ABB Inc. recently posted an article on its intranet: “Don’t get rejected: 5 tips for submitting a smooth expense report.”
When U.S. Internal Communications Manager Matthew Young measures the success of that story, he won’t be just counting email opens and clicks. He will focus on whether there is a subsequent decline in the number of rejected expense reports.
ABB illustrates the challenge for communicators as they weigh the question of output versus outcomes, a matter highlighted in a survey, “Internal Communications Measurement,” from PoliteMail and Ragan Communications.
The challenge of measuring outcomes is widespread in the industry, the survey reveals. Some confess they aren’t sure what to measure.
One survey respondent wrote, “I would say we are in our infancy when it comes to our knowledge about how to effectively measure internal communications and what methods are available to us.”
At ABB, Young hopes for a 30 percent drop in the rate of people botching their expense reports. Calculate the wages for the time wasted by employees doing it wrong, and a change like that would make the bosses sit up and take notice.
“So, boom, we just saved all that money,” he says, “and as a side effect people are more understanding of the culture.”
Email the top channel, but the least measured
When asked to rank the importance of communications channels, communicators rated email first, followed by intranets, and manager supervisor meetings. Asked which channels employees use most frequently, email again topped the list, followed by meetings, and then intranets.
The commercial real estate firm JLL (also known as Jones Lang LaSalle) relies largely on email for internal communications, said Chris Close, director of internal communications. When the company surveys employees on engagement and knowledge of its strategy, interesting data appear, he says.
“What we’ve found is that people who read [the newsletter] every week are four times more committed or confident in the direction of the company than people who never read it,” he says.
That is significant correlation, he adds.
Michael DesRochers, managing director of PoliteMail, noted the survey reveals that communicators are looking for more information.
“Of the people that do measure, they want more out of their measurement tools,” he says, “They are not satisfied with basic open and click measurement. They want to track read-time.”
They also want to tie these outputs to outcomes, he says, adding, “One leads to another.”
Some communicators, tasked with both internal and external comms, have less time to measure. In the town of Richmond Hill, Canada, a Toronto suburb, communications are largely external, but they do use internal email, said Meeta Gandhi, director of communication services.
She would like to have greater understanding of the outcomes among the 600 full-time employees. “Whether or not they took any action based on that [email] is yet another thing that we need to look at and measure,” she says.
Gap in priorities for content
The survey revealed other points for internal communicators—and their executives—to chew on.
Though 81 percent of communicators said that engaging employees was the top priority of their departments, only 66 percent said that employee engagement was tops for their executive leadership teams.
Engagement is essential at a global brand such as PepsiCo, which has 260,000 employees worldwide. Fortunately, the goal is shared by executives, says Kim Grieser, senior manager on the global internal communications team.
“Employee engagement is a very high priority for our function, as well as for the executive leadership teams,” Grieser said. “Studies have shown that a more engaged organization is more productive, feels better about their company, and has less turnover.”
Communications are primarily in English, but crucial messages are sent out in six other languages: Spanish, simplified Chinese, Portuguese, French, Russian, and Arabic. Locally, communications are often translated.
“The tools are out there to the degree you can find what people are clicking on, looking at, commenting on, sharing, talking about,” PepsiCo’s Grieser said. “It’s harder to tell if people actually read something or not.”
Lack of tools tops the list
Whether they measure internal communications efforts or not, communicators’ lists of measurement challenges are very similar.
Even among communicators who do measure internal communications, the lack of tools topped the list of challenges (54 percent), followed by lack of time (52 percent), and lack of staffing (50 percent). Those who do measure are less likely than those who don’t to list not knowing what to measure (28 percent) or how to measure (21 percent) as challenges.
“We recognize the importance of measurement and metrics, but haven’t had the manpower to allocate to it,” one communicator commented in the survey.
For ABB’s Young, the most important measurement meets business goals, not simply communications goals. A 40 percent open rate does not amount to a victory.
DesRochers adds: “First you have to know if people got the message. Then you have to know if they understood it. Then you have to see if they take corrective action.”