U.S. companies are underinvesting in internal communications functions, according to the latest findings from an annual report published by insurance brokerage/risk management combine Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

With the U.S. economy reaching its lowest unemployment levels in decades, attention has now shifted to a tightened labor market, where attracting and retaining quality talent has suddenly become a concern.

However, the Gallagher report found that companies in the U.S. and Canada haven’t made internal communications processes much of a priority compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world. Only about two in five internal communicators polled (43 percent) said they’re tasked solely with internal communications functions, compared to 57 percent globally.

Most (60 percent) said their organization has no long-term internal communications strategy in play, and an overwhelming majority (93 percent) said they spend a substantial amount of their time sending out corporate announcements instead.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Perceptions of the internal communications function’s place and performance within the organization.

In fact, only about one in 20 U.S. respondents (five percent) reported being part of a dedicated internal communication and employee engagement team, about half the global average. Instead, 86 percent said the internal function in their organization is part of a larger department such as corporate affairs, marketing or HR. Almost half of those surveyed (48 percent) said internal communications is part of an integrated team, which also manages corporate communication, PR and corporate affairs.

Of those who are part of a dedicated internal communication unit, about a third said they report to other departments, such as HR (21 percent) or marketing (nine percent). Eight percent said that their company’s internal communications functions are scattered across a number of departments.

On par with global findings, North American internal communicators also aren’t placing much emphasis on measuring their impact. Slightly more than a quarter of respondents (27 percent) said they do little more than regular reports on the immediate impact of their activities. About one in eight respondents (12 percent) don’t measure their communication effectiveness in any way, and only nine percent have completed an internal communication audit with the help of an external agency in the past three years.

The report also found that while 89 percent of North American internal communicators recognize face-to-face channels and events as an effective feedback channel, only 38 percent measure impact this way.

On the other hand, one bright spot for internal communications functions at U.S. and Canadian organizations involves mobile phone policies. The report found that 59 percent of North American companies allow staff 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. And while only 23 percent of North American companies currently use mobile apps, a majority (67 percent) said they intend to increase their mobile app use within the year.

Research for Gallagher’s latest “State of the Sector on Internal Communication” report was conducted by London-based internal communication and employee engagement consultancy Gatehouse Consulting. Responses were aggregated from more than 650 internal communicators globally, including more than 100 from North America. Rolling Meadows, IL-based Gallagher acquired Gatehouse last year.