Let’s make the word “audit” less daunting: Conducting your own internal communication audit is like planning a vacation! Doesn’t that sound less painful?
Over the past two years (also called the pandemic), we’ve come to know the critical role internal communication plays today. Keeping employees informed, engaged and motivated means you’re juggling more channels and tactics, such as emails, intranet posts, leader messages and town halls.
Many of our clients have popped up lately asking, “How do I know this communication is making a difference?” Enter employee communication audits. These assessments help you develop a high-level view of the effectiveness of your communication efforts and provide a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses.
Imagine you’re planning a dream trip and follow these four simple steps to assess the current state of your internal communication efforts.
Step 1: Plan your ideal experience
Think about the last time you planned a vacation for yourself and your loved ones. Before you started mapping the itinerary of your trip, you probably took a step back to consider the experience you wanted: Is this a family-friendly vacation on the beach or an adventurous camping getaway with friends?
The first step when conducting a communication audit is quite similar: Before getting into the research, consider what you want to accomplish by setting objectives.
Think about the main ideas you’d like your audit to explore and how the results will be used. Then, come up with two to three specific (and realistic) objectives to focus on.
If setting objectives is proving to be a challenge, here are a few helpful examples of common objectives for employee communication audits:
- Assess the effectiveness of core communication channels.
- Map the current employee experience with corporate and business unit communication channels and define the ideal state.
- Gather business topics that interest employees and understand how they prefer to learn about them.
Step 2: Be mindful of your resources
Now that you have a good picture of your ideal vacation experience, you need to figure out the details—including destination, budget and timing—and plan accordingly. After all, though you may fantasize about taking a month-long trip across France, parameters—such as your work schedule—may not allow for it. Instead, a week-long stay in Paris may be more realistic.
With communication audits, you also need to take scope into account when determining the research you’d like to leverage to achieve your objectives.
Remember: The size of your audit can vary from a simpler study, which uses just a few research methods, to a more comprehensive assessment that requires three or more measurement techniques.
When determining scope, ask yourself:
- How quickly do I need to complete the audit?
- What kind of budget and/or resources will I have access to?
- Is there appetite to provide time for employees to participate, such as to complete a survey or attend a focus group?
- Will I be the only one using the results of my audit, or will I need to influence senior leaders or other stakeholders?
Once you’ve considered your scope, here are a few research methods to choose from to achieve your audit’s goal:
- Surveys. Ask employees to evaluate their communication experience.
- Focus groups and/or interviews. Invite employees and stakeholders to review their communication needs and preferences and gather their ideas for improvements.
- Channel assessment. Assess communication channels against leading practices.
- Site visits. Review workplace communication like posters, signage and bulletin boards to determine effectiveness.
- Observation. Explore how employees use their communication tools.
- Benchmark study. Compare your employee communication program with the approach of companies you admire.
Step 3: Get ready to embark on your journey
Once you’ve planned your vacation by identifying what you want to do, considering scope and choosing the best option, it’s time to book your plane ticket and schedule your PTO!
But just like waiting to embark on your exciting excursion, communication audits take time to complete. Depending on the research methods you’ve selected, your audit can span anywhere from two weeks to six months.
Keep in mind that every research method you employ for your audit needs prep work—just as you would prepare for your trip by adding vacation-wear pieces to your wardrobe or asking friends to watch your pets. Solid preparation will ensure your audit (and your vacation) is a success from the start.
Here are a few guidelines for implementing your research methods:
- Surveys. Decide if you’ll run a pulse survey (five to seven questions) or something more comprehensive. Then, select if you’ll run a sample (a representative group of employees) or census (everyone) survey, select the survey tool and develop your questions. Don’t forget to consider how to handle employees who don’t have access to the internet.
- Focus groups and/or interviews. First, decide if you’ll moderate focus groups, interviews or a combination, as well as how you’ll conduct them (in person or virtually). Then, create a discussion guide that includes the questions you’ll ask consistently across your sessions and determine how many sessions you intend to host.
- Channel assessment. Determine the criteria you’ll use for assessment (such as use of visuals, grade of writing or relevance to employees) and select the channels you’d like to review.
- Site visits. Select the areas you want to visit at each site and what you want to assess. Then, determine the areas of focus at each site.
- Observation. Determine your priorities, such as how employees interact with digital displays or how employees move in high traffic areas. Then, consider how many observation studies you need to conduct and where.
- Benchmark study. Identify key factors to compare and the companies you want to compare your communication practices with.
Step 4: Reflect on your experience
Even though you have (probably) never thought to conduct a formal assessment of your vacation, you have likely spoken about the moments that stood out or maybe left reviews on your favorite travel site.
These conversations and exchanges often bring back all the details—from anxiety-inducing ziplining to the pleasant dinner on the beach. Just as you’ll have many memories from your vacation, your communication audit will generate lots of data to sift through. And sometimes, it can be tough to connect the dots between all the research methods you used.
Here are a few tips to help you create the final audit report:
- Start with developing separate reports for each piece of research.
- Review all your findings (and separate reports) to find common themes and insights.
- Consider your initial objectives when summarizing your research approach, key findings, data summaries for each research method and recommendations for next steps.
Just like a vacation, audits are a good way to step back, recharge and plan next steps. Grab that beach blanket and umbrella, and get started today!
To learn more about communication audits, visit Davis & Company.