The Best New Thing In the World: Internal Communications Measurement Standards

From a practitioners’ perspective, the 2017 International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) paper presented by Sean Williams, Julie O’Neil, Stacey Smith, and Michele Ewing is the best new thing in the world. (That’s the four of them to the right, along with Tina McCorkindale, President and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations.)

The paper reported on research intended to answer two fundamental questions that have plagued internal communications managers for years:

  1. What should internal communications measurement standards include?
  2. How should those standards be defined?

The standards the paper presents are based on a Delphi study, two years of effort, and a worldwide collaboration between academics and practitioners. Participants in the study had to have a minimum of ten years in the communications industry and had to have been responsible for internal communication for at least five years. In addition, the researchers presented the potential standards to more than 150 communications practitioners and academics at three international conferences to gather additional feedback. The results were then distilled into the standards presented in the paper.

** Visit this page for a list of our articles on how to measure internal communications. **

The biggest takeaway was the absence of some metrics that have been nearly universal in internal communications measurement: all the “output” metrics, such as email opens and click-throughs, as well as the eponymous if poorly-defined “engagement.” The consensus was that the former wasn’t a real measure of impact and the latter was embedded in many of the other metrics.

Instead the group focused on:

  • Outtakes, e.g., awareness knowledge, understanding of messages, and retention of information;
  • Outcomes, e.g., changes in attitude, collaboration, team work; and
  • Organizational impact.

Here are the standards:

CategoryDefinitionPossible Metrics
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

(Thanks to gerault on Pixabay for the image.)

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.

1 Comment

  1. sdwilliams

    Thanks for this, Katie (Why is this all caps?) Next steps are already underway – testing our assumptions and initial research.