6 warning signs that you need an internal communications audit

How do you know your comms are really hitting home? As seasoned professionals in the industry know, an internal communications audit is critical to long term success. But when was the last time you carried one out in your organization?

As many of us can testify, working in internal communications is an endless task. The constant improvements, tweaks, and changes that help us hone our craft – it’s never-ending. But while internal communicators strive forwards, how often do we look back? Reviewing our content and carrying out an internal communications audit is something we rarely have the time to do. However, as we’ll learn, moving forward without an audit can play havoc on comms.  Having this kind of evaluation in place is critical to our long-term success. 

So how do we know when we need an internal comms audit? These are the red flags you should be looking out for as the IC expert in your organization. 

What is an internal comms audit? 

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In comms, an internal communications audit should form the nuts and bolts of the craft. It is an evaluation of your company’s communications to make sure everything is aligned with your IC strategy. 

“Having an internal communications audit scheduled in is integral to long-term success”

In your internal comms audit, you should be able to work out what is being achieved, what isn’t, the thoughts of your employees, and any issues you are missing out on. An audit should also help you work out what lies ahead and what you need to do to achieve future goals. 

When to carry out an internal communications audit 

This audit should take place at least once a year (although some organizations like to carry out a more frequent check). It’s an exercise that takes some time and effort – but the results can be rewarding. Allowing you to get things back on track, see your achievements, learn from lessons, and help you to identify potential issues. In short, an audit helps you to improve your comms. 

To carry out an audit, you should carry out a combination of surveys, analytics, and figures, as well as observations and case studies. The end goal is a report that documents your findings that can be shared with senior members of your organization. 

As mentioned, an internal comms audit needs to be given some focus at least once a year. However, if you’ve never carried one out, when do you know to do one? Here are some of the red flags to be aware of that could mean urgent action needs to take place.

#1. You are continuously missing the mark 

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Most businesses align their comms to their company objectives. For example, if your organization wants to cut down on the levels of IT tickets coming through, you can introduce good working practices and laptop/desktop care to your users. However, not everyone in your organization has a computer. Your front-line staff work on a shop floor, and then there are the teams who work in transit, and the staff who are in the warehouse. They are all receiving the same message, which is not only unrelated to them. It gives the impression that their working practices aren’t being considered and that all comms are office-centric.

If you see your output high and your engagement levels low, this may be the reason. Internal communications must hit the right people at the right time. Don’t presume your message is suitable for everyone. When comms start to become irrelevant, it’s only a small matter of time before it becomes ignored.  

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14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.

How can an internal communications audit help? 

Your internal comms audit will allow you to see exactly the type of messages you are sending out, and how many (if any) are sent to the wrong people. If this is an issue in your department, you should be able to review your processes. Make sure you have a strategy and function in place which allows you to divide your workforce into groups to suit the basis of your message.

A tool like Personas can create targeted communications to a subset of people, whether they’re divided by age, role, location, etc. When you’re developing internal communications strategies, it’s essential to have an idea of the personas within your organization. Doing so allows you to find out what motivates people, what frustrates them, and what their needs are and will enable you to deliver information, conversation, and develop a culture that connects with your workforce. When you know who you’re targeting, you’re able to provide a more empathic message, so personas also help deliver more effective communications. 

#2. You’re reactive, not proactive 

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We’ve all been there. Work is so busy that you find the easiest way of doing things so you can move on to the next task. This is fine in the short term, but if it sums up your working life, it’s clear that there are problems.  

The thing is, when you’re not in control of your work, it is work which is controlling you. This can kill any hope of bringing any new and innovative ideas into your internal comms. While falling back on old methods, strategies, and even content may seem like a good idea in a time crunch, reusing techniques that did not initially present the desired result only serves to limit the effectiveness of your communications. 

“Consider each strategy, each method, and technique and continuously ask yourself: is there a better way to do this?”

Organizations have a habit of changing. People leave, new people join, working practices are reworked, new tech is brought in. Employees may not want or react to the same things anymore. Being in control, being up to date, staying relevant – these are all crucial to effective comms. Consider each strategy, each method, and technique and continuously ask yourself: is there a better way to do this? 

How can an internal communications audit help? 

An internal communications audit has the capability of helping a business re-evaluate its strategic positioning. With an array of statistics and knowledge gathered from different channels, the ICA allows business owners to create a communication plan that not only corresponds to the results of what is working but also clears the old template of what didn’t. From this, they can re-align focus on achieving their strategic communications objectives. 

#3. Your communications are not being heard 

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It’s easy to blame the workforce when it comes to not being listened to. But when your messages are not being taken on board, you need to find out why. More often than not, it’s down to inadequate comms.  

George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’. Just because you’ve sent out a notification to your staff, don’t automatically tick that task off your list. Sometimes, it can take a number of methods to make sure your message hits home. 

When the failure to communicate stems from the misconception that it has already been done, you run the risk of never seeing the necessity for change. The error here is not in your efforts but in the lack thereof. 

Businesses are often mistakenly under the impression that they are taking the proper actions in their communication plan. But this not only makes it hard to recognize issues that may be right under their noses but also robs themselves of the opportunity to make a beneficial improvement for their company as a whole.  

A faulty approach has the potential to manifest in ways that can negatively affect employees and, in turn, your company. Do you come across multiple people doing the same unnecessary tasks? Maybe you are constantly sending out reminders about the same unresolved issues? Your first instinct may be to blame your employees, but while they may be responsible for their jobs, this problem is more so the product of poor communication procedures.  

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14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.

How can an internal communications audit help? 

An internal communications audit is the quickest, most effective way to troubleshoot this problem. You can avoid wasting time and resources by checking in on your processes and identifying issues. Of course, any message will need to be communicated frequently: not everyone is going to see it or respond to it the first time. But analyzing your practices and methods should not only identify if the same messages are being sent out regularly, but what variety of channels are used, and the times they are dispatched.  

#4. Low employee engagement 

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Every business is in a continual battle against low engagement. It’s the internal communicator’s worst enemy and can arise from a variety of factors, with poor culture, ineffective communication, and little motivation being the most common instigators. One of the most disheartening aspects of internal comms is taking time and effort over a campaign to see poor engagement figures. 

While it’s easy to blame your audience, the buck stops with you. If you’re noticing poor engagement figures, it’s more than likely symptomatic of more significant problems. Aside from working with other departments to counter this, internal comms needs to take a bottom-up approach and listen to the workforce. Excellent communication is the linchpin of the health of the organization, so it rests upon you to create a strategy that helps the business get back on track. 

“Low engagement is the internal communicator’s worst enemy”

What could you do to spark interest, motivate the reader, get them to act? When it comes to your comms, is there anything that you could be doing better? 

How can an internal communications audit help? 

An internal comms audit should assist in low engagement. With this type of analysis, you will be able to assess performance across your channels and allow you to see patterns in behavior that may explain any lapses in engagement. In this situation, you can carry out surveys to determine causes for concern in your comms strategy. With anonymous feedback, you gain access to information that data alone cannot reveal but can substantiate. 

#5. Unreachable employees 

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Where are all your employees? Your organization is growing and changing all the time. New teams are created, employees move departments, others leave. How sure are you that your current comms tools are catering for this continuous morphing?  

Luckily, with developing tech, there are more and more tools available to assist comms professionals with their work. All you need to do is understand how these tools work, get to know their strengths and weaknesses, and apply them to the most appropriate areas. The right communication tools help you close gaps in an employee’s knowledge, enhance workplace culture, and encourage the right set of behaviors. However, if you employ the wrong tools, you have a set of ineffective aids and largely unreachable employees. 

This will be flagged by low engagement figures, of course, but also a lack of foresight in which channels your non-desk-based workers are using. For those workers who are customer-facing: how are they finding out about company news? What about staff who spend most of their working day on the road? And what are the habits of those in the warehouses or distribution centers? 

How can an internal communications audit help? 

This influence in employee behavior is one that can be remedied and ultimately prevented with the assessment of current communication channels and usage of proper ones. An ICA can identify the key messages needed to maintain a good internal climate amongst your employees and highlight which mediums are most effective in reaching and informing them. 

#6. Silo mentality 

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As we’ve seen, accidentally neglecting your employees can have disastrous effects. The situation, however, becomes much worse when the neglect is done purposefully. With the increasingly easy ways to gather and share information, employees now have a high expectation of being kept in the loop. 

While some companies may possess values geared more toward confidentiality and withholding information, that mentality can create a tone of distrust and suspicion inside a community. When communication is lacking, even between departments, individuals begin to feel less like an integral part of the team and more like isolated units. 

How can an internal communications audit help? 

While doing a top-to-bottom audit of your communications channels may be an intimidating task, the end result can be a blessing. An audit will reveal weakness and open your eyes to the futile tasks that yield no outcome. In the end, you’ll find out where your communications are succeeding, and where to invest more time to ensure maximum efficiency and improve the culture of your company. 

Today’s businesses require proactive communication; if you begin to see signs of isolation, poor engagement, or lack of direction, it is time to take a step back, re-evaluate, and make a contribution to workplace success. If your communications plan does not place a significant amount of emphasis on keeping employees involved and informed, then it may be time for a complete overhaul of your communications plan. 

internal comms
eBook

14 steps to great internal communications

Download this handy eBook and discover practical tools and tips to maximize engagement and impact business performance through internal comms.