Improving Your Internal Communication Recognition Programming With Metrics

Like many of you, earlier this year, I received an e-mail from Linkedin’s co-founder and Chairman Reid Hoffman that thanked me for supporting the organization’s growth as an ‘early adopter’. It did read like any other e-mail but the purpose and opportunity that it offered for recognition programming (often an integral part of internal communications) got me excited.

For those unfamiliar with the technology adoption lifecycle it describes the ability to embrace a new product or innovation while mapping it to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups. In the bell curve the ‘early adopters’ come in after ‘innovators’ and are usually younger, more educated and respected as leaders in their community. Among the five broad groups of people classified by this model the ‘early majority’ and the ‘late majority’ form the largest set. The ‘laggards’ come in, as the name suggests, last.

Now, let me share an extract of the message before I come to what it means for internal communications.

The letter stated:

 “I want to personally thank you because you were one of LinkedIn’s first million members (member number 724961 in fact!*). In any technology adoption lifecycle, there are the early adopters, those who help lead the way. That was you. We hit a big milestone at LinkedIn this week when our 100 millionth member joined the site. “ It then went on to talk about their vision and what they accomplished with the help of many. The note ended with a call to support their effort in the future.

Here is how I read it:

 1. This company took time to recognize me for trying out a new application and staying the course.

 2. It remembered that I was among the first million and they are now 100 million! Yes, I felt important and great to be a part of this journey

 3. I was pleased to be seen as a leader

 4. I realized that a lot can be done if you begin early By converting a milestone event (crossing 100 million members) into an opportunity to recognize definitely deserves appreciation. However this can never be possible without constantly thinking about your customers, having robust systems tracking every single metric worth a mention and messaging it appropriately.

 So, how does this insight translate into your internal communication recognition programming?

Wouldn’t it be great to inform your leaders of teams that are recognizing most and least so that they can take suitable action? Can this data be co-related to team’s morale and performance? Why not?

Will your design team be delighted if you share which pages are getting more hits and therefore how tweaks to the layout will improve experience for users?

Just heard that Adidas launched a football shoe with a chip inside that transmits data on maximum speed, distance covered, and number of sprints to a computer or mobile device.  How cool is that? How does it change the soccer player’s game if he or she knew how much energy to conserve based on kilometers run during the 90 minute match or which areas to focus more on or how to play in relation to other team mates?

Here are other reasons to keep recognition metrics on your radar:

Leverage metrics to drive a recognition culture: If you are aware of those employees who have repeatedly taken time to recognize great work can you in turn highlight their contribution?

 Improve ‘stickiness’ for your recognition site: Enhance usability by tracking content downloads, page views among other metrics.

Drive community and local recognitions: Staff will be more connected to local communities and it helps to ‘seed’ forums for recognitions closer home.

Support decision making with metrics: Simple data pointers such as the location’s first and most recent joiner can be inputs for, say, a milestone celebration.

What struck you most in this communication and how else can metrics improve recognitions in organizations?

How Can Internal Communicators Overcome the ‘Postman’ Syndrome?

A participant at the recently concluded internal communications workshop I ran in Bangalore, India highlighted a common concern that professionals in the industry face but rarely discuss.

She said she felt like a ‘dakiya’ – (Hindi for postman) at her workplace. This conversation became a passionate discussion among many in the room and I realized that it seemed like an issue with most of those practicing internal communication in their respective organizations.

I decided to probe the concern a bit further. Here is how our conversation went. The name of the participant is changed in the transcript below to protect her privacy.

Me: “Tell me more about why you feel like a postman?”

Janet: “It isn’t just my CEO who asks me to pen his e-mails; even my supervisor gets me to craft and publish communication on her behalf.” (The frustration in her voice reflected how much she wanted out of that scenario.) 

Me: “Were expectations set about your role? Are you aware what internal communicators are expected to do?”

Janet: “As an internal communicator I was told to focus on churning out mailers but what I can’t understand is why can’t leaders write their own communication? After a while my his e-mails begin reading like mine and there isn’t a way to differentiate!. I have limited understanding of internal communications since my background is in advertising.”

Me: “Have you had a conversation on what an internal communicator is expected to do and how your role can be improved?”

Janet: “I wouldn’t dare to have that conversation with my boss or my leader. They aren’t open to it and will go out and hire someone else.”

At this point the group began sympathizing with Janet and spoke of their woes in clarifying roles. Also, how internal communicators bear the cross all the time without any recognition.

Here are the questions:

What you think is the issue in this case?

How can internal communicators stop being ‘postmen’ or ‘delivery people’ and play a strategic role?

As a consultant or a person looking at this concern from the outside how can you help Janet get ahead of the expectations that her boss and leaders have?

Interested in your views. Post it now.

What’s your AAA Gold Standard for Internal Communications?

With the recent US AAA credit downgrade and the global recession on everyone’s minds I felt it apt to discuss how your stakeholders and you view internal communications benchmarks.

While there isn’t a ‘one-size, fits all’ approach for internal communications it helps to step back and ask the following questions –

1.       How do you want your stakeholders to perceive your team and you?

Competent? Capable? Thought leader? Predictable? Creative? Problem solver? Change manager? Partner?

2.       If your organization didn’t have an internal communications function but wanted one what would be the drivers for your business case?

Keep employees informed? Aligning staff to organizational goals? Build and manage infrastructure and channels? Create capabilities in the organization? Coach leaders to be effective communicators? Support managers in their role as communicators? Improving reach? Ensuring consistency? Enhancing quality? Upholding brand  standards?

3.       How will you know you are successful as a function?

Knowing the value you add? Measuring the value? When stakeholders acknowledge the value you add? If there is growing interest in your services and offerings? If leaders seek more support?

When I mulled over these questions it became increasingly apparent that setting a gold standard meant thinking of internal communications in the larger context of the organization’s goals and understanding industry benchmarks. The CIPR e-book ‘A Guide to Feedback Mechanisms’ calls out that ‘achieving dialogue is a gold standard for internal communications’ and can determine an organization’s success chance.

From an organizational context I believe it hinges on the following parameters:

  • The organization’s position in its journey to be a top player in the industry
  • The organization’s stand on internal communication
  • The various partners that support the delivery and excellence of internal communications
  • The willingness to adapt to change
  • The openness to accept feedback from staff

In the context of industry standards:

  • The team’s skills and capabilities
  • The leadership’s openness to build competencies
  • Knowing the current level and strengths of the team
  • Having an internal communication strategy and plan
  • Supporting the team with requisite budgets and resources
  • Building infrastructure to support team’s effort

What according to you are the top three reasons for the existence of an internal communications function? Share your thoughts here.