Measuring internal communications: 7 ways to show your ROI
Internal comms is all about engaging, informing, and inspiring. But when we’re getting out the message, building trust, and promoting the brand, how can we prove we’ve achieved success?
Arguably, the most essential part of internal communications is the effective measuring of it. By assessing your comms, you’re finding out what does and doesn’t work with your workforce. Without measuring, how do you know if your communications are hitting the mark? If we don’t measure, how do we know what works and what needs fixing?
Showing your worth and measuring your internal comms is vital to not only staying on top of your game, but validating your work to senior level. For any internal comms professional, to achieve real success, there needs to be a way of finding out what does and doesn’t work – and the best way of doing this is to have clear cut metrics within your processes. Measuring internal communications is an ongoing debate: what are you measuring? How do you measure it? And, most importantly, why are you measuring it?
14 steps to great internal communications
Internal communication relies on support from senior level. And for this support to remain, the department has to prove the investment is financially sound. In the world of business, which continually has one eye on the bottom line, calculating your ROI has never been more important.
And while ROI focuses on the ‘visible’ – how people are reacting, the effects of good comms, and its benefits – it’s also essential to present the ‘invisible’: i.e., the impact that modern internal comms has had by replacing traditional comms. This covers everything from the cost of email disruption to the price tag of printing marketing resources like posters and flyers. If your modern comms replaces this, this is also ROI – and you must show off its effect.
What do you want to measure?
What you measure depends on your type of organization. What does success look like to you? Whatever it is, it determines what information you need to track, and how this helps measure performance.
For some, a measurable, tangible impact on strategic objectives includes staff retention, employee engagement, productivity rates, and more. However, this can change depending on the size and development of your business. If you’re new to measuring, you need to ask yourself key questions such as:
What internal comms channels does your organization have? It could be an intranet, SharePoint, or even a newsletter. Whatever means you use to disperse information throughout your organization – and there could be more than one channel – you need to establish.
How many people use them? How many people are your communications being sent to? Are there any groups who are being left out? How many people are reading it? Do you have valid ways of determining the reach and read-through rates?
How is content being engaged with? Are people reading the content? Is it being commented on? Liked? Shared? Which material is generating the most engagement?
When are the peak times where people are receiving information and communication? When are you see surges in engagement? How many people are accessing your comms outside the working hours?
How are people accessing content? While for most organizations, desktop access will be the most common – is there anyone able to access your comms remotely via mobile?
Different forms of measuring
Different organizations have different forms of internal communications. Some have a company newsletter; others rely solely on emails. Some companies update staff with a noticeboard. But with the evolution of the digital workplace, more and more businesses are implementing intranets to keep employees in the loop. While not every organization will calculate the engagement of their comms, many will have their own methods and techniques when it comes to measuring. And many more will be looking for guidance on how to carry it out from scratch.
With this in mind, CIPR highlighted a measurement matrix in their 2019 report Measurement and ROI for Internal Communication. This matrix was developed to provide a guide on how to measure.
What to measure: Which channels are you using, and are they working? Questionnaire: Find out about access, usefulness, volumes, and preferences
What to measure: Are employees getting the information they want and need from your content? Questionnaire: How well and how often is information provided?
What to measure: Conversations – are people communicating effectively? Questionnaire: Frequency that people communicate at the level expected? Through content analysis, interviews, network analysis.
What to measure: Voice – are there adequate opportunities for people to have a say? Questionnaire: Frequency that people communicate at the level expected.
What to measure: Sentiment – What do employees think and feel about the organization? Is communication helping to increase engagement? Are leaders and managers trusted? Do people identify with organizational strategy and values? Questionnaire: Understanding and belief in strategy and plans. Perceived organizational support.
What to measure: Behaviour – has employee behavior been influenced by communication? How has it influenced their decisions or behavior? Questionnaire: Why did behavior change, what influenced the
Return on investment (ROI): Have the benefits been identified? Can you isolate other factors affecting financial returns? Questionnaire: Were the benefits realized?
With this matrix, you focus on the ‘how’ and ‘what.’ It involves implementing research as an everyday practice that is focused on outputs and outcomes that align with organizational objectives. With this matrix and other matrices, it is the regular and real-time reporting that not only harnesses primary data – click-through rates, bounce rates, etc. – to find insights from deep analysis.
