Internal communication audits are a big commitment since they typically include more than one research method. So, what’s the payoff? Why take on a project like this?
Here’s the story of a corporate communication team that conducted a comprehensive audit. The result? (Spoiler alert.) The data helped to convince a group of loosely connected stakeholders to make major changes to the way the company communicated with employees.
The corporate communication team at an industrial manufacturer was concerned that employees were being bombarded with communication from multiple sources. Members of the team had a theory that newsletters had exploded and they needed to influence other communicators (who did not report to the corporate team) that it would be more efficient and effective to develop a centralized, coordinated approach.
The team developed a simple objective for the audit: “Evaluate the current state of internal communication and create a vision for the future.”
And agreed on several strategies to support the main objective:
- Identify corporate and business unit operational needs and communication objectives
- Assess effectiveness of existing corporate internal communications tools
- Map the current employee communication experience and define the ideal state
- Determine which topics interest employees and how they want to learn about them
Research methods and scope
This organization’s approach is a good example of how audits typically incorporate several research methods. For this audit, the team included:
- Channel assessment: catalogue the channels employees receive and assess their effectiveness
- Interviews: understand the communication process and issues from the stakeholder point of view
- Focus groups: talk to employees about their knowledge of key topics, their experience with communication and their ideas for improvement
- Site visits: document employees’ communication environment at key sites
Given the global scale of this company and the goal of influencing a large group of colleagues, the communication team decided it needed representation across the organization. Here’s a summary of the research tactics that were completed:
- Catalogued 97 channels from 17 business units and developed an impact grid to show what the average employee receives
- Conducted 21 interviews with Strategic Council members (a leadership group) and several senior communicators
- Conducted 28 in-person and four web-based focus groups, with a total of 370 employees around the world (multiple languages)
- Performed 14 site visits around the world
Recommendations and next steps
The corporate communication team invited an extended group of communicators to review the results of the audit and develop actions. This collaboration was completed in two meetings:
1. During the first meeting, results from each of the research methods were shared and the entire group brainstormed next steps. Here are a few examples of changes identified during the session:
- Define the communication system: objectives for corporate and business units, annual planning process, and standards and guidelines
- Collapse corporate and business unit channels (especially newsletters) and update style
- Develop an Internal Communication network
- Create a leader and manager communication program
- Build knowledge of the corporate strategy
2. The second meeting was devoted to prioritizing recommendations and developing a high-level vision for each. The team also spent time on its most challenging priority: collapsing corporate and business unit newsletters into one solution.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of work!
Don’t forget: not every audit needs to be this big. For example, I recently completed an audit that was focused on a weekly news digest. We conducted a seven-question pulse survey and followed with two web-based focus groups.
Have you completed an audit recently? What would you change about your process?