← IC Matters · Best Practice

Transform IC results through metrics. We did it. So can you.

 Rhonda J. Rathje Rhonda J. Rathje·

“Anything that is measured and watched, improves.”  Bob Parsons, Founder, GoDaddy

When asked by Poppulo to write about measurement in Internal Communications (IC), I jumped at the opportunity. After all, it’s the holy grail for communicators.

But wait. “There is no holy grail,” said Dan Kneeshaw, Senior Director, Global Communications – Digital Strategy and Brand Engagement, Walmart. “There’s no silver bullet to give you everything you want.”

The challenge was on. Could I find examples of where internal communicators have successfully measured their initiatives to impact their businesses – where outcomes are measured along with outputs?

All my conversations were insightful. A common theme that surfaced was engagement.

Measurement can help reveal engagement, which can lead to business outcomes.

Metrics that matter

My first stop – Dan, a former colleague at Walmart.

“Know what you’re solving for. You can’t measure for the sake of measurement. Don’t just communicate, communicate for a purpose,” said Dan, who advised starting with a communications plan and identifying your desired outcomes – the changes you want to see.

Then define your metrics.

According to Dan, every communication should inform, educate, inspire and even entertain the employee.

It’s how they [at Walmart] know their communication has impact – what you want people to think, feel and do.

Communicators must also understand their audience, what’s important to them and then connect that to what’s important to the business.

Use the right channels with the right exposure and reach.  

Dan’s team measures their associate email campaigns (e.g., open rates, click-throughs) to determine the driver of content, which helps them understand the effectiveness of individual tactics.

Dan shared an example of how communications influenced a business decision – a dress code change for Walmart’s associates.

“We needed to understand how associates were receiving the information, whether or not they understood it, and then their questions and concerns,” Dan said.

Sure, they measured unique views and visits to the content, but it was the comments that led to engagement from associates and thus, acceptance and buy-in (the outcome) of the dress code changes.

This information was shared with leadership which resulted in changes to the dress code policy.

Dan’s supposition is that if you’re effective in reaching your employees, you’re more apt to engage them, which leads to business outcomes.

“The value of measurement is understanding the effectiveness of your message, your channels, and your overall strategy – inspiring people to act whether it’s a behavior change or policy adoption,” he said.

Internalizing the Net Promoter Score

Moving on to a financial services company, I visited another former colleague who asked not to be named. I’ll call her Sarah. Her measurement motivation was also engagement.

Sarah focuses on frontline employees and arms their frontline leaders with pertinent communications that employees need to know about the company or to perform their jobs and more effectively serve the customer.

Called “Business Highlights,” it’s centered around face-to-face communications.

The first measurement phase features outputs – leader briefings and huddles conducted and participation rates.

Monthly results are shared with executives showing a scale of red, green and amber, allowing executives to act.

Sarah’s outputs assess the extent to which the desired behaviors (the outcome) are occurring since this was a new communication process where none previously existed.

To measure the effectiveness of the communications – and to get to an outcome, Sarah created an Employee NPS – Net Promoter Score.

She regularly surveys the recipients of the communications program asking: “I would recommend “Business Highlights” to a colleague who doesn’t receive it today.”

A 9-10 scale shows employees with an emotional connection – the promoters. A 1-6 scale is negative – the detractors. Promoters minus detractors is the NPS score.

Low NPS scores indicate changes are necessary to the communications or delivery of the information.

As with Dan, the analysis and comments provide insights and drives changes. Sarah conducts meetings with business leaders who are familiar with NPS. “They like numbers. We’re able to show them what their people are saying,” she said.

Measuring impact

Thanks to the help of the Poppulo platform, AECOM has established a culture of metrics.

“The evaluation of the metrics is just as important as the message. Our research informs our messaging.

Now we better understand what content our employees need and where they access their information,” said Autumn Kimbley, Internal Communications Content Specialist.

“We have had a complete culture shift where metrics have become an essential piece of how we consider the messages we are delivering.

“We want to have an engaged, interested population that is more willing to represent the company. If they have the information they need, they are more likely to be brand ambassadors,” she continued.

“We’re able to present the impact and show our leaders how their message performed. As communicators, it gives us proof to provide recommendations on vehicles, tone, and strategies to optimize the message. It’s very powerful.”

Added Shane McLaughlin, Director, Global Innovation, Product & Solutions, Communications, Visa, “We’re so caught up in checking a box with our tactics. It’s not push and pray.

Measurement will support and validate your work. The numbers don’t lie, especially when impacting the business.”

Shane suggested partnering with the people who manage the employee opinion survey, as well as with leadership – asking them about desired outcomes.

“The best communications are those with leadership accountability,” he said. “And that will help lead to employee engagement.”

Bottom line – impacting sales

While at Verizon, my team and I implemented an employee engagement initiative to drive sales called – “In It To Win It” – a three-month campaign with employee rallies, weekly communications, product overviews, sales tips and leadership communications.

The purpose was to inspire employees to help sell Verizon services. Our goal – increase sales.

We made money for the company – communications can impact sales.

Another project focused on absenteeism. Our team’s purpose was to prove that communications can impact business results.

We asked leadership what was important – and costly – to them. Absenteeism at a call center topped their list.

Our measurements included business metrics – absenteeism, employee sales program participation, sales and customer satisfaction.

Our hypothesis: “Increasing the level of communications, particularly those related to business direction and competition, will improve the work environment and business metrics, as well as have a positive effect on employee engagement.”

At the end of this three-month program – weekly business updates, leader visits, product overviews, product demos and coaching of first-line supervisors – we saw an increase in every business measure (the outcome).  

“What gets measured, gets managed.”  Peter Drucker

In my search for outcome-focused measurement, I learned it’s a mix of outputs and outcomes.

First, define your desired outcomes before you identify your outputs and metrics.

Be planful. Be creative and talk the language of business. Re-think the way you survey. Establish a culture of measurement to achieve engagement.

Your upfront investment in establishing your measurement approach – especially when focused on outcomes – will produce better results. Good measurement leads to smart strategy – a powerful tool that empowers communications and the business.

  • Poppulo and Joanna Hall have collaborated to produce The Essential IC Measurement Workbook, which you can download free here.  And if you would like to take part in Jo’s webinar for Poppulo – 7 Practical Steps for Successful IC Measurement – on Wednesday, May 23, you can register here. 

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