The Paine of Measurement
Once upon a time, about a decade ago, actually, the CEO of a large New Hampshire-based corporation told me that the last thing he cared about was employee recruitment and retention. When it came to employees, all he cared about was how fast he could get rid of them. Sadly, he probably wasn’t the only CEO at the time with that attitude.
I occasionally wonder what his feelings would be today, when the U.S. economy is essentially at full employment and talent is a rare commodity. In reality, no matter what the unemployment rate is, attracting and keeping talent is still essential to any organization’s success.
And, of course, there is now ample and widely-accepted research demonstrating that better informed employees lead to higher profits. Ever since Sears tied customer retention to employee morale back in 1998, organizations have known that the more loyal and engaged your employees are, the happier your customers will be and the more loyal they will be, and as a result you will see higher profits. Even the least socially-enlightened CEO will agree that, if it increases profits, then it’s worth investing in.
Which is why “internal communications” is now held in such high esteem in so many organizations.
You say “organizational,” I say “internal.” A brief digression about terminology.
I put “internal communications” in quotes there because throughout this issue we use that term interchangeably with “organizational communications” and “employee communications.” I know, I know (please don’t rage Tweet @ me): to some there is an enormous difference between the three terms, but “internal communications” is by far the most commonly used of the three. So for SEO reasons, we chose to use that term.
For the record, “employee communications” is simply an outdated concept. Employees today come in so many different varieties. Don’t contractors, agency partners, and board members need to be just as informed as employees about key developments, strategy, and objectives? And, yes, “organizational communications” addresses those deficiencies but it is too often confused with communications by an organization as opposed to communications with stakeholders.
Internal reports to corporate…
As the “employees are expendable” philosophy has been replaced by the belief that hiring and keeping talented employees is critical to success, we have seen a growing trend for internal communications to report to corporate communications. This makes perfect sense for a variety of reasons:
- Talent today wants to work for a company with a good reputation, the maintenance of which falls directly within the purview of corporate communications. So increasingly corporate comms is measured by its success in attracting and keeping talent.
- Employees are the face of the company and represent it on a daily basis—to customers, communities, and the rest of the world. There is nothing that limits a company’s success faster than employees who are not in alignment with the company’s priorities. Equipping employees with the knowledge they need to help the company succeed is critical:
- They must be the first to know about what’s going on—whether it is good news or bad.
- They must trust the source of that news—senior leadership as well as internal communications—or they won’t believe the information.
- You cannot have happy customers without good, well-informed employees. Who better to keep employees informed than corporate communications?
As a result of this organizational trend, metrics for internal communications are showing up on communications dashboards.
… but internal measurement is lacking.
Despite recent interest in internal comms, and even the development of standards for their measurement, the sad truth is that the measurement of internal communications is still being done badly or not at all. Which is why we’ve devoted this entire issue to measuring internal communications. We provide you with a list of essential tools, six steps to perfect measurement, and a bunch of other good stuff.
The articles in this issue
Value creation—the concept that measurement should have increased revenue or cost savings as both its metrics and motivation—is a hot topic for internal comms. In this issue you will read about it in:
- “From Cost Center to Value Creation: 3 Steps to Transform Internal Communication,” by Jim Shaffer;
- “How To Build Measurable Business Performance with Internal Communications,” and
- “Using a Leader Say-Do Survey To Align Leadership,” both by Mary Miller.
Myself, I have mixed feelings about value creation as a goal for internal comms measurement. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for measurement in terms of business objectives, no matter what’s being measured, or where in the world you are doing the measuring. I envision a day when all comms evaluation is done in terms of business value, and the communications function is thereby elevated to its rightful strategic role.
But the reality is that the value creation that Mary and Jim are talking about is only possible in large companies with big budgets. Which is great for those of you with the resources and opportunities to work with. But the average TMA reader charged with internal communications works with a relatively small organization. They’d be happy to just measure engagement with their emails.
Which is why we’ve included some exciting email stats from Politemail in:
If you are just starting out with internal comms measurement, don’t miss:
And when you are ready to put together a full-blown internal comms measurement system, read:
Most internal comms measurement involves surveying employees, a subject we cover in:
- “The Essential Tool Kit for Internal Communications Measurement” and, especially
- “Essential Questions to Include on Every Employee Survey”
Here’s an exciting opportunity for your organization to assist in validating the new internal comms measurement standards:
And last but not least, we have a very deserving Maven: