There is very little academic research into the area of employee communication and Chen et al (2006) argue ‘a review of the research on organizational communication practices has been ignored.’
Before undertaking the research consider your end goal; are you looking to measure the effectiveness, reach, impact or awareness? Many fall into the pitfall of assessing the channels used or volume of information generated (the transmission)– rather than the content of the communication itself, how well it is provided or understanding.
Think about your objectives for the original communication; what was the outcome you were looking to achieve or the behaviours you were looking to modify? Create bullet points of your objectives and then ensure you measure against them.
By far the most predominant measurement tool utilised by organisations are surveys but other forms of staff research such as focus groups, interviews with the executive team and short polls are also popular. Few organisations currently look to use internal social media as a tool for measuring the success of internal communication. This is interesting as according to the survey from Towers Watson, 56 percent of employers currently use various social media tools as part of their internal communication initiatives to build community.
As with your internal comms different segments of your employees will prefer to be approached in different ways (depending on not only their comms preferences but attitudes to technology, role type, life stage) you will need to consider these preferences when designing your research.
To get a true picture many organisations tend to conduct quantitative research supported by some qualitative research. As is often the case that answers to multiple choice questions give you statistics you can point to as justification for changing things or for keeping them the same. Whereas free-form responses will provide you the opportunity to check the pulse of the target audience and often provide you with as sense of the importance of the issues you face in communicating. Research methods are not mutually exclusive if you choose to conduct an internal communications survey you can subsequently utilise focus groups to provide added insight for interpreting the survey results, often these groups may help to provide the solutions too.
The research can not only provide rich data for you to improve and focus your communication but can often pick up on other items such as the communication challenges faced by line managers. You need to ensure that any feedback is used appropriately and shared with the organisation so that the actions can be taken at an organisational and local level.
When looking at the success measures for your internal comms it is important not to forget existing business measures. When you can align internal communications with specific business results the argument for good internal communication becomes much more powerful; for example, driving strategic alignment, to what degree year on year is your company hitting its productivity goals.
Communication plays a huge role in business results when designed properly, and it is great to be able to point out your part in huge successes like that.
Don’t forget that once you complete your research you then have some valuable baselines against which you can measure your success and see how you are performing against your objectives.
Try something a little different
Speak to co-workers: Hold focus groups to find out what co-workers know about, what excites them and what initiatives and projects they feel engaged with.
Ask a question: Please describe the strategic objectives of the company with maximum 30 words. What are the most frequently used words in the responses? Do they differ by business unit? This gives you a lot of good information, about how effective your internal communication has been on spreading out key messages.
What your customers say: Look to include questions in customer surveys that indicate whether their interactions with employees are in line with your internal expectations. If your brand personality is around “fun,” do customers experience that? What is the top attribute customers’ associate with your company through interactions with employees?