We all know business leaders use external communications as a tool to drive growth and enhance their organization’s reputation. But did you know your internal communications efforts can have as great, if not more, of an impact on your organization’s overall success? Yep, it’s true!
How? It’s simple. Internal communications directly affect employees. If done consistently and with the right intent in mind, they can have a positive effect on staff. If done sparingly, they can have the opposite effect. In fact, not being consistent or intentional with your internal communications efforts can make employees feel uninformed. Worse yet, unimportant. That, my friend, can lead to unhealthy interactions with your customers. And take a bite out of your bottom line.
Indeed, your internal communications efforts play a key role in your company’s end game. Employee satisfaction and retention rates hinge on your ability to communicate effectively with staff. And the same is true of employee engagement and performance. The trouble is that very few communicators say they feel confident in their ability to measure the effectiveness of their internal communications efforts. At IronStrike, we think a big part of the problem may be a lack of strategy. But, more importantly, a lack of proper metrics. The key word here is proper.
Importance of measuring internal communications efforts
As change management consultants, we’re familiar with the teachings of Peter Drucker. Maybe you are too. If so, you know one of his famous rules: What is measured, gets improved. Of course, we believe this rule applies to your internal communications efforts—particularly when you consider it as one piece of your company’s overall public relations. But we’re not the only ones who think this way. In fact, the high point of the Barcelona Principles is the notion that goal-setting and measurement are fundamental to communications and public relations. And it’s not only outputs you want to measure, but also outcomes. Both on a quantitative and qualitative level. So, that leads us to the meat of this article. What goals and metrics should you focus on when assessing the health of your internal communications efforts?
Ways to measure internal communications efforts
It’s no secret that any good strategy begins with setting SMART objectives. You know, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. It’s a no brainer, right? Your internal communications efforts should start here as well.
Your objectives provide a foundation on which you can affix metrics. These are the measurements that let you know when you’re doing well and when you have room for improvement. In other words, these key performance indicators—or KPIs—help you know what “good” looks like.
Measuring internal communications efforts with key performance indicators (KPIs)
KPIs play an important role in assessing whether your internal communications efforts are hitting the mark. Let’s start with the easier KPIs, and then move onto some of the more complex ones.
In the simplest of terms, reach refers to how many employees receive the communications you send. You can measure reach many ways. Consider starting with your website, intranet or email. You can set KPIs to measure everything from distribution to email open rates, click-throughs, even video views. Remember, though, that reach is more of an output than an outcome. It’s based on sheer numbers. Just because you sent an email doesn’t mean someone read it on the other end.
When someone shows interest in something—even if it’s mild—you begin to move into what’s known as engagement. In other words, how much are your employees engaging with your content? Setting KPIs around engagement allows you to take your metrics to the next level.
An example of this is the number of people who subscribe to a enewsletter. Speaking of which, have you subscribed to our enewsletter yet? If not, we hope you’ll do so today! Okay, commercial break’s over. Aside from subscriptions, other KPI examples include sign-ups for events, participation in a survey, or the number of “likes” or “shares” on your social media channels. You can and should measure anything that moves staff to take action.
It’s important to point out that you should use technology to your advantage here. A lot of platforms and software tools are available to not only track engagement, but also reach. Be sure to research what tools might be best for your organization. We’re big fans of the analytics tools in programs like Survey Monkey and MailChimp. They make our lives’ easier!
The more people become engaged, the more you’ll start to see the desired behavior changes. They’ll likely be slow to show their face at first. But, over time, they’ll build momentum. And before you know it, you’ll have survived a major shift. Looking back, you should be able to point to times when consistent communications helped employees “get over the hump” and achieve greater satisfaction. Some KPIs related to this are retention rates, overall productivity and employee performance evaluations. In this category, focus on those things that you want employees to do differently. And be sure to reward behaviors that support your efforts.
Now it’s time to get down to the brass tacks. How can your internal communications efforts help keep you out of the red zone? That’s what your boss… and his boss… and her boss all care about, right? How do you prove your value in this regard? The good news is that defining KPIs in this category is possible with some work. Business KPIs traditionally sit in areas like sales, marketing and finance. Yet, internal communications play a role in helping those teams achieve them.
A great example of this is when efficient internal communications help a sales team member do his or her job more effectively. This, in turn, leads to improved customer service. And we can bet you know what comes next. Bingo! A better overall customer experience. Think for a minute about how this could affect your overall market share or revenue? Any good CEO would take notice of this.
Putting it all together
Assessing the health of your internal communications efforts is an ongoing process. You’ll likely find that you need to make a few tweaks here or there. Some professionals like to start with a communications audit. Then augment it with some additional research. And add a dash of A/B testing. And voilà! Now you’re cooking!
Once your broth is boiling, you’ll want to take all the learnings and create compelling content that you know will hit a homerun with your teams. And don’t forget to set the KPIs before you launch any new content or campaigns. Again, this is so you’ll know exactly what success looks like when it happens. And be sure to track your KPIs regularly. On a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. We’ve found an easy way to do this is through a stoplight scorecard. This tool helps leaders quickly assess how well something is performing relative to a goal. At a glance, you can see which metrics are being met, which are missing the mark, and which should be monitored. Green signals a KPI that’s on track. Red indicates one that’s falling short. And yellow is one you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Above all else, it’s important to be flexible. Note that we didn’t say be “fluid.” That’s because a good internal communications strategy should have room for minor adjustments, but not be a moving target. If you’re wondering how to kick start your own internal communications plan, give us a call. We’d love to help get you on the right path! And for more information on this topic, be sure to check out our blogpost on measuring overall communications.