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IC Standards and How to Measure them: Your questions answered

Emma HanleyEmma Hanley·
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With over 1,400 registering for our latest webinar with Sean Williams, VP at True Digital Communications and Stacey Smith, Senior Counsel & Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, it is clear to see that the IC industry is acknowledging the need to measure their internal comms. But needing to measure and knowing how to effectively do it are two very different things. From a poll held during the webinar 88% of those listening agreed that measuring individual “outcome” standards is more actionable than a single catch phrase like “engagement”, however only 11% measure bottom-line impact and 25% worryingly do not measure whatsoever.

In a function that should be placed at the heart of the organization, helping leaders drive value and impact in the organization’s goals and objectives and pioneering the digital workplace ethos, it is disconcerting that ¼ of the webinar audience do not measure.
That is where we are here to help. This blog previews some of the top questions asked by you, but if you would like to listen to the full webinar, click here, or why not also download the top tips from the webinar.

If you would like to contact Poppulo for help on measuring your internal comms, please click here.

Question:
How good is it to work from staff survey results when the survey takes place at a time when some departments are going through change, ie. their views will be skewed because they are going through a heightened experience of uncertainty.

Answer:
Stacey: That’s a really good question and if that was going on my counsel to you at this point would be to break the data down, and look at those departments that are not going through change versus those who are and see where the differences are. If there’s significant difference between those who are not going through change in areas and those who are then you’ll know that you might be need to focus on the ones not going through change and go back to just those departments that are going through change later and like Sean said, do a quick dip stick in there and see where they are, have they come back to the norms of the organization at large or are they still in transition there and you have to deal with them in a different way. So it will skew, but it will also interesting to see if the norms in those departments match what’s in the rest of the organization, then you know you’ve got something that’s more solid.

Question:
I work at a large organization of 10,000 people, we’ve recently done a survey to get a baseline measure of outcomes and organizational impact and will be repeating the survey annually. What percentage increase should they be striving for at an annual basis?

Answer:

Sean: You want to be reasonable, if we get back to formulating smart objectives – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound, then we have to make sure that we’re setting goals that are actually attainable. If you think about it this way, on a one to five scale if someone is already at a three and a half then even a ten percent increase in that is barely going to get you to four, so you can’t look at this in terms of percentage points or even of percentage change and just pick those things out of thin air, you need to do some interim measurement. One thing we did when I was at one company is we had a poll on our intranet and in the interim between the major surveys we did we used the poll to sort of take the temperature of people to find out what it is they knew or what they wanted to learn more about and we used that to guide our editorial policy and how it was that we put together material to share. So we may look and say ‘gee,’ we’d be very happy with a ten percent increase but that’s something that’s throwing at the dart board. Instead, what you look at is let’s establish our baseline and then let’s try a few things and see what the immediate response is perhaps looking at the out take measure and then look at what those impact of outcomes is over time, I think the trend overall is more important than the actual number.

Stacey: When I do teach strategic planning we talk about intermediate behaviors along the way, so there’s an ultimate desired behavior that you want, but there are small steps on the way to that and so in terms of your observation of behaviors or your measurement and survey look at some of these smaller data points that you might be looking to get because that’s indications of, you know, a ‘foot in door behavior’- something that’s starting to move people and shake the needle but it’s not going all the way to where you would ultimately want to be. You know, ten percent, that’s big when you just don’t know so I agree with Sean, don’t throw the dart at the wall and expect it to hit the bull’s eye, its very difficult.

Question:
How does one build a case for IC in a traditional captive unit where leaders believe captives do not need the function at all.

Answer:
Sean: So in every organization there is a desired environment and we can call it culture if you like a desired culture. Even in an organization as you described here where there is a captive unit and the people don’t believe you need internal comms, the question is: Is the work atmosphere the way that the people within the organization want it to be, or can it stand to be improved? Do we have a spirit of sharing information? Is there collaboration and innovation occurring? Do the people who are in the organization feel like they are respected, do they feel like they are empowered? Are they expending discretionary effort? So this is a case where research can help to make the case because you would know specifically what the employees were believing, were thinking and how they were behaving. Then you can go to leaders and say: if we’re happy with this then we can keep doing what we are doing but if we want this to be better then we need to make changes. Sometimes those changes are with respect to training managers on communication, this is one of those cases when as internal communications pros we might tend to think about the systems and processes that we directly use in communicating with our teams, whereas there’s a great case to be made for what the role of the manager and leader is in creating this desired environment, never mind the communication implications of it. How do we make this the culture that we aspire to have? I would start with research.

Stacey: Ya I agree, and let me just add quickly two things. We do something called ‘known for stands for,’ sit your senior managers down and ask what we stand for as and organization and let them define that and then go to the employee base and ask them what they are known for and then you can take that data back and show the gap between that, that tends to open management’s eyes very quickly because the first question they will ask is: How do we close that gap? The other technique is to put your senior managers next to managers of other organizations that they respect and that they assume are their opinion leaders and knowing that those organizations are doing a good job in funding and valuing internal communications. Then they get influenced by their opinion leaders on that, it’s the same thing as sitting at the country club you know that really tends to influence them. Those are two techniques we’ve had great success with.

