Traditional Assumptions vs. Today’s Realities
Traditionally, organizations somehow assumed that their workers were magically isolated from all other news sources and therefore could be spoon-fed only the news chosen by their employers. Social media has changed all that. Today, employees are more likely to get information about changes in your organization from blogs, Twitter, and text messaging than your internal newsletter.
With a few keystrokes, every employee has access to the same information that you thought you’d mentioned in confidence to an investor. Your typical employee probably wakes up in the morning to a radio, checks her Facebook and Twitter feeds for the latest news, reads a few blogs and online news sources, reads the local paper, talks to friends in the car pool, talks to coworkers around the water cooler, and reads a number of magazines and blogs relative to the job. After work, she sees ads at the grocery store and on the bus, talks to other parents at the children’s football game, watches the evening news, catches a rerun of The Daily Show on Hulu, helps her child do her online homework, plays games on the Internet, checks out some of her favorite sites, and reads a mommy blog or two. Somehow, amidst all that clutter, the boss is trying to communicate some gobbledygook about mission vision or values, or yet another option in a benefit plan. In other words, your average employee is bombarded with just as many marketing messages as your average prospect, many of them originating from the External Communications Department down the hall.
At the same time, with unemployment lower than it has been in seven years and a strengthening economy, talk of “talent shortage” has replaced potential layoffs as the most frequently discussed boardroom topic. Increasingly, employees with the skills that companies desire are getting harder to find and more expensive to recruit. So internal culture has taken on a much more significant role in the success of your organization, and as a result, employee engagement, recruitment, and retention have taken on new importance when evaluating communications.
And, while PR, marketing and social media managers have more and more data at their fingertips, and are showing their results via a sexy new interactive measurement dashboard, your average internal communicator is reporting results in total isolation, relying on the annual employee survey or the ad hoc survey about the newsletter. So, if all the things that internal communicators do are more important than ever, why is it that measurement of internal communications hasn’t kept pace with the changes in the media environment or for that matter the reporting environment?
Part of the reason is lack of tools (or at least an awareness of tools.) Measuring analytics on your Intranet or Yammer-like platforms was unheard of a decade ago. But the tools and techniques are here now. And the same rule applies to internal communications as external: You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it. So if you want to retain the best and brightest talent and recruit more like them, you need to continuously evaluate what messages have gotten through, and how they impact your employees’ perceptions of the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Here are three metrics that should be part of every measurement dashboard or report that senior leadership sees:
Decades ago when I was first suggesting to clients that internal communications should have a place on their measurement dashboard, employee engagement was barely a concept under discussion. Today, most of the major firms in the employee research space, like Watson Wyatt, have standard questions in every employee survey. In addition to the usual “How satisfied are you with your job?” they include:
- To what extent are you likely to recommend ___ as a good place to work?
- To what extent do you spend discretionary time at company events?
- To what extent are you involved in your company’s community or CSR activities?
These questions should not be asked in an annual or biannual survey. Instead, they should be put to employees quarterly on your Intranet and/or after any employee meetings.
Additionally, use the same definitions of engagement that your web analytics folks use—time on site, pages per visit, comments, shares, etc.—to track engagement with your Intranet or internal networking platform.
Use clickthrough rates for your internal emails with a system like BananaTag to track email engagement.
Just as TripAdvisor reshaped the travel industry, Glassdoor, other sites, and networks are reshaping the recruitment marketplace. Tracking your company ratings on these sites is critical. The best and brightest job seekers are checking them regularly, and they have access to all the dirt about your organization from other industry forums as well.
And while you’re at it, tap into whatever the external or social media folks are doing so you can track your corporate culture and reputation in all forms of social media. This is key to understanding how you will be perceived by the millennials who probably will be vital to your future success.
Team up with the HR folks and tap into (or co-create) an exit survey to understand why employees are leaving or looking elsewhere. Measure reduction in turnover or increase in retention as an outcome of your employee communications.
Finally, if internal communications wants to retain its position in the overall corporate hierarchy, then it needs to present results and data on the effectiveness of its efforts. Doing a once-every-two-year employee survey is not going to cut it. (It’s not like employee communications happens less often than social or PR.) So ax the annual or bi-annual survey and replace it with questions on your Intranet that test employee engagement and perceptions on a quarterly basis. That will keep the data fresh and relevant. It may also enable you to correlate social and digital data to shifts in employee attitude that you might not have spotted otherwise.