Tag Archives: internal communications

Quantitative or