Are your messages making it out to your workforce? Do even your most remote members of staff know and understand your company vision? It’s impossible to tell without measuring whether your internal communications are working in the first place.
A Gatehouse survey of internal communications professionals revealed a worrying statistic; two-thirds don’t check reports or dashboards to track the impact of their messaging on a regular basis. And, to top it off, the majority of leaders fail to ask for internal communications metrics at all.
This is even more surprising when you consider that tracking performance is a key element of business strategy. You can’t imagine a Sales Department unable to tell you their sales revenue for the month. Or a Marketing Department which doesn’t report on the inbound leads they’ve generated. Even Tech teams measure their successes in terms of ticket resolutions and user error rates. But when it comes to internal communications measurement, many of us are still shooting in the dark.
Why are internal communication metrics important?
Understanding which internal communication channels are most effective is a crucial element of any IC professional’s role. You need to make sure that your messages have the right vehicle to meet your needs.
If you want to deliver lasting positive change to your organisation, you need to know that your channels can create environments that encourage engagement, communication, and innovation across your entire workforce.
How to measure internal communications
Like many operational processes, you need to start with an audit of your existing channels. Every internal communications strategy should operate with the full awareness of which channels you have, and which channels people use (these can be different things!).
Then you’ll need to determine the effectiveness of those channels in delivering messages and engaging your workforce. Next, you need to measure the success of your channels. To do this, you need to set specific goals and determine which internal communications metrics matter most to you. These metrics can include measurables such as productivity rates, employee engagement or staff retention. Every organisation will have a different set of internal communication measurements based on the size and development of their business.
The 4 steps
1. Take inventory of your channels
Which channels does your company have in place for employee communication? Business communication channels broadly fall into two categories: operational communication and internal communication. Operational channels are the communications platforms your staff use as part of their day-to-day work, such as:
- Instant Messenger in Outlook
Internal communication channels are the ones your business uses to deliver top-level strategy, messaging and mission-critical information. These might include:
- Employee intranet
- Business newsletter
- Employee app
As you can see, there is potential to have some crossover, especially with the use of email. This is why you should audit all your channels, not just internal communications.
2. Determine whether your channels are fit for purpose
Effective communication in the workplace relies on channels that are delivering at peak performance. Test the quality of your internal communications channels by asking yourself the following questions:
Do your channels reach everyone?
It sounds simple, but it’s always good to check whether everyone has access to your channels. With the rise in remote working, it’s become even more vital to ensure that staff working from home have the same opportunities to interact as others. Communicating with employees shouldn’t be dependent on their location. Large organisations such as local authorities can often struggle to reach important off-site staff through traditional channels.
Do your channels facilitate two-way, group and enterprise-wide communication?
Successful internal communications channels provide two-way interaction. It’s one of the key internal communication best practices. This is because, if you want your employees to engage with your messaging, you need to give them a means to do so. Sometimes, direct messaging isn’t enough. Effective channels provide a forum for interaction that might include:
- Group conversations
- Recognition and celebrations
Rather than setting up each of these channels individually, consider an internal communications app. It offers all these two-way channels in one simple solution.
3. Measure your internal communication metrics
Data is becoming more and more accessible. Most internal communication software focuses heavily on delivering internal communication reports and dashboards. This allows you to measure specific metrics. Common internal communication metrics for determining the effectiveness of your channels include:
- Open/read rates
- Engagement rates
Engagement rates can include responses or comments, but most importantly, engagement is best measured by looking at employee behaviours. While not a metric you can attach a numerical value to, you can easily use internal communication surveys, polls and employee pulse to find out how effective your company messaging has been.
When you survey staff, remember to focus on the three main drivers of employee performance. Every internal communication definition should cover these key areas:
- connecting to company goals
- peer to peer commitment
- developing the right capabilities
It’s important to get a blend of hard data and employee sentiment to get a clear picture of your internal communications channels. According to research from Gartner, 59% of organisations will soon be using engagement data from sources other than formal surveys.
“The increased use of real-time analytics and recommendation engines in both consumer and business technologies has raised concern that feedback gathered from traditional engagement surveys every two years (or even yearly) is not frequent enough to provide a complete and current perspective”
Gartner Senior Director Analyst, Helen Poitevin
An employee app is an invaluable tool for improving internal communications. It puts direct communications into the hands of every employee. By allowing staff to use their favourite means of communication, whichever hardware or software platform they prefer, it removes barriers to connection. In-built modules make it easy to promote interaction and engagement, encouraging peer to peer co-operation, communication and collaboration at the swipe of a screen.
This makes it perfect for surveys, polls, and feedback. Survey requests are sent direct to each employee, in the same format, at the same time. As employees complete the survey, you receive feedback in real-time, enabling you to gauge opinion at a precise time. An internal communications dashboard will allow you to assess performance at a glance.
Schedule regular feedback opportunities into your internal communication plan, and you’ll start building an accurate picture of how your metrics are performing.
4. Benchmark, test, and improve your channels
Now that you have your internal communications metrics in place, you can start benchmarking the effectiveness of your channels. From there, you can start testing new things and improving the delivery and engagement of your corporate messaging.
Only by testing and analysing your channels can you really improve internal communication. And don’t be afraid to acknowledge poor performance. If your internal communications report has revealed that one of your channels isn’t pulling its weight, consider shutting it down and reinvesting time, money and effort into the channels that work.
With the recent pandemic, many companies have been forced to take a close look at how their channels stand up to communication in a crisis. It is a highly effective measure of your channels’ effectiveness to examine how well they reach every employee in an emergency. Did the right content reach the right audience at the right time? If not, it’s time to take stock.
The take-home message? Data is king
The best practice advice is to measure metrics whenever you can; even if they don’t officially belong to the Internal Communication function. For example, HR teams are perfectly placed to assess recruitment and retention rates, metrics that are impacted by internal communication’s activity.
The more data you can gather, the more effective you can make your internal communication tools. These valuable engagement channels should not be static elements of your business. To be agile, effective and productive as an organisation, your communications channels need to be too.
Without effective internal communication channels, making lasting change within your organisation becomes a serious challenge. Employee advocacy declines and innovation stagnates.
Today, this is more important than ever. With remote workers, people on the move and disconnected employees, the hard-to-reach workforce has presented a new set of unique challenges. You need to make sure that your channels are up to the task. The way to do this? Track your internal communications metrics.