Perhaps you’re feeling pretty good about the progress you’ve made with employee communication measurement. You’ve conducted spot surveys after town halls, moderated focus groups to test a communication plan, and analyzed intranet and e-newsletter metrics. But now you’re ready for more. What’s the next step?

Over the years, internal communicators have asked smart questions about measuring the impact of their work. Here are several of my favorites that address taking your measurement program to the next level. I hope they’ll inspire a next step or two.

Need to start at the beginning? Check out these Frequently Asked Questions focused on measurement basics.

Measurement strategy

What’s the best way to showcase our results to leadership? How do I convince leadership that things need to change?

I have three recommendations to showcase your results with leadership and get their support for changes.

1) Develop a scorecard. An employee communication scorecard (or dashboard) tracks key communication metrics, demonstrates progress with your program and highlights communication gaps. The metrics you include will depend on how you’re trying to influence the leadership team.

For example, if your goal is to demonstrate the impact of employee communication overall, you’ll report on progress with major initiatives, knowledge of key topics and performance of core channels.

But you may have additional objectives in mind, such as encouraging the leadership team to play a larger communication role. In that case, add to your scorecard by including data that demonstrate how employees rate leaders’ communication and the questions that are on employees’ minds (since leaders are in a great position to answer).

2) Have regular discussions. Make employee communication a regular topic at leadership team meetings. Be prepared to share your scorecard, identify hot button issues and discuss where you need the team’s help.

3) Partner with others. If you want to implement a specific change (A new intranet, perhaps?), you may need to dig in: gather more data and work with others to make the case.

Here’s a simple example: The head of internal communication at a financial services company learned she had low participation with a core communication channel — a CEO video series. She investigated and learned that one third of employees didn’t have sound cards on their computers — a cost-saving measure from several years before. She partnered with IT, presented the data to leadership and got budget to update those (very) old computers.

We have too many surveys going out this year. What do you recommend?

When it comes to surveys, I like the Goldilocks strategy. The goal is to conduct just the right number of surveys across the company, so those who need to measure (That includes you!) have the data needed to make decisions and plan, employees feel their input is valued, and the organization avoids low participation.

· Limit large census surveys (all employees) to one or two each year. Examples include engagement and internal communication surveys. (Large surveys typically include 40 to 50 questions and may take eight to ten minutes to complete.)

· Field spot surveys. Supplement large census surveys with spot surveys (about five questions). These should only take two or three minutes to complete.

· Use a sample. Rather than survey all employees, field the survey with a representative segment. For example, if you have 30,000 employees, you will need 1,030 responses to generate valid data.

· Encourage other research methods. With tools like SurveyMonkey, surveys are easy to set up and field — and they become the de-facto research method. Remind those who want to conduct a survey that other forms of research may be more appropriate, such as focus groups, interviews, observation and e-metrics/web stats.

· Leverage data from existing surveys or other research. For example, a recent engagement survey may provide insight on a stakeholder’s issue.

· Ensure surveys are well designed, so employees can complete them quickly and the results are useful. If you’ve ever been stumped by a survey question, you understand the power of well-designed questions.

· Share results and actions to encourage future participation.

Data and results

I have survey results. Now what?

Taking action after fielding a survey can be a challenge. But I have a simple, three-part strategy to ensure the results don’t languish: consider what you want to achieve/change, identify the stakeholders you need to get there, then share the insights you gathered. Sharing your knowledge is a very powerful way to garner support for change and position yourself as a communication expert.

I worked with a Director of Internal Communication on her first comprehensive survey. After reviewing the report and recommendations, she made a list of stakeholders who would be required to provide support or input to make changes happen.

She met with four key groups to present the survey findings and worked with each team to agree on next steps. Here’s the tour she completed and examples of actions (BTW, every time she presented, she tweaked the presentation for her audience):

· Met with her internal communication team (and invited the broader communication team to join). Action: The team developed guidelines for broadcast emails and the intranet.

· Met with business unit communicators (who do not report to her). Action: They agreed to conduct integrated planning annually.

· Met with HR (a team she supports). Action: Her HR colleagues agreed to target and streamline communication, rather than hit everyone with everything.

· Met with senior management. Action: Leaders agreed to devote resources to communicate about the business strategy and to play a role.

Employees say email is their preferred form of communication, but in the open-ended question on what they would change, they overwhelmingly say “fewer emails.” How do I explain this? What do I do about it?

Seemingly conflicting quantitative data is often a clue that further exploration is required. And asking employees is often the quickest strategy to figure it out. For example, in a focus group (or one-on-one interview) I would ask, “In a recent survey, we learned that email is employees’ preferred communication source. But when we ask how to improve communication, we often hear “fewer emails.” Why do you think we’re getting contradictory feedback?” (Spoiler alert: What you’ll learn is that channel preference is driven by topic.)

If we back up a bit, it’s possible to avoid conflicting data by being more specific with questions. For example, it’s not enough to ask employees how they prefer to learn about HR programs and policies. You need to specify the topics: How do you prefer to learn about our wellness program? How do you prefer to learn about career development? You get the picture.

Here’s a real-world example of how employees’ preferences change based on topic. When we conducted a national survey about HR communication and found that employees’ preferred source for benefits information is the intranet, while their manager is the preferred source for details about performance management.

I’m using an app that produces too many metrics. How do I know what’s important and what’s not important?

This is an interesting challenge for those who have decided to add an employee communication platform or app to their mix of channels. While real-time metrics are positioned as a selling point of these tools, you’ll be presented with lots of data — likely more than you expected.

Start by giving yourself permission. You don’t have to use every piece of data.

Then move to the tough part — curating the data. I recommend two steps:

1. Review your communication objectives and select the data that will demonstrate if you’re achieving those objectives. For example, if one of your objectives is to build knowledge of a new safety initiative, you’ll want data that tells that story, such as the numbers of clicks on articles about the initiative, participation in a discussion thread on the topic, ideas submitted and questions asked. The data each app provides is unique, so you’ll need to do some sifting to find the best data that supports what you’re trying to accomplish.

2. Be clear about how you intend to use the data. Perhaps you intend to use the data to guide your editorial strategy: “Employees are very interested in diversity stories (based on clicks), let’s find more stories — especially in other regions.” Or perhaps you want to influence the leadership team: “The CEO’s blog about our safety initiative had the most views this month. Let’s talk about how we can continue the conversation with employees.” Your job is to select data that will help you influence stakeholders, which may mean different data sets for each group.

Resources to learn more

Want to learn more about employee communication measurement? Here are three resources to help you get started:

· How to measure employee communication

· Use deep insights to create breakthrough employee communication

· How to conduct employee focus groups

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