Measuring Inner Communications: Metrics, KPIs and Examples
It’s often said that what gets measured gets done. Although it may feel overwhelming or even impossible to measure the value of something as intangible as communication, the fact is there are definitive metrics by which you can measure success.
And the reward of understanding the impact of any strategic internal communication plan is well worth the effort. Measurement helps create credibility for communication among an organization’s employees and its leaders, and it ensures that communication has a place at the table in any strategic business discussion. The key to successfully measuring communication effectiveness is to focus metrics on the outcome (the action you seek), not the output (how you communicate). Since the goal of internal communication is to drive action and behaviors, it’s not enough to know that a message was distributed to employees. Rather, measurement needs to focus on whether the message was received, heard and acted upon.
Why Measure Internal Communication?
If a company had a customer relations problem or tanking financials, would you expect leaders to say, “We know we’re doing a bad job of meeting customer needs, so why bother measuring?” Unlikely.
They’d want to go out and find out exactly what was wrong and take immediate action to fix it. They’d also want to get credit for taking a smart, strategic approach to make an improvement grounded in facts. And, they’d want to be able to keep a pulse on progress to be able to adjust strategies in real time. When solving communication problems, we’ve found it helpful to include some type of communications measurement tool or method to guide our solution.
Here are six reasons to measure workplace communication:
- It helps you establish a baseline so you know which areas to focus on and how you’re improving over timeIf you are serious about effective communication, you need a baseline from which to measure progress and success, which comes from an initial assessment of problem areas through means such as surveys or focus groups. This benchmark provides the basis for comparing future research so you know what’s working well and where to adapt strategies going forward.
- It can highlight key issues and pinpoint critical areas for action, informing your internal communications planWe can understand attitudes that exist and the extent of communication breakdowns, which highlight the issues that need to be solved. Advanced statistics help us know where to start to have the most impact or improve a specific outcome. This allows organizations to target the most critical areas to address – whether it’s a specific attribute such as timeliness or completeness, or an opportunity such as how supervisors communicate – allowing you to be more prescriptive and get better results faster.
- It helps you learn employees’ communication preferences through research so you can adapt as needed to reach them more effectively and in ways that work best for them
Internal communication measurement can find out if employees have received and understood key messages you want to deliver, and/or if the channels you’re using are effective at delivering those key messages. The results can help you modify and focus future communications.
With the right data, you can drill down to understand how communication is working in various geographies, divisions and functions, even on the employee level, and use the results to leverage communication resources (people and dollars) in more efficient ways. Best yet, you can stop what’s not working and reallocate or save resources.
The act of measuring is a symbol of change and will be valued by employees. However, beware of measuring without the commitment to follow through – to be effective in supporting change, you need to do something with the data to show progress. Low response rates can mean you have historically done a lot of surveying without looping back with employees about the actions taken as a result.
We often hear a lot about employee survey fatigue; a bigger problem inside organizations today is surveying employees and doing little or nothing with the results.
The bottom line is, what gets measured is what gets done. If leaders and managers know they’re being judged on their communications efforts, they’ll start paying more attention to how and when they engage employees.
Many executives demand (and rightly so!) facts to back up communication recommendations. Communication metrics can show the numbers behind your efforts, document progress and help leaders make smart decisions that will ultimately help you achieve your business and communications outcomes. It can also build and/or reinforce your case for resources as you look toward fixing any communications issues.
How to Measure Communication Effectiveness
We’ve defined the guiding principles for measurement as:
- Keep strategies simple and doable (or they won’t get done)
- Use measurement strategies that already work for the organization
- Use measurement strategies that can live on after the initial communication metrics are complete
- Ensure senior management will champion strategies
- Ensure staff who participate in the evaluation process feel comfortable being candid, see the results, and have the tools to apply the feedback and/or results
Understanding the methodologies and tools at your disposal to track, analyze and measure internal communications can help you when shaping your overall communications strategy. The following techniques have proven themselves as both effective and impactful in our work with organizations over the years.
1. Build communication metrics into existing measurement vehicles with a Quantitative Communications Assessment Survey
This enables you to connect to specific business and performance metrics, which helps drive accountability. For example, if your organization conducts an annual employee commitment survey, consider integrating a section (or at least several questions) about internal communication or specific tactics.
Use this communications survey to gauge employees’ perceptions of internal communications – specifically, channels, messages, senior leadership communications, supervisor communications and overall communication environment. We conduct surveys like this for our clients often and the results are compared to data from other institutions for industry benchmarking.
2. Gather insights through existing business metrics
Pinpoint the level of employee understanding and action around key organizational priorities. How? Connect existing metrics to the outcomes you seek to accomplish through communication and establish a correlation to overall business results.
3. Conduct an internal communications channel audit
Inventory and assess your internal channels to see how they stack up against best-in-class attributes of internal communications. Then, use the findings to inform necessary updates to your internal communication channel strategy and internal communications plan.
4. Partner with outside experts to do an on-site assessment
Results of an on-site assessment give you a roadmap of recommendations to elevate your internal communications and function. This can be ideal for teams who don’t have time for a full quantitative assessment or don’t know where to start. An on-site assessment is often part of a robust channel audit, allowing auditors to assess in-person communication channels such as shift huddles, staff meetings, town halls, one-on-ones and more.
