators are a passionate bunch who are focused on making meaningful changes within their organisations. Rather than putting more weight on their shoulders, the goal of Gallagher's State of the Sector report is to offer benchmarks and guidance to ultimately improve the employee experience, as well as their own," Reynolds added.