Take your employee communication program to the next level by listening to our latest Employee Buzz podcast. In Episode 6, host Alyssa Zeff talks with colleague Sam Viscomi about the importance of measuring internal communication and some easy ways to get started.

Successful companies use measurement (e.g., surveys and focus groups) to uncover what consumers need and want. So why not use these measurement tools to reach and engage employees? Alyssa and Sam discuss how to overcome obstacles, such as time and budget, and get the data you need to improve employee communication.

Episode transcript: 

Alyssa: 
Hi everybody. I am Alyssa Zeff, your live music-loving Starbucks enthusiast, who is also fluent in sarcasm. I'm here with Sam Viscomi, a manager here at Davis & Company. Sam is an ultimate Frisbee champion, proud dad of his cat Blaze, and also fluent in sarcasm. Welcome Sam.

Sam:
Thank you for having me.

Alyssa: 
Was that sarcasm?

Sam:
No.

Alyssa:
No sarcasm on the spot?

Sam:
No.

Alyssa: 
Okay. All right, today Sam and I are going to talk about how to make employee communication measurement easy. All right, Sam, let's start with why. Why is measurement important?

Sam:
Measuring employee communication is important to communicators because it does two things. First, it tells you what preferences employees have in communication, and also, it tells you how your current communication system is working and what you need to improve it.

Alyssa:
That makes a lot of sense, so we know any external facing company right now with consumers is not doing anything that isn't data-driven. Companies need to think about their employees the same way. If you need your employees to do something or act differently, then you need to understand what motivates them and then you need to understand how to reach them. Okay, just a quick overview. When we say employee communication measurement, what are the types of things that we're talking about?

Sam:
Well, that could be a wide range of things including surveys, focus groups, interviews, vehicle assessment, and also internet and email metrics.

Alyssa:
I think what's also interesting are some surprising places where you can measure and get useful information, so if you analyze or read all the comments on your social media within your organization, or if you analyze the questions that are asked at meetings and town halls to look for themes that gives you an idea of what's on people's minds. In our experience, a lot of our clients don't do that though. We sit in the meetings early on and everybody talks about how important measurement is, but then it doesn't happen. What do you think happens? What gets in the way?

Sam:
I think there are many factors that get in the way, including limited time and budget, not feeling confident in measurement skills, not seeing the value in measuring, and one of the biggest ones is not having support from leadership.

Alyssa:
Makes a lot of sense. We hear that a lot. Another thing we hear a lot about is survey fatigue. We can't do another survey, our employees have too many surveys already. I think it's so top of mind until it comes to having to do it, and then they've got so many other things going on, that it becomes the easiest thing to fall to the bottom of the list. What can we do about that? How can we get over some of these things? What are some ways our listeners can start measuring right now?

Sam: 
Well, it depends on what the issue is getting in your way. If you have limited budget, you can interview key people like managers. Managers are good people to interview because they have a good pulse on what's going on in the organization in dealing with lower level employees as well as leaders. If you have limited time, you can conduct a quick survey, especially if you host or hold big meetings throughout the year. You can throw a survey after the big meeting to see what's working well in the meeting and what you can improve for the future.

Alyssa:
Building on that and going back to what I said about survey fatigue when people are like, "Oh, there's too many surveys in our organization," you don't necessarily have to do a survey with everybody in the organization. That's what is called a census survey. It can be a sample survey, which will still give you very useful data, but you can sort of pick and choose your survey strategy so that employees aren't overwhelmed by surveys, but you're still getting information that can help you with your program. I'm sure you've seen your fair share of mistakes that our clients make or companies make, not necessarily our clients, is there one that stands out?

Sam: 
There is one that stands out. A few years ago we worked with a client, the new CO was announced and the CO wanted to know what was happening around the organization. He put out seven questions, open-ended questions to the entire organization and the big problem was that it wasn't specific questions, it was very vague questions that got thousands of different answers and analyzing that data took way too much time.

Alyssa:
It was probably all over the place, so it wasn't really useful data. I mean I think one of the key things in measurement is specificity as you're saying, and consistency. If I asked 10 people the same question, same exact question with specific choices or even if it's open-ended, force them to really narrow down their open-ended, it gives me an idea of how the entire organization or how that sample feels about a specific topic versus just hey, what's on your mind today? Which at any given moment could be something different, depending on the time of day and the employee.

Alyssa:
I have a funny story to share related to one of my measurement pet peeves. The advice is don't fall into the anecdotal trap, which is oh, I heard in the hallway that people are upset about this, and therefore we have to change everything that we're doing related to this. One of our clients almost fell into that anecdotal trap, and had heard she runs sales communication and had heard that the sales force was receiving too many emails, and asked us to help address it. How could we get the information? What kind of focus groups or something, and we said, whoa, whoa, whoa. Before you fall into the trap of people getting too many emails, why don't you get some data on that? Find out how many emails they're actually getting.

Alyssa:
She did a little research and it turns out that the sales force was getting an average of seven emails a week. Seven emails a week. I get seven emails a minute. Now I recognize everybody has their own threshold for what is too many emails, but it was a good example of well, don't let that hallway chatter because one person felt like that day they got a lot of emails and you have to change your entire communication strategy just because of something you heard in the hallway.

Alyssa:
We've talked a bit about how to measure, what do you do with the data once you have it?

Sam:
Well, it depends on when and what you've measured about. If you measure at the end of the fiscal year, then you can plan for your next year on how to communicate. If you've conducted research in the past already, you can compare your results and see what else you need to improve. If you've asked about specific things like email or a newsletter, et cetera, then you can plan how to improve that thing in the future.

Alyssa:
Something that I would add to that, a lot of times our clients have trouble, what they would say getting a seat at the table. That getting communication to be a valued function. Data is essential to get additional funding for what you need, to make sure that communication is appropriately resourced with staff and so we often help our clients use this data to make the case for a stronger internal communication program.

Alyssa:
As we wrap up, if there is one piece of advice you would share with our listeners, what would it be?

Sam:
It would be to make sure that they have the leader buy-in to actually use the data after measuring, otherwise there's really no point to measuring, unless a leader says yes, we will act on those things once you learn about them.

Alyssa:
Great, thank you very much. Sam, thanks for joining me today. I hope our listeners learned some new ways to start measuring their communication. Now it is time to spin the wheel of games, here we go. Sam, give it a big spin.

Alyssa: 
Sam, thank you again for joining me today.

Sam:
Thanks for having me.

Alyssa:
This was a lot of fun.

Alyssa:
Thanks for listening to Employee Buzz, where practical advice meets fun.

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