I always start with two fundamental questions: What are you trying to learn? What do you hope to change?
The answers I get usually fall into one of four situations. I’ve captured them here and included my recommended approach:
1. You want to understand if your employee communication program is effective.
A survey is the way to go under this scenario. I like to think of surveys as a diagnostic tool to identify successes, problem areas and gaps. I recommend testing satisfaction with main vehicles (such as the weekly e-newsletter and the intranet), knowledge of key topics, and communication from leaders and mangers.
For example, we work with a telecommunications company to field an annual employee communication survey and we supplement it with spot surveys to test knowledge of key topics and assess progress with communication vehicles.
One of the benefits of a survey is that you can repeat it (or portions of it) to understand if the changes you made are having an impact. A quick tip: keep questions consistent, so you can track progress.
2. You want to understand if communication for a specific initiative was successful.
In this case, focus groups are the perfect way to uncover why and gather ideas for follow-up communication.
For example, I worked with a financial services company to assess the effectiveness of an internal launch for a new brand positioning. We conducted two focus groups (one in-person session and one web-based) to assess reaction to the launch, knowledge of the new brand positioning and information needs.
3. You want to understand how a specific communication vehicle is performing.
I like spot surveys (short, 3- to 5-question surveys) for this situation.
For example, after a town hall meeting, it’s the perfect time to assess if attendees are more knowledgeable about key topics and feel motivated to take action.
4. You want to make changes to your employee communication program (such as, saying goodbye to the weekly e-newsletter), but you’re not sure what to do.
I prefer to use a one-two punch to tackle this challenge: 1) Start with a survey to identify successes and problem areas, and 2) follow up with a few focus groups (and/or interviews) to understand the challenges and collect ideas for improvement.
Here’s an example: I worked with an industrial manufacturing company to understand why articles on their intranet home page weren’t getting many hits. After conducting a short eight-question survey and two web-based focus groups, we learned that employees relied on the weekly email summary. The headlines and two-sentence descriptions in the summary did the trick for employees, but many employees still followed links when a topic was of interest. During a follow-up brainstorm session, the communication team decided to spend less time on articles and decrease word counts.