Internal comms expert Saskia Jones returns to the H&H blog to talk all things measurement – and reveals 5 barriers that could be preventing you from getting the data you need.
As communicators, we all know the benefit of measuring results.
It helps us demonstrate that we are providing value to the business. It helps us get senior leader buy-in. And crucially, it helps us improve and respond, making our communications as useful to our audience and the organisation as possible.
But recent research by VMA has shown that only 54% of internal communicators agree that progress towards communications objectives are researched, measured and evaluated with metrics and KPIs. So, what’s holding us back?
In this article I’ll be laying out 5 barriers to effective internal communications measurement, and the actions you can take to avoid them.
5 barriers to effective internal comms measurement
1. Measuring outputs, not outcomes
Many internal communicators focus on output measures – such as page hits, number of downloads, number of attendees and so on.
Whilst these are valid metrics, they only highlight reach – they do not show whether internal communications have made a difference to what employees think, feel and do.
For this to happen, outcome measures must be added to your mix. These could include questionnaires, focus groups, interviews and more. For instance, you might have a record number of attendees at a ‘town hall’ meeting sharing your new organisational strategy, but without outcome measures, how do you know if your employees have understood it, are engaged with it or if they’re inspired to help deliver it going forward?
An excellent summary of output and outcome measures is provided in this one-page Communication Measurement Matrix from CIPR.
2. Fear of being exposed
Often, internal communicators are concerned that they will lose respect if the results of their communications initiatives are not favourable. However, without data you won’t be regarded highly either.
Senior leaders appreciate data. Especially for a function such as internal communications, which some consider to be a nice-to-have, or ‘fluffy’. By communicating both good results and bad, and sharing the actions you suggest in response, it shows you are strategic, authentic and trustworthy.
Data is always valuable – measurement will help show what has worked and what you need to do differently to best benefit the organisation.
3. Measuring results, but not taking action
Collecting and analysing data is of little use if nothing is actioned as a result. Furthermore, results shouldn’t just be shared with the internal communications team, but right up to the top of your organisation or partner team.
If a thoughtful approach is taken to share data and offer solutions, it will be much appreciated at the top.
For every communications strategy, it is valuable to produce a simple report which includes a brief action plan. This doesn’t have to be more than one page.
Helpful areas to cover are: What have we achieved? What are the opportunities going forward? What are the risks? What specific actions do we need to take? If this is presented in a leadership meeting, it will help facilitate a conversation around the results and next steps, so you can jointly agree on the action plan.
4. Not connecting internal communications measures to organisational measures
As I explained in my previous blog for H&H, ‘6 easy steps to simplify your internal comms strategy’, your internal communication goals should be directly linked to your organisation’s goals.
You might be helping to embed new HR policies, or engaging staff in a brand refresh. You might be launching a new product that you’d love your staff to promote to friends and family, or you might be communicating vital health and safety information and procedures. Whatever the project, you will always be benefiting the business, and working in partnership with another team.
The beauty of this is that when the results come in, the solution isn’t just down to you. More often than not, a wider organisational response is needed.
For instance, if you find that there is a negative response to a new system for managing appraisals, or a low take-up, it’s a case of working with HR to make improvements together.
Perhaps you need to make the system more user-friendly, or better communicate the rationale for it. Without data, you won’t know why people aren’t using it. Show the value you add by providing data and solutions for improvement.
5. Measuring sometimes, but not always
Measurement shouldn’t be a one-off. It should be embedded in the culture of the internal communications team.
Many people think there isn’t time to measure, and some say there isn’t the budget. Neither can be true – for if you get measurement right, it will ultimately lead to more investment in the internal communications team.
You will command the respect of senior leaders. You will be seen as a strategic function. And you will be appreciated for providing valuable data to help the organisation achieve its goals.
It’s not enough to just rely on an annual employee engagement survey. Every member of the internal communications team should be responsible for measuring the impact of their communication projects as they happen.
It can be helpful to have one person in the team who can collate these measurements and results, and produce a regular report bringing it all together. This helps to rally the team, and keeps the focus on measurement and learning.
These 5 pitfalls are easy to fall prey to. But by avoiding these mistakes, you will build a winning internal comms team.
Making time for internal communications measurement is crucial. Sharing results freely and purposefully, and committing to future action as a result, is also important. This will enable you to better impact the organisation, better impact engagement levels, and better reach every employee.