What’s your Internal Communication Measurement Mantra?


If you followed the recently concluded cricket World Cup 2011 tournament which India won the statistics shared on TV may have overwhelmed you. The amount of data crunching that cricket historians did ranged from the mind boggling to the inane.

While I was able to comprehend and understand how cricketers’ batting and bowling metrics can give cool trends to dwell on, however calculating and comparing the number of sixes they hit against spinners foxed me.

What has this got to do with internal communication? A great deal.

For one, internal communication has traditionally been perceived as a support role and a sunk cost. Therefore very few organizations and leaders have questioned how internal communication generates business results in the long run or even translates into immediate success in the near term.

Trust

The closest most measurement metrics aim at is on completion rates for communicating messages and the number of times a newsletter has been published.

 This is where internal communication misses the bus.

To be viewed as a worthy business partner the internal communication team needs to be proactive in defining how crafting suitable communication interventions leads to direct impact.

So where does one begin? How do you articulate an internal communication measurement index? How does one get buy-in? What are the ways to measure the success of measurement?

To get started, first list out the objectives you have in mind to measure your internal communication.

The easy ones are – to know if you are making progress, to get a good sense of the current state of the business and keeping a tab on the impact of your work.

I think the key ones are – to improve your efficiencies, to be able to get a seat at the table, to be taken seriously by stakeholders and improve your team’s image as a metrics driven unit.

The cherry on the cake – measuring changes in behavior and the value your internal stakeholders get from the internal communication consulting you provide. Let me explain this. As a partner to your stakeholders you often define tools and resources that empower them to get their work done. How often do we revisit if these are getting used in the way you envisaged? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If they aren’t sticking to standards or making the most of what you provide, it is inevitable that you are going to be on point for their needs every time. Familiar?

Another scenario – you rolled out a Town Hall and you measured what your staff thought of the content and impact. By taking their feedback a month later you can gauge if they continue to register the message and are using it in some form.

Here are strategies you can adopt to get the most of your metrics.

  1. Define the different levels of measurement metrics that will make you successful. There can be three levels – your own work and output, the quality and adoption of channels and stakeholders’ ability to be effective.
  2. Revisit your goals as a team. Do you want to improve reach, reduce information overload, enhance understanding, keep things simple or just define standards? Articulate what you have as success measures to begin your measurement endeavor.
  3. Outline your Service Level Agreements upfront. Most often stakeholders aren’t aware of what they can expect from you and when. Have these listed and published. It builds credibility and transparency to your goals.
  4. Put a number for return on effort. Every single muscle strained to improve your internal communication is an investment towards your goal of getting to the next level.
  5. Begin in your backyard. Before preaching the word on measurement check if standards and processes are followed effectively in your team. Iron out the concerns before taking measurement out to stakeholders.
  6. Refer statistics and data points from well researched reports on how improvement in communication helped organizations succeed. Use them to build your own measurement metric. For example, a poorly written headline on your intranet leads to your staff losing time in locating critical information. This directly translates into a loss for your organization if you multiply by the number of people you have.
  7. Get to the low hanging fruits. Tackle simple mailer open rates to show improvements due to effective communication, frequency and timing.
  8. Put a weight on standards. While you define your content and design standards also rate them based in order of importance. That gives you a yardstick to arrive at a final scorecard to rank your stakeholders on how they are faring.
  9. Report out first, rank later. To get stakeholders into a rhythm begin by first reporting out how they currently fare. For example, if you have 100 e-mails hitting your staff every month identify the key communicators and list their contribution. Over time release a ranking of where they stand in terms of following standards vis-à-vis impact.
  10. Not everything needs to be measured. If your stakeholders don’t have direct control on costs for example, there is no point sharing a measurement metric on spend with that community. It can however be used by you as an internal measure.

I personally believe honesty and direct behavior exhibited by the internal communicator on measurement can improve the chances of it getting accepted and practiced. If it isn’t in front of your team or stakeholders it will never be a priority. If you aren’t following it why will your team?

Also to be seen as a committed and credible internal communication it is vital to drive accountability and transparency to how you communicate your metrics.

I wanted to leave you with an anecdote from a recent passport office visit. After I completed the formalities, I was asked to complete a short survey on a touch screen. I noticed the scale for measurement had interchanged. The ‘Very Good’ button came first on the screen and to my extreme left and the Very Poor came to the extreme right – not how we find it usually on surveys online!  That got me thinking – was this a deliberate move to skew the data? Maybe not. However the touch screen didn’t work either and after a couple of more attempts I gave up!

So it isn’t only about the metrics you need to have the rigor to capture them effectively.