An annual employee survey is a useful communications measurement tool, but is it really enough? Many things change over the course of a year. It's also important to understand the impact of specific initiatives and related internal communications throughout the year. This guide will help you get started with measuring internal communications in your organization.
When Should We Measure Internal Communications?
Annual in-depth surveys engagement and satisfaction surveys can carry additional questions to provide some insights into the effectiveness of internal communications.
At intervals to track attitudes regular measurement helps communicators to gauge the ever-shifting feelings and attitudes within an organization and to tailor messages to make sure they are appropriate to their audiences.
Prior to a specific communications campaign in order to best understand the impact of internal communications, it is necessary to measure (awareness, attitudes, knowledge etc) before a campaign.
After a significant communication or campaign it is important to measure the effectiveness and impact of significant communications programs and initiatives. This allows you to tailor internal communications to make sure they are effective and delivering quantifiable business value.
What to Measure
Measuring the impact of communication is a critical step and can include the following.
Audience perception measurements - Were messages seen as relevant, consistent and credible? Were the messages understood? How well do employees feel they are being supported? Do employees understand exactly what needs to happen as a result of the communication(s)?
Change in behavior the objective of most internal communication is to change the attitudes and behaviors of employees. Therefore, it is valuable to identify and measure factors such as: What changed? Was there more or less of a behavior? What is now different?
Impact on business goals / outcomes - Communication measurement should enable internal communicators to quantify the impact of communications on business objectives. For example:
- The number of employees who signed up for share scheme (following its promotion)
- The shift in attitudes regarding customer service and the projected impact of increased customer retention
- The number of usable suggestions submitted via an employee suggestion initiative (and the financial value of those suggestions)
Isolating the impact of internal communication
Communication does not happen in a vacuum and it can sometimes be difficult to isolate the impact of communication versus other factors (incentive schemes, new product launches, factors external to the organization and so on). Possible solutions include:
- Communications control groups (isolating a group, such as a single remote location, and not communicating them about a specific initiative or goal, then looking at how their actions differ from groups you have communicated with).
- Assessing the change in behavior with regard to a business goal which was communicated well, versus a business goal with little or no communication.
- Estimate the % influence of communications versus other influencing factors.
Calculating the financial value of internal communication
Calculations of the financial value of communication will, at best, be estimates. However, it is still an important part of communication measurement as it starts a conversation with senior managers as well and can demonstrate the enormous value of effective internal communication.
Consider the impact of an effective internal crisis communication response. A comparison can be made against a situation (internally or within a similar organization) which wasn't handled as well, and quantifiable value attributed to factors such as:
- Volume of customers retained.
- Retention of good staff who might otherwise have left.
Qualitative Internal Communication Measurement
In addition to quantitative measures of communications effectiveness, qualitative communication measurement should also be undertaken. Qualitative techniques can include:
Free form answers in surveys - The SnapComms staff survey provides options for free form answers which can either be included in overt desktop surveys or as part of an open-ended opt-in 'silent survey' which is activated by employees when required and helps to keep lines of communication open.
Focus groups - One of the challenges associated with focus groups is to encourage participation, and to manage attendance and required resources (people, venues, catering etc). The RSVP desktop alert can collect data on employee attendance and preferences, adding appointments into staff Outlook calendars and providing IC staff with reporting on dietary preferences, transport requirements etc.
Discussion forums - Although face-to-face interviews and focus groups are often the best option for qualitative communication measurement, internal social media can be a useful addition or substitute. Set up employee discussion forums to investigate specific issues. Monitor comments made in discussion forums to gather qualitative measures of how employees are thinking, feeling and behaving.
Avoiding Survey Bias
Avoiding non-response or self-select bias When surveys rely on employees to opt in or 'self-select', you may mostly hear from the squeaky wheels or people with an agenda motivating them to participate. The SnapComms desktop survey tool provides recurrence, random sampling and escalation options to help ensure that representative internal communications measurement data is collected from across the organization.
Control groups - The SnapComms suite of internal communications tools are targetable to specified employee or employee groups. This allows control groups for communications campaigns to be set up. The content management consol allows you to identify survey responses from control groups and hence to compare and assess the impact of internal communications campaigns.
The impact of time on recall - Recall rates will drop over time, hence if communication campaigns are to be compared with one another, communications measurement needs to be carried out at the same time period after each campaign. The SnapComms content management console allows you to view campaigns and communications by 'go live' dates which make it easier to ensure that communications measurement is carried out at a consistent time after each campaign.
Providing context for a quiz or survey - A customizable introduction can be provided for each desktop survey or quiz allowing context to be given. For example, a product knowledge quiz without context may cause employees to worry about the purpose of the quiz and possibly work harder to ensure they provide the correct answers. However the same quiz with an explanation "the purpose of this quiz is to see how well the communications team are doing, therefore please be as honest as possible" is more likely to provide an accurate measure of communication effectiveness.
Encouraging Survey Participation
Promoting the survey to encourage participation - The higher survey participation rates are, the more statistically accurate and relevant the results will be. The SnapComms internal communications channels include tools such as; desktop alerts, scrolling desktop feeds, screensaver messaging and user which can all be used to raise the profile of surveys and encourage participation.
Communicating survey findings and actions being taken - When employees believe that the outputs from staff surveys will be constructively used, they are more likely to participate. Therefore, ensure that survey results and the resulting actions being taken are well communicated to staff. messages, newsfeeds and articles in the staff magazines are great ways get messages across without their becoming buried in email in-boxes.