While this matrix is an example of the many other matrices out there, one thing they do have in common is working with other departments to find insights. This collaboration not only forms and intensifies scrutiny into how the organization handles communications but allows other departments to understand the function of IC and use this learning to improve their own inter-departmental communications.
How to measure your internal comms ROI
Those organizations with an intranet as their main channel for internal communications have a distinct advantage. Everything is centralized, and with inbuilt analytics, measuring is a lot simpler.
Pulse surveys: as methods of measuring go, pulse surveys offer the most subjective method. It’s here that you’re getting people’s thoughts and feelings expressed as data. What’s more, because it’s all done anonymously, you know that the information you are receiving is honest, impartial, and accurate. But how is all this data easily interpreted? Depending on your software, it can be done at the touch of a button. With Interact’s pulse surveys, for example, sentiment analysis automatically structures the responses into positive, neutral, and unfavorable results. Likewise, quantitative data analysis offers data modeling to provide clarity and save you time.
Analytics: in-built Analytics in your digital workplace are a must and help give you the information on what is and isn’t working with your online communications. The insights revealed by analytic software gives you an idea on which areas have the most visits, where your users are engaging with content and each other, and more importantly, where they’re not. Whether you use intranet analytics, or plug into third-party tools, it’s vital that you implement software that tracks all user engagement.
14 steps to great internal communications
Benchmarking: Another important way of measuring is through benchmarking. This is often overlooked, but it does offer a valuable insight into how you are doing in comparison to your competitors. Interact intranets include a feature that allows you to track how your intranet is performing in comparison to others of a similar size and industry with real-time intranet benchmarking scores. This allows you to have a good idea of how your internal comms are performing, how people are engaging and whether you’re heading in the right direction.
The problem with measuring internal communications
There are a few things that can often skew the results when comms experts analyze their performance. A big problem with measuring that many IC experts often neglect is the context. If 87% of your staff are engaging daily with your intranet, what does that mean? Is 87% a positive or negative figure? If six months ago, for example, your intranet engagement rate was 14% – then this is excellent news. However, it was 100%, then there is obviously a problem somewhere. Therefore, it is vital that you not just track your comms, but keep in mind an idea of past performances and how they measure up to your present-day results.
Another issue is the number of intangibles in internal communication. Building trust is one of the key priorities in IC, but how would you begin to measure it? ‘Trust’ in one organization could be completely different in another. Would you need to work with another department, HR, for example, to understand how trust manifests itself in a quantifiable way? Can trust be measured in employee retention, financial performance, productivity levels? Yes, it can, but as an internal communicator, you need to make sure there is a direct link between the two. For example, trust levels increased on the most recent pulse survey, and feedback was given that the flow of communication and better information from the IC department had improved.
“…it is vital that you not just track your comms, but keep in mind an idea of past performances and how they measure up to your present-day results.”
So, it’s clear: to determine your ROI, you need to be able to agree on what you’re measuring, how you measure it, and the way you’re going to present your progress. Outcomes like trust, employee happiness, and satisfaction might be difficult to measure. However, these aspirations of the ordinary internal comms team manifest themselves in other consequences like engagement, participation, and a clear understanding of company goals, vision, and culture. These are the targets of an effective internal communications department.
The value and impact of effective internal communication cannot be underestimated. Measurement in the form of meaningful data is important – it is the language CEOs and business leaders understand and respond to.
“Although the value of communication as a central business operation is accepted by CEOs, many comms directors will need to make a more convincing ROI case for the impact of their own work.”VMA Group, Beyond Communication (pg 8-9)
It is here, when you are able to present both data and success stories in which IC has made a positive difference, that you can present internal comms as critical to the success of your organization. With the cold facts and figures on paper, backed with the less tangible positive culture and employee satisfaction, there is a solid case to present to your senior leaders. With this affirmed, you have a much higher chance of securing investment in the future.
But, if we put aside the role of measuring to justify the role of the IC department, we may benefit in other ways in the process of measuring. By showing the value of internal comms, we prove that we are making a positive impact on company goals and vision. If we want this to happen, this legitimizing of our function, we need to prepare ourselves for some deep measurement. How do we affect staff churn, how could we improve staff morale, are our comms responsible in some way to the financial bottom line of the business? To analyze the effect of comms done well is to prove our value to the organization.