U.S. and Canadian companies are investing less in internal communications compared to their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere. The 2018 State of the Sector report, from global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm Gallagher, found that 43 percent of respondents in the U.S. and Canada in its survey of internal communicators are tasked solely with internal communication, compared to 57 percent globally.

“Companies risk being shortsighted if they view employee communication as a cost center rather than a revenue driver,” says Leslie Lemenager, president, international region, of Gallagher’s Employee Benefits Consulting and Brokerage. “High-quality internal communications can improve employee morale, engagement and well being, which helps boost productivity and reduce turnover. And yet, internal communicators aren’t doing enough today to measure their impact and demonstrate their return on investment (ROI) to leadership.”

Most of the survey’s respondents combine their internal communication responsibilities with other duties that usually involve external communication, public relations and marketing. For 86 percent, internal communication is part of a broader department such as corporate affairs, marketing or human resources. Theoretically, this integration should ensure closer alignment between internal and external communication efforts, but more than half of respondents (51 percent) disagreed this is the case.

Just one in 20 respondents indicated they are part of a dedicated internal communication and employee engagement team, about half of the global average. This is less than the eight percent who indicated that responsibility for internal communication is scattered across a number of functions.

Similar to the study’s global findings, U.S and Canadian internal communicators aren’t prioritizing impact measurement. About one in eight respondents don’t measure their communications in any way (12 percent), while another 27 percent do little more than report on their activity and its immediate impact. Among organizations that do measure impact, Gallagher’s report notes that many use techniques that are relatively simplistic output-based models such as online analytics and email statistics. Just nine percent have completed an internal communication audit with the help of an outside partner in the past three years. However, 40 percent believe improving measurement and evaluation of internal communication activities is very important in the year ahead.

“Not having a robust measurement process makes it very difficult to demonstrate the value created by an internal communication program,” says Lemenager. “It’s not enough to just measure activity. You really have to know how the activities—individually and collectively—are engaging employees at different organizational levels and supporting a stronger sense of total workforce well being.”

Gallagher has found that face-to-face channels are one of the better ways for employees to share direct feedback about what is and is not working for them. Yet usage of face-to-face channels is very low—while 89 percent of U.S. and Canadian internal communicators see face-to-face events and calls as an effective feedback channel, only 38 percent measure impact this way.

U.S. and Canadian internal communicators have more rapidly embraced mobile channels compared to other countries. Even though just 23 percent of U.S. and Canadian companies use mobile apps, nearly three times that many, 67 percent, intend to increase use over the next 12 months. Furthermore, 59 percent of North American organizations allow employees to use their personal devices to access organizational communications, compared to just 38 percent of companies in the U.K. and 29 percent in continental Europe.

“Employers have to adapt to the behaviors of their workforce, which is increasingly populated by younger workers who prefer to do everything on a mobile phone and tablet,” adds Lemenager. “Developing customized apps requires an upfront investment of time and resources but has significant potential to positively impact internal communication and employee engagement.”

Click here for more information on the 2018 State of the Sector on Internal Communication report.