Question:
Where or how does IC fit in the communications organiZation? Be it in PR, marketing digital comms etc…, can you share an example? Or if you can point to any literature of organizational structure that works best.

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Answer:
Sean: I’ve worked personally in public relations for three different large organizations and two small ones and I’ve consulted with probably fifteen to twenty different organizations over my career and I’m not seeing trends, it’s a non answer. I’m not seeing a trend here other than in consumer facing business, so where you’re a business to consumer sort of organization then I believe that what we’re seeing is more authority being expended by marketing and the chief marketing officer with the communication functions reporting up through that individual. Internal communications is a hybridized practice, it both belongs in PR and in my mind I think that’s always first prize, because all marketing is communication but not all communication is marketing. So I tend to always want to see internal communications report up either independently or within PR but probably a third of the organizations that I’ve encountered have it reporting through HR, in human resources. I think the digital comms part of this thing for a while was happening in information technology, in IT and then I think people came to their sense and said wow that really properly belongs in with PR and marketing.

Stacey: I agree with Sean, the problem with internal communications coming up through human resources is that HR is really seen as the mouthpiece of the management and therefore there is a lot of push down through HR and as he said, marketing is focused on the marketing message and it’s so much broader but it really depends on the organization. If you have an enlightened management team that understands that they need good public relationship people at the table that looks at all the stakeholders evenly and can bring that to bare, the view of what they are hearing and seeing can help communicate that through but it’s happening every which way these days.

Question:
What are some best practices with surveys and focus groups? Employees view these as just another thing to do.

Answer:
Stacey: What we find is, at least with focus groups, be very careful about who selecting who sits in what focus group. Often times they are loaded with people who have a particular viewpoint because they want to be heard, so be very careful in the selection process. Make sure that those happen at a time when it’s not off hours, when the employees can actually come and be heard. Think about who else is in the group with them; should it be cross departmental? Should it be different levels? There are all kinds of issues when you mix groups, but it depends on what the research objectives are and how you fold those groups together. Again as we said earlier, surveys themselves can just be viewed as busy work, you’re going have to overcome some stuff if you’ve done surveys before and nothing has happened as a result. Shorter dipstick kinds of things are very helpful on that, doing little ones and then making something happen as a result and if something happens, if something changes then you can talk about that and so maybe next time more people will participate but it’s hard when you’ve broken it before to fix it but it can be done because again, people want to voice their opinions. If they didn’t then we wouldn’t have things like Twitter or Facebook. Sean, anything to add on that?

Sean: Ya I’ll pile on and once again to say don’t be afraid to be smaller, to think smaller in these cases. You know, sampling is obviously the paramount way that public opinion research is conducted, sometimes it’s effective and sometimes it’s not but I think that within organizations, at our peril we sometimes try to get the entire organization to take part but you know what, you start seeing themes relatively quickly within these data and if you do a good job of sampling, of determining who it is you want to reach out to and why. Objectives are everything in this case, understand your research objectives, understand who it is you really need to hear from and limit yourself so that you’ve got the greatest chance for success. Putting together representative random samples is awesome, you can also put them together so that they are purposeful in nature so that you are deliberately looking to understand one certain segment of your population. So I think trying some things out, one of the great things that we have in digital communications technology is we’ve got the ability to do different types of testing. AB testing for example, different groups of people with different sorts of instruments to compare what their responses are to them, and I think that’s underused in internal comms. Finally, I would offer that search in your enterprise social network and on your intranet could be a source of tremendous information for you yet many organizations have not ‘bought’ the search package that goes along with their systems. The search will tell you quite a lot, it is amazing what you can learn from analyzing what people are looking for.

Question:
Do you have any tips in formulating surveys? How do you avoid the survey fatigue that comes with conducting too many?

Answer:
Sean: Brevity, wit, purpose and variety. When explaining purpose, make sure you share what is in it for them!

Question:
I work in a large retail organization. 100% of our communication is through intranet based web pages. We communicate multiple times a day with anywhere from 1,000 employees to a few million. We don’t have social media that we can use to communicate. Do you have any recommendations for how we can get that measurable feedback for that communication when we are communicating so often, and with so many people?

Answer:
Sean: You need to focus more on the outcomes and behaviors rather than the specific communications you are sending. Overall, is their sense that they have the full picture (transparency)? That they trust what is being sent to them? That they understand the information that how it impacts them? You could add to any one of your communications a single question at the end of each communication (you’ll know if they got to the end then) by asking a simple: “Does the information in this communication make any difference in the way you do your job today or tomorrow”? You will start to weed out all the extraneous communication that should NOT be being sent.

If you would like to read the top tips from the webinar, created by my colleague Tim, please click here. Or if you would like to listen to the full webinar click here.


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