5 Fixes for Your Broken Internal Communications Metrics

For decades, smart leaders have known that effective internal communications is essential to shareholder value and organizational success. And for almost as long, organizations have been “measuring” internal communications effectiveness by the worst possible means: long, involved annual or bi-annual employee surveys. These provide little actionable information and thus are rarely acted upon. Although they are sometimes used as a ruler with which to slap the knuckles of poorly performing managers.

Plenty of organizations try to measure the nebulous concept of “employee engagement” (see #2, below) with activity metrics that are way too crude. Employees are key to your success, so why measure the impact of how you communicate with them with something as simplistic as “email opens?”

Here are five tips to improve your internal communications metrics:

1. Replace your annual survey with quarterly surveys.

Recently, high performing organizations such as Southwest Airlines have begun using quarterly pulse surveys to measure employee knowledge and likely behavior. By surveying employees quarterly it becomes much easier to tie communications activity to changes in employee attitude. Things happen fast and surveys are easy to do, so why wait a whole year to identify potential problems?

2. Follow the standards.

The IPR’s internal communications measurement standards actually do away with the ubiquitous but poorly defined “employee engagement.” Instead, they recommend focusing on behavior and knowledge. Here are their recommendations:

CategoryDefinitionPossible Metrics Column5Column6Column7
AwarenessWhether employees have heard of an organizational message, issue, or topics% increase in employee recalling your message
KnowledgeEmployees’ level of comprehension about organizational messages, issues, or topics % incease in employee believing your message
Understanding Employees’ ability to relate their knowledge to their work in a way that helps the organization achieve its goals % employees who incorporate knowledge into their work
RelevanceDegree to which employees find communications from the organization meaningful and useful% increase in credibilty
Retention of information Degree to which employees can recall key messages or topics when asked after a particular period of time% employees able to recall a key message
AttitudeA way of thinking or feeling about a subject (about an organization, topic, or issue), ranging from very positive to very negative % increase in perception of your organization as inclusive & diverse
AdvocacyEmployees’ discretionary effort and time to promote or defend an organization and its products and services
EmpowermentEmployees have the information, rewards, and power to take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve performance% decrease in perception of internal /external discrimination
CollaborationThe process of employees across different divisions and or units coming together to solve a problem and/or successfully create something
Teamwork The process of employees within the same unit coming together to successfully achieve a common goal or objective under the leadership of an appointed manager% employees participation in D&I related events
Discretionary Effort The amount of effort employees give to an organization, a team, or a project above and beyond what is required% employees participation in D&I related events
Trust A belief in the reliability, truth, and integrity of the organization's leadership, decision-making, and communications
SatisfactionExtent to which employees are happy or content with their job or work
TransparencyThe willingness of the organization to share positive and negative information with employees in a timely fashion
FairnessEmployee’s perceptions that organizational processes that allocate resources and resolve disputes are impartial and just
Organizational Impact
ProductivityThe quality and quantity of work output based on resources
InnovationThinking differently; experimenting with new approaches, ideas, or behaviors relative to the organization
Continuous improvement The process by which employees offer small or large improvements to improve efficiency, productivity, and quality of product or process in the work environment
ReputationInternal and external stakeholders’ evaluation of an organization, based upon personal and observed experiences with the company and its communication % reduction in repports of racist or discrimantory behavior
Employee RetentionThe number or percentage of employees who remain employed after a particular period of time
Safety Employees’ freedom from physical and emotional harm, injury, or loss

3. Measure your Say-Do Gap.

An even better approach, and one that has long been tied to higher organizational performance, is to measure the alignment between what organizational leaders say and what they actually do. Think about it. If your leaders are talking incessantly about a set of goals or priorities but are not acting in ways that enable employees to achieve them, what happens to the credibility of the organization? You need look no further than the White House, Wells Fargo, or Uber if you don’t know the answer.

Narrowing your Say-Do Gap enhances organizational effectiveness and, in many cases, results in a dramatic improvement in financial performance. Well-known employee communications guru Jim Shaffer makes some great arguments on why you should be measuring your Say-Do gap.

4. Dump all activity metrics that don’t pass the “So What?” test.

Look at every metric you’re currently studying and ask, “So what?” So what if your email is opened, your Intranet clicked on, or your newsletter liked? What is the impact on your goals? How do emails and clicks impact your business goals of increasing the talent pool, improving customer satisfaction, or reducing turnover and retention? If you can’t tie any of your current metrics to one or more of the outcomes listed in the standards table above, then get rid of them and measure something more meaningful.

5. Measure external conversations.

In an era in which good talent is increasingly hard to find, it is vital to measure your reputation among your potential talent pool. Studies like those put out by Fortune and www.greatplacetowork.com are good benchmarks of how your organization stacks up against competing employers. Regularly analyzing comments on review sites such as Glassdoor can be good indicator of your reputation as an employer. ∞

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