OPINION: TRUDY LEWIS ON THE MEASUREMENT OF INTERNAL COMMS
The CIPR Inside group partnered with the IoIC on a research report into the effective measurement and evaluation of internal communications. Trudy Lewis discusses the research findings
Measurement has always been a challenge for internal communication (IC). It is consistently discussed, reviewed and presented on, and yet practitioners are still finding it difficult. In 2017, CIPR Inside conducted research with CEOs and peers to talk about the value and effectiveness of internal communication. The report findings showed that good IC positively impacted performance and productivity, however the CEOs interviewed, all said that they understood just how difficult it was to measure or prove this. As a result, we decided to present a second report with a focus on measurement and return on investment (ROI). This time we looked at existing research and a small peer survey. We also invited the IoIC to join us to review and identify solutions.
There was a lot of data on measurement but very little on ROI – we even found that some practitioners didn’t quite see the relevance. We felt it was important to include ROI as senior leaders are increasingly asking for evidence that IC is worth the investment and can successfully support business priorities and challenges.
We found that all of the current recommendations for measurement came from five main studies and models, and that some were originally designed for public relations. What came out of our review of the data suggested that rather than providing another set of guidelines, we should identify key themes.
Strategy: you can only measure effectively if you have developed a strategy. Although the 2019 Gatehouse ‘State of the Sector’ report tells us that ‘only 38% of IC functions having a written strategy in place,’ developing a strategy is the starting point for good internal comms. Strategy is where we set objectives that can be measured and included on the company dashboard where targets and achievements are reviewed.
Dialogue: with your leaders or leadership team is important. Dialogue opens up a way to measure what’s important and meaningful to the business. Being able to share more data on the impact of internal communication would be an asset to further developing the area as a strategic function. It’s about changing mindsets and developing relationships and trust with leadership, which is critical to make a case for internal communication.
Maturity of your role and the function: what you measure is sometimes determined by the maturity of your role within the IC function. Maturity is about being accountable for the work produced and its outcome; moving the focus away from tactical measurement like analytics, to how we can be measured against KPIs or operational targets that aim to address things like attrition and retention.
Budget: measurement and ROI don’t have to cost the earth. The peer survey told us that one of the main barriers to measurement was budget. We believe this is where we need to be creative as practitioners to find a solution, and not use it as an excuse. If there is buy-in from leadership and we can demonstrate the ROI through the value added, then we can submit a strong business case for investment in measurement.
One approach doesn’t fit all: it’s time to do the work. Every organisation is different. As communication is being developed from the strategy, and conversations are had with leadership, it will become clear what and how to measure and which tools to use.
The takeaways from our report are to find a way to measure that suits the organisation and is achievable for the IC function. To have those conversations, be accountable and raise the level of expectation from IC – demonstrating its value and impact. Measurement is a powerful tool and in IC we need to embrace it, learn to manage it well and attempt to apply it to everything we do.
Trudy Lewis is a committee member of CIPR Inside