Have you taken a good, hard look at the impact and effectiveness of your internal communications lately? If not, now is the time. Get started with these steps.
A true strategy includes measurement to know whether or not your internal communications are effective. Why should you measure? For starters, it helps you know whether or not team members are engaged with the communications you develop and deploy.
For another reason, it helps you prove your value and provides justification for your Internal Communications budget.
Lastly, it helps you identify where you should be spending that budget and your time in order to maximize your role.
Step 1: Identify the “how” of collecting data.
The answers to what’s working and what isn’t are found in your employees, but what’s the best way to consult them? Which tactics should you use?
Some popular tactics include focus groups, employee surveys, and direct observation. Let’s take a closer look at how you might use each.
Made up of individuals throughout your organisation, focus groups (sometimes called “listening sessions”) can be a fruitful way to solicit and collect opinions and ideas. Your employees are full of ideas; many of them just haven’t had the opportunity to voice them.
Getting a group of employees together in the same room, where they are welcome to let their feedback and creativity flow, may produce the exact insights you need to breathe new life into your internal comms. In fact, 80% of IC team members believe that focus groups are very effective or quite effective.
Use these tips to make sure your focus group achieves the desired objective:
- Randomly select team members—don’t ask for volunteers.
- Make sure the focus group members are representative of your organisation as a whole. Include members from the leadership team all the way down to front-line employees.
- Use a third party to moderate the focus group. An internal party can skew the outcome.
- Don’t attend. Focus groups should be free of IC influence.
- Make it fun. Snacks, productive games, and so on can help people open up and want to attend.
Unlike focus groups, employee surveys should be anonymous, which can sometimes render more honest feedback. On the other hand, employee surveys don’t have the highest response rates (they hover between 30% and 40%).
Still, they are a worthwhile tool, providing data around what employees are doing with your communication and even why, depending on the questions you ask.
To increase the effectiveness of your surveys, try the following:
- Create questions specific to your organisation—don’t simply replicate a canned survey.
- Make sure it’s representative of communications that are relevant to each department, role, and employee experience.
- Distribute the survey as widely as possible. Realise that email or the company intranet may not be effective, especially if you have many front line employees.
- Make sure it can be completed in five minutes or less. Surveys that take longer have a 20% abandonment rate.
- Send a longer, more comprehensive survey twice a year or once a year, and send shorter pulse surveys (short surveys of 1-3 questions) more frequently.
This involves following designated employees around for a short period of time to observe how they interact with employee communications, and to learn which devices and channels they prefer.
Clearly, this method has drawbacks, including the fact that some employees may alter their behavior if they have someone shadowing them. However, observing the work habits and environments of front line employees can teach you a lot about how to improve your communications.
If you want to try direct observation, use these tips:
- Don’t get in the way of team members. This should go without saying, but try to be as invisible as possible. You’re not there to interview them or interact with them. Just watch.
- Have a list of questions you want to have answered via your observation: What devices do they use? When can they access those? Are they more likely to communicate at the start of a shift or at the end, or somewhere in between? How much time do they have to devote to consuming internal communications? Who else do they communicate with on the job? What makes them excited?
- Send them a thank you note or email after the shadowing session, and use that time to ask any follow-up questions.
Step 2: Identify the “what” of measurement.
You can’t measure what you don’t track, so it’s important to distill the learnings from your information-gathering tactics of choice into actual, trackable metrics. These metrics usually come in a couple of forms: What are people telling you, and what are they actually doing?
The data that results from your focus groups and surveys is the first form: What they are telling you. You may find some incongruity between that and what they are actually doing. For example, an employee may say they read the weekly corporate newsletter, but your email metrics may indicate they only open it about once a month. It’s important to track both.
Here are some examples of behavioral data that can be quantified:
- Content views and opens
- Content shares
- Comments on content or other written feedback (such as an email reply)
- Employee turnover
- Employee sick days taken
At this stage, you may find that you have gaps in your abilities to quantify and track where content is concerned. If this is the case, you’re not alone: Nearly 60% of IC employees reported not having the right internal technology for their purposes.
Employee communications apps are one potential solution, because they allow you to both create content and track what employees are doing with that content. You can then match those data with employee data from HR to start to develop a holistic picture of employee engagement and experience with your communications.
Step 3: Establish benchmarks.
To know if you are improving, you need to identify a starting point. Take a look at where you rank right now, using the intel you’ve received from the above tactics and channels currently in place.
What is your turnover rate? How many sick days are employees taking, on average? What is the rate of employee sharing of content, or commenting on content? How many times does video get viewed, and how does that compare to written content?
Record your baseline for each metric, so you can measure the effectiveness of the changes you make.
Step 4: Make a plan for improvement and communicate it.
Now that you know what employees say they want, and now that you’ve determined your benchmarks, it’s time to make your plan.
- Make a list of actionable items and create a road map for completing them.
- If you identified during the above steps that your organisation needs to explore and adopt different communications tools, that would be a good item for the top of your list.
- At every phase, make sure to communicate out to employees exactly what you’re doing with the results of your focus groups, surveys and so on. Many employees see surveys and other corporate feedback requests as a waste of time, so it’s important to dispel that belief through action.
Step 5: Continue to measure and adjust
Once you’ve implemented changes, keep a constant eye on the metrics to see if those changes influenced improvement: Did your turnover decrease? Did employee shares of content increase? If you didn’t achieve the desired result, what will you try next to turn things around?
Your plan for internal communications success should be living and breathing, relying constantly on the data to determine the path forward.
Remember: Your role plays an integral part in both understanding and supporting the employee experience. None of these steps are intended to be a quick fix, and getting to the heart of whether your communications are doing their job may take months, but the effort and time it takes will be worth it.
An employee communications app makes it easy to track and measure the effectiveness of internal communications. If you’ve struggled to find the right tools that tell the story of internal communications at your organisation, let’s talk.
Still doing research? Check out our eGuide below for guidance and tips.