10 must-know factors for measuring internal communications

The how and why of gauging the effectiveness of your messages to employees can be elusive. Here is solid guidance.


Get out your virtual yardstick.

Today more than ever, if you’re not routinely measuring your employee communication program, you’re missing an important opportunity to move from order taker to trusted advisor.

 

Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you approach measurement:

  • Measurement helps position you as an expert. You move from “the person who helps us get communication done” to “the professional who knows what employees need.”
  • Employees have great ideas on how to improve communication. If you’re stuck, simply ask, “What is one thing we can do to improve …?” and you’ll get lots of suggestions.
  • Measurement helps you speak the language of senior leaders. Leaders are comfortable with data, so every time you bring metrics to the conversation it helps you gain a seat at the table.
  • You never have to say, “I feel …” when making your case. Instead, you can say, “The data indicate …” or, “Employees prefer …”
  • One persuasive form of data that doesn’t require conducting research: demographics. It’s relatively easy to gather demographic data (age, job levels, locations, ethnicity, etc.) on employees, and that information is usually quite insightful. When you analyze demographics, you might be surprised to find out you’re one of the few people in your organization to do so. That will make you look especially smart.
  • A survey is not the only method for measuring effectiveness. For example, behavioral metrics are a good way to determine how communication channels are being used. For electronic communication, email opens, unique website visits and page views are all valuable metrics. You can also track such behaviors as the number of employees who attend a town hall or who pick up a printed piece.
  • Survey fatigue is a real problem, but one that can be solved. The problem is threefold: First, asking everyone to participate (that’s called a “census”) when just a small representative sample is needed. Second, ineffective surveys give measurement a bad name, with too many questions or questions that don’t make sense. Third, when results never get communicated or acted upon, employees think surveys are a waste of their time. Go ahead and survey, but make your survey very targeted, extremely purposeful and immediately actionable. Communicate, communicate, communicate about how you used survey results to improve your program.
  • Focus groups are underrated. Focus groups are real research that help you explore one or more topics to ask such questions as, “How does this work?” or “Why is this so?” A focus group study is not a direct substitute for a survey (which is the best way to collect data that you can analyze to demonstrate progress), yet focus groups do provide valuable insights.
  • Failing to measure doesn’t cut it. That’s the biggest mistake communicators make. Paralyzed by fear or perfectionism, many communicators measure seldom or—worse—never. A small, imperfect survey is much better than no measurement at all.
  • Failing to share the results—or act on them—is the second-biggest mistake. Once you conduct research, put it to use, and take action immediately.

Alison Davis is CEO of Davis & Company. A version of this post first ran on the Davis & Company blog.

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