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03.15.22 / MSL Staff

One-Third of U.S. Workforce Missed by Traditional Company Communications

New study from MSL uncovers major differences in what and who influences employees’ opinions about their employers based on where they “sit” 

NEW YORK (March 15, 2022) – Today, MSL U.S. released a new study titled "Where’s Your Water Cooler?" that shows traditional internal communications efforts are missing the mark for too many employees. This primary research finds 34% of employed people say internal communications have little to no impact on how they think about their employer’s reputation.  

This communications gap is more intense when you compare the impact of internal communications between employees that work at a desk for the majority of their time (desk-based) and those that do not work at a desk the majority of their time (deskless.) Desk-based workers are influenced by traditional internal communications channels and company public statements on forums such as company websites or intranets. In contrast, a higher proportion of deskless workers are most influenced by other employees and family members. 

The study, based on survey responses from 2,300 U.S. adults over the age of 18, found the distinction between deskless and desk-based workers is a key predictor of sources of influence. Deskless workers comprise 37% of the U.S. workforce and include professions such as nurses, pilots, delivery drivers, teachers, factory workers and retail salespeople. A full 41% of this group confirm internal communications have little to no impact on how they think about the reputation of their employers.  

“Most internal communications have an unintentional but inherent bias toward desk-based workers, so many traditional tactics and channels fail to connect,” said Kelly Jankowski, MSL Managing Director of Corporate Reputation. “Companies that want to create lasting bonds with all employees must turn to non-traditional channels and rethink their strategy to include efforts that intersect with the natural workflow of their employees, particularly those who are deskless.”  

Key findings of the study, which was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of MSL, include:  

  • 69% of deskless workers’ perceptions of their employers are affected a great deal or moderate amount by other employees. Family members are the next highest source of influence at 62%. 

  • Desk-based workers consult a broader diversity of sources than deskless workers do. The top two sources of influence are internal announcements (70% of people report a great or moderate amount of impact on their perceptions of their employers) and what their company says in public (69%.)  

  • Desk-based employees’ perceptions of their employers are also affected a great deal or moderate amount by other employees, almost the same rate as deskless workers (68% and 69%, respectively).  

  • The data shows that internal communications are more critical than ever because employees are key to defining corporate reputation. In fact, three in five Americans believe a company’s employees are a more credible source for positive information about a company than company executives (59% vs. 41%) or a news outlet (60% vs. 40%). 

“Employees have the power to be an organization’s greatest ambassadors or its greatest agitators, making them one of the most critical audiences of a company’s reputation plans,” said Vickie Fite, MSL Senior Vice President and leader of its internal communications offering. “Our study shows exactly why moving beyond the traditional boundaries of internal communications to find the true sources of influence of an employee is imperative to success. This influence-centric orientation to your internal communications puts the focus on impact over volume to drive more meaningful outcomes.” 

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of MSL between September 29, to October 14, 2021, among 2,300 U.S. adults ages 18+. The full composition of the survey respondents included 1,198 employed respondents. Of the employed respondents, 736 are considered desk-based employees designated as workers who spend the majority of their working time in front of a computer and 462 deskless employees, designated as workers who do not spend the majority of their working time in front of a computer. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, household income, education, and size of household where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. 

About MSL 
MSL is a global leader in public relations focused on growing business and building reputation for clients through the power of influence. With 2,000+ talented team members in more than 100 cities across the world and a legacy spanning over 80 years, the award-winning agency is driven to advancing the communications industry through cutting-edge analytics, unique creative, impactful earned-first storytelling, strategic stakeholder engagement and sophisticated influencer marketing. For more information, please visit  

About The Harris Poll 
The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations, and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas, building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit