Measuring the Impact of Internal Communication: Easier Said Than Done
By Laura Konsorada, Marketing Manager at DevFacto Technologies
There’s no shortage of industry reports showing that the value of internal communication as a key business driver is on the rise. The long list of research findings in a number of reports on the IC Kollectif website is a testimony to its increasing value. Yet, for all that internal communication has evolved over the past decade there’s still a long way to go.
Communication is intangible. Senior communication professionals and academics have struggled for years to get their arms around the definitive measurements that demonstrate the impact of internal communication on business results.
We know why we should measure
We want to show how internal communication influences business results. Measuring makes sure you’re on target to deliver results, sending the right messages to the right audience, creating awareness and understanding and influencing behavior change. We measure internal communication to make sure that employees are engaged in the business and clearly see how their work contributes to results. And then there’s budget. Measurement helps you see whether you’re spending your internal communication budget wisely. And finally, as Liam Fitzpatrick, Managing Partner at Working Communications Strategies says “Come with data, leave with respect.”
Ineffective internal communication is costly. The ROI of Internal Communication, written in 2013, says that a business with 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. The cost to the business was over $500,000 annually. Imagine what the opportunity cost is in 2017. Think of the potential cost savings if internal communication was clear, concise, consistent and relevant. But, we don’t know how effective it is until we benchmark and measure.
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If measuring the impact of internal communication on the business is so important, why do so few companies do it? There’s a simple answer. Measuring the impact of internal communication on business results is easier said than done.
In a blog post introducing the 2017 Delphi Study, IC Kollectif calls measurement the “Achilles heel of internal communication," and writes: "It's no secret that a great number of communication practitioners don't measure and evaluate internal communication and that this task is not an easy one." The authors indicate: "Though high-effective organizations have been shown to practice IC and measurement more than low-effective organizations, only 50 percent of practitioners indicated having a formal approach to measuring and evaluating their internal communication initiatives. While a variety of barriers to effective IC have been cited, including scarce funds and staff, the lack of a standardized approach to measuring it has compounded these difficulties."
The study proposes 22 IC standards and definitions grouped as outtakes, outcomes and organizational impact. While the standards are comprehensive and relevant, measuring against this many markers to determine the effectiveness of an internal communication program is a complex, time consuming and costly task. Aside from the large multi-nationals with deep pockets and a large internal communication team including research specialists, it’s unlikely that many organizations have the time or the money to invest in this type of measurement.
It sounds like a lot of work to pile on to already demanding workload. There is another way, one that creates efficiencies and delivers the data needed for good decision making.
In an increasingly mobile workforce, the way we do business is changing. Sparrow enables organizations to keep connected by pushing relevant communication directly to employee mobile devices.
It’s 2017. An increasing number of executives see the potential of internal communication as a significant business driver. Coupled with evidence that the physical workplace is changing and will soon be dominated by Millennials, the first native digital generation, more and more companies are moving to a mobile communication strategy with a robust internal communication app at its core.
Customized employee apps, like Sparrow by DevFacto, consolidate internal communication channels, offer opportunities for social sharing, reach all employees with important information, (even remote workers without access to the intranet) and provide rich, real time data that provides benchmarks, measures progress against objectives and informs strategic direction. The efficiencies created for the communication team are significant. But, the real value is taking the guess work out of how to deliver solid business results.
IC teams are generally small in comparison to their counterpart corporate communication teams and tiny in comparison to their marketing colleagues. In small to medium-sized companies the IC team is usually one or two people who are so busy delivering the tactics they neither have time to plan or measure. Not only are IC teams generally small in number, typically the budget earmarked for internal communication is also comparatively small with the lion’s share devoted to delivering the tactical program.
There is one other critical factor that determines how successful internal communication will be in contributing to business results. Senior management must see IC as a strategic function. Without this support from the key decision makers, IC will not be resourced to the level it needs to be effective. It’s a classic chicken-and-egg situation. IC is hard-pressed to gain credibility without investing in research and measurement, and without research that provides insight, there is no way to definitely show its value.
It comes down to being practical. If “Come with data, leave with respect,” is the mantra, then what’s the easiest and most cost effective way for internal communication departments to gather relevant information so there is evidence that internal communication delivers business results?
First, check existing sources within the organization. Chances are if the company does an employee engagement survey, there are questions related to effective communication in the survey. Pull out the answers that align with communication effectiveness as a benchmark. Second, build employee feedback loops into internal communication activities. This can be as simple as setting up an email for feedback and providing a link in all outgoing communication. Third, include a short online survey that engages employees in sharing their opinion in regular communication material. For example, if the IC department sends a weekly update, there’s an opportunity to run a weekly survey and gather insights without incurring expenses. All you need is a Survey Monkey account.
Or you can opt for a simple solution that delivers all the data and insight you need to inform internal communication strategy and make good decisions that deliver real business results. Investing in an internal communication app isn’t as expensive as you might think. From the perspective of ROI, what companies can save in the efficiencies created over time far outweigh the cost. Get the data you need and never spend another dollar on costly research that must be repeated to measure results.
There are many internal communication apps on the market, but they are not all created equal. Sparrow is designed with the needs of the business and its internal audiences in the forefront. With built in artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytics, you get the information you need when you need it. Plan to “Come with data and leave with respect.” Sparrow can get you there.
Laura Konsorada, B.Comm., is the Marketing Manager at DevFacto Technologies, an I.T. consulting and product company based out of Edmonton, Canada. With responsibility for brand management, marketing programs and strategy, Laura enjoys working with diverse teams to cultivate fresh perspectives for delivering business results. As a recent appointment to the IABC Edmonton board, Laura looks forward to expanding her foray into the world of communications.