5. Run a pulse survey
Identify a representative sample of your target audience and reach out to them for feedback on communications directed at them. Ask the survey participants a few questions to get a “pulse” for the impact of a communication. This can be done via conference call, email or an intranet posting.
6. Facilitate employee listening sessions or focus groups
Gather employees to participate in an interactive discussion in which you ask specific questions about communication tactics. This can be done informally or in a more formal setting, depending on your organization’s culture. This will allow you to gain deeper insights into employee expectations of communication and identify differences in expectations between various management levels and roles. We conduct focus groups of this nature often for our clients as they find employees are typically more open to sharing feedback with an objective third party.
7. Engage in leader listening
Leaders should take time to consider their perceptions of current communication and what improvements they think are necessary. Take steps to understand what ideal communication looks like and what is required for the organization to get there. As we do with employee listening, we often work with our clients to facilitate leader listening sessions, and as a result synthesize themes, core takeaways and develop an action plan or adjust internal communications plans based on findings. This exercise can also unearth opportunities for leaders to improve their communication capability and then we help identify appropriate solutions.
8. Conduct a 180-Degree Communications Effectiveness Survey for Leaders
Through survey tools such as LeaderCommCheck™, leaders get important feedback from their direct reports on their communication, which will help them know how to lead and communicate even more effectively with their team.
9. Form an informal employee advisory board
Want to know how employees really feel about existing and new communication plans and strategies? Ask them. Appoint a group of employees who can offer regular feedback and who can help measure success.
These proven methods to measure internal communication generate actionable insights about the effectiveness of an organization’s internal communications, enabling communications teams to make data-driven decisions about plans, content and channels to reach their employees.
6 Essential Internal Communications Metrics
Measurement doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. But it is important to remember that when measuring the impact and effectiveness of communication, both qualitative and quantitative results are ideal.
One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.
– Grace Murray Hopper, Computer Pioneer
Data and insights about the effectiveness of internal communications (what’s working, what’s not, what audiences need/want, etc.), as well as comparative data on other institutions, enable the internal communications team to make data-driven decisions about plans, activities and channels.
We’ve outlined the six communication KPIs we’ve found best indicate the impact of employee communications efforts, whether directly (like communication effectiveness scores and channel performance) or indirectly (such as employee engagement and turnover rates).
- Communication Effectiveness Scores
This gives you data and insights about the effectiveness of internal communications (what’s working, what’s not, what audiences need/want, etc.), as well as comparative data on other institutions, enabling the internal communications team to make data-driven decisions about plans, activities and channels. Seeing shifts and/or patterns from survey results around communication perceptions and needs allows leaders and communications functions to be more precise with planning and prioritization.
- Employee Engagement Scores
The effectiveness of communication, as gauged above, can contribute to employee engagement (good or bad). When employees feel like they have the information they need to do their jobs and are emotionally connected to the company in a positive way, they are more engaged. This has a direct correlation to employee retention and turnover rates. For example, if an organization experiences high employee engagement, there’s generally less turnover.
- Channel Performance
Monitor the performance of your communication channels to maintain an understanding of what the most engaging and effective communication channels are, and which channels are performing best by measuring key engagement factors. This could be open rates or intranet page reads/button clicks, page visits and logins, adoption rates for new apps or video views. This could also be attendance rates for town halls and virtual coffees or even the rate at which calls to action are taken on printed collateral (i.e., flyers or posters).
- Employee Feedback
Keep a finger on the pulse of how employees are feeling in the workplace, how changes are being received, what communications worked (and didn’t) and what questions need to be addressed over time. The insights gained from anecdotal or qualitative feedback inform internal communications priorities and plans, and through a smart listening process, also signals that others’ perspectives are valued and leads to greater shared ownership in the success of internal communications.
- Individual Leader Effectiveness Scores
This is the measurement of how effective employees consider their organization’s leaders. This could be the CEO, or it could be the leader of a specific line of business or a manager of a site or individual team. Through regular quantitative measurement, leadership performance reviews or listening sessions, the leaders themselves, and the communications team can gain a sense of how effective employees consider their communications.
- Organizational Performance & Productivity
When employees report high leader communication effectiveness, it is more likely that this leader’s team is connected to the big picture and often more engaged, typically leading to greater productivity and overall performance.
How The Grossman Group Can Help
If you’re looking to assess and measure the effectiveness of communications within your organization or to implement communications plans based on findings, we can help.
Our team of experts in internal communication, research and leadership communication partner with organizations often on the measurement strategies shared in this blog. We’re big believers in measuring for a purpose and taking action on what we discover, keeping business outcomes top of mind always.
Whether you are just beginning to think about the importance of internal communication, you are in the midst of an existing plan or you’re measuring the success of your overall strategy, remember that this is all about the bottom line.
Take action on the feedback and insight you gain when measuring internal communications. When leaders or communications teams fail to act on valuable information that could help advance their goals, they not only squander an opportunity but also hurt their credibility and break down hard-won employee trust.
At its core, communication is an instrument of strategy as well as a strategy in itself. It’s an instrument of strategy because it helps you share your mission, vision, and values with employees. It’s a strategy because it will help you achieve specific goals. So, measure your efforts (what gets measured, gets done), refine as needed and you’ll set yourself up to deliver effective communications that help you achieve your organization’s goals.
What measures can you put in place today that will help you and your organization gauge communication success?
If you’re looking to assess and measure the effectiveness of communications within your organization, we can help. Click below to contact us today!