A study of internal communication in the Netherlands
Published in our insight of 21 September 2012 - Citigate First Financial is involved in many corporate reputation and communication situations with a crucial internal communication component. Strategic reviews, mergers & acquisitions, post-merger integration, corporate restructurings and stakeholder disputes are typical examples. This study investigates how closely internal communication is aligned to strategic business objectives and how the value of internal communication is measured. In addition, we investigated which traditional methods of communication continue to be important and to what extent Dutch companies are using social media as an internal communication tool.
Data was captured during in-depth interviews with the Corporate Communication Director or Internal Communication Director of 38 (listed and non-listed) companies in the Netherlands. Government and semi-government organisations were not included.
Diversity in half-year reporting by listed companies remains high (survey 2011)
Published in our newsletter of 27 October 2011 – Following the announcements of the 2011 first-half results, we investigated the way in which companies that are listed on the NYSE Euronext (AEX, AMX and AScX) communicate their half-year results. When new legislation on the reporting of half-year results was introduced in 2009 (Wet op het financieel toezicht (Wft), article 5:25d paragraph 2), many companies were wondering how they would translate this into an H1 reporting format.
Our study shows that this legislation provides sufficient room for enormous variety in the communications around half-year results. The study covered 75 companies.
More than half the companies studied (53%) chose to communicate their half-year results in a single document. This document contains all compulsory segments and is often presented as a report and published in full as a press release. In other words, they do not publish a separate press release and a separate - complete- half-year report; the report is the press release, or conversely the press release is the report. Some companies include graphics and images in this document, which means the layout is closer to a report than a press release. Ten percent of the companies separate the press release and the financial statements (all the tables and the explanatory notes), and although the press release refers to these statements, they are not a part of the release itself.
About one-third of all companies (36%) publish two separate documents, a press release and a report. There are considerable differences between the content and the size of the press releases. Some companies publish a press release with content that is virtually identical to that of the report, adding only background information, such as a company profile and key figures. In that case, the report is in fact a press release with layout and additions. Other companies publish a short press release containing only the financial highlights, and frequently add a quote from the CEO and an outlook. Any other information is only available in the report. This latter approach is mostly used by AEX funds, with nine of the 25 we surveyed publishing their half-year results in this way, compared with only one Midcap and one Smallcap company. Another striking difference between the larger and smaller funds is that many of the large funds – more than half - publish a separate report, while among the AMX and Smallcap funds this figure was 31% and 21% respectively.
Women gain prominence in annual reporting (survey 2010)
Published as Insight on 1 June 2011 - Communications about women in annual reporting is continuing to increase. Citigate First Financial’s annual gender diversity study reveals that:
- Most listed companies in the Netherlands have an actual policy on diversity and women in management positions
- Listed companies in the Netherlands are becoming increasingly transparent when it comes to publishing figures about male/female ratios in the workforce and at management level
- Regulations provide a clear impetus to reporting on the percentage of women in management positions
Annual publications provide a good indication of the male/female ratios in the workforce and at management level, and the increasingly prominent place this subject has on the agendas of Dutch listed companies. This attention will only increase. This week, for instance, the Dutch upper house of parliament approved the setting of a target to increase the proportion of women at board room level to at least 30% by 2016.
Companies that fail to reach this goal will have to explain themselves in their annual reports.
Our study shows that almost all companies listed on the AEX (87.5%) and the majority of the companies with a Midcap listing (64%) have incorporated diversity and women in management positions in their corporate policies. The annual reports and/or CSR reports for 2010 reveal that:
- 83% of AEX companies (up from 68% in 2009) and 64% of Midcap companies (up from 40% in 2009) publish concrete figures on the number of women in the workforce and at management level in their annual publications.
- 63% of AEX companies (up from 50% in 2009) and 48% of Midcap companies (up from 28% in 2009) report on the ratio of men to women on the Supervisory Board, in line with best practice guideline III.3.1 of the Dutch Corporate Governance Code.
There is a notable increase in transparency in the publication of figures on the ratio of men to women within companies. However, in most cases there is no clear objective attached to these figures.
AEX companies are, however, increasingly launching initiatives to put the subject of women in management on the agenda. These often take the form of networks and/or special programmes, such as the various women’s networks at Ahold, AkzoNobel, DSM, Reed Elsevier, TNT and Unilever. The subject is also increasingly included on the agenda of CEOs. The board chairman at DSM, for instance, works closely with the diversity task force and the CEO of Unilever receives a report on the number of women within the company every three months.
The attention paid to diversity policies and the subject of ‘women in management positions’ is less among Midcap companies than it is among AEX companies. While a large number of AEX companies are developing policies to promote ‘women in management positions’, only two Midcap companies have integrated such programmes: Lloyd’s Ladies at Delta Lloyd Groep and the BAM Female Empowerment Programme.
We launched this annual study to monitor the growing attention devoted to women and diversity in Dutch annual reporting. The study was conducted in the context of the 2010 talent monitoring report ‘Rapport Monitoring Talent 2010’ conducted by the Commissie Monitoring Talent naar de Top. The first copy of the 2010 monitoring talent report was presented to Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Binnenhof in The Hague on Thursday, 27 May 2011. Our study was presented as an addendum to this report on the same day.
Corporate twittering not yet ear-shattering
- Dutch listed companies moderately active on social media such as Twitter
- Many companies still searching for a suitable strategic approach
- ‘Legal’ and ´liability´ issues play an important role
Published in our newsletter of 18 February 2011 - A fact: The number of companies and organizations active on social media platforms and social networks like Facebook, Linkedln, Hyves and Twitter is growing steadily.
What should we do about social media? Communication departments of numerous companies will undoubtedly be asking themselves this question. Unfortunately, there is no single simple answer. In addition to the ‘general slip-ups’ made by irresponsible employees, quite a few examples of which have been reported in the media, ‘legal’ and ‘liability’ issues play a significant role. The biggest fears include the potential negative impact on unified communications and the premature release of sensitive information. This is especially true for listed companies.
What is the status of Dutch listed companies at the moment? Research by Citigate First Financial indicates that (medium) large Dutch listed companies are moderately active on social media platforms. The numbers (see figure 1):
- 48%-80% of the companies ‘do something’ with Twitter
- 32%-48% of the companies are active on Facebook
- 24%-52% of the companies have a YouTube channel
- 88%-92% of the companies are active on LinkedIn
- 8%-28% of the companies use Hyves.
The figures below show the percentages of companies that collect Twitter messages about their organization (‘monitoring’), publish ´tweets´ one or more times per week (‘engaging’) and actively support online relations (‘networking’) (see figure 2). It appears that AEX-listed companies are more active on Twitter than AMX-listed companies.
Why are listed companies only moderately active? A brief survey among the communications departments of various companies reveals that companies are indeed still struggling to find a suitable strategic approach: “Our social media-strategy is still under construction right now”, one spokesperson said: “We are still thinking about the most effective way to use social media as a strategic tool.”
‘Legal’ and ‘liability’ considerations aside, Citigate First Financial advises companies to at least start ‘monitoring’ social media. Then they will be aware of the ‘tweets’ that appear about the company, and what is written on Facebook, so that they have a clear and complete picture of the company’s reputation. They can then use this information to develop an appropriate strategic approach, including effective compliance agreements.