We all like to think that every mail we send out, every poster we stick on a wall, every blog we post and every townhall we organise hits the brief in terms of content, reach and engagement. Unfortunately, not even superstars get perfect results every time!
So how do we evaluate how well our current internal communications plan is working? We perform an Internal Communications Audit to measure how well the organisation and its leadership gather and disseminate information to its employees. Before we move on to why and how we do this, and what results we can expect from it, let’s deal with the ‘audit’ word first. As opposed to something traumatizing, an audit should actually be a hugely positive and beneficial instrument in your organization.
There’s definitely more to an Internal Communications Audit than merely gaining insight into the effectiveness of our existing IC strategy and execution. The people who are responsible for sending communication often perceive it to be far more effective than the people who receive it. This disparity is frequently more pronounced in organisations where there are a large number of deskless employees – employees whose workday is spent on the frontline and not in front of a computer.
So, why does IC matter?
- A study by Clear Company established that companies with effective internal communications were 50% more likely to have lower staff turnover.
- In another study, Gallup found that poorly run communication campaigns lead to disengaged employees, and 76% of actively disengaged employees are looking for jobs or other opportunities.
- Effective IC leads to productive employee feedback: employees who are heard are engaged, and engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave.
An annual IC audit will allow you to do a number of key things:
- Establish the effectiveness of current IC.
- Formalise a strategy to improve IC for the future.
- Establish which employees are currently underserviced by the IC strategy, and then allow you to form a strategy to target them.
- Identify which communication channels are working and which aren’t.
- Discover gaps in your IC, either in terms of communication channels, gaps in information or in terms of audience.
- Identify miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Now that we’ve agreed that an Internal Communication Audit is a necessity and should be conducted at least annually, how do you go about implementing one?
Steps for planning an IC audit
Establish your objective, the team to perform the audit, the time available to do it and the budget. Is there an existing problem that you are aware of and are trying to remedy? Are you doing well but know that you could always do better? Is there a particular department or group of employees that are not being reached? Or do you simply want facts and figures to present to management?
How will you run the audit? Will you target a select group of employees, target all employees and hope that enough get back to you, or will you select a focus group randomly?
How will the target audience be reached? Emails are obviously front of mind to many, but not everything needs to be done via email. WhatsApp can be useful in reaching those deskless employees, while surveys can be posted on the intranet, but don’t forget that old chestnut – real-life human interaction! The latter can be done via townhalls, interviews or site visits. Often it is these in-person meetings that bring forward points that otherwise wouldn’t have been thought of. They are also often enthusiastically embraced by a workforce that otherwise spends much of its time looking at computer screens.
Mix things up to keep employees engaged and to reach a diverse cross-section of the organisation. While planning, decide if respondents should be completely anonymous, identifiable, or just grouped by certain criteria.
You’ll also need to establish what information you are trying to gather, and what form that information-gathering should take. Multi-part grid questions are quick to answer and can be very effective, as well as easy to extract data from, but they are limited in terms of flexibility.
While quantitative data is easiest and quickest to gather, sort and digest, you should also aim to include qualitative data, be it from one-on-one interviews or focus groups.
Results need to be analysed and used to compile a report. Do this objectively and timeously, and make sure to include in the report things like:
- How the audit was conducted,
- Methods used,
- The results,
- How these results will be used in future.
Remember to communicate these findings to all stakeholders.
The most important part of an Internal Communication Audit is what happens next. If the report is filed away and never looked at again, the entire task was a waste of time. The results need to be analysed so that the audit can become a catalyst for change – an IC audit should be looked at not as a tick-box exercise but as an opportunity to improve employee engagement, to lower staff turnover, increase profit and drive positive change.
The results will identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, and all of these need to be addressed – build on strengths, build up weaknesses and take advantage of opportunities.
If your organization would like to engage the help of the Internal Communication experts, get in touch.
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