The what, where, when, why and how of employee communications measurement

If you’ve been doing corporate communications for a while, you’ve heard the imperative to measure the results of your communications efforts. But if that’s all you know, you will be left with a lot of questions, including the basics: what, when, where, why and how.

The when is easy: Always. Of course, it’s up to you and the executives to whom you report to determine the cadence for collecting the data and reporting the results of those measurements, but there’s never a time you shouldn’t be actively monitoring how the messages you’re sharing with employees are performing.

The answers to the other questions… are a little more complex.

Why measure?

In the minds of executives, the right types of measurement and metrics transform communication from an expensive necessity into a valuable imperative.

Etan McCarty, global head of employee and innovation communications for Bloomberg LP, offers this much stronger reason in an article on the Institute for Public Relations website:

“Tying your performance more directly to business outcomes makes the function more strategic. It encourages additional investment, rather than incessant belt-tightening. It keeps you relevant. And employed.”

Measurement and metrics, of the right things, provide the objective evidence of the value of a communications effort.

What should you measure?

McCarty offers up this additional advice is his article: “We want to be in the business of driving behaviors that lead to business outcomes. Specifically, we are on the hook for improving sales, increasing productivity, opening the doors for our recruiters and building employee retention.”

In its Integrated Evaluation Framework, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication aims to tie the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of communication with organizational strategy and various business objectives. Translating activity to results should be driving what you measure in your organization.

The metrics you use must be tied to specific objectives, and quantify the effects of your communications strategy. If you know what you want employees to do, use that to drive what you measure.

Remember that “Garbage in, garbage out” applies to communications measurement. Simple measures such as open rates and page views are only useful in terms of measuring reach, but you’ll more often want a deeper dive, measuring engagement levels, what actions employees take and how their beliefs and behaviors change as a result of your campaigns and messages.

Where to measure?

It makes sense to measure all the touch points where your communications and messaging comes into contact with your employees, as well as their responses and reactions, and the behaviors they make or change as a result.

Outcomes often occur distinctly and separately from the communications activity itself, therefore collecting both sides and tying it together is an important consideration.

Often, measurements must be taken over time, to establish a baseline and monitor changes over the course of a campaign.  This deserves upfront thought during your campaign planning process, which should include the communication objectives, the audience, the creative and the measurements all into consideration.

How do you measure?

Measurement requires tools. The good news is that using today’s digital enterprise communications tools—email, intranets, social messaging, video, mobile apps, and so on—measurement often comes built in or is readily available.  When you combine that with survey results and participation results, communications can gather a strong and encompassing data set.

But collecting measurement data is but just one critical step in the process.  The more challenging task is often in the analysis and reporting of the measurement data, and developing the key metrics and dashboards which executives will trust to drive decision making and create a continuous cycle of improvement.

Get going.

Measurement is a process. You start collecting data, and build more efficient and effective reports and analysis over time.

Note that measurement does make the communications team more accountable, as now the objective results become as important as the subjective quality of the writing and the creative.

Remember that measurement data may surface realities which are unexpected and uncomfortable, but a data-driven communications culture is better than flying blind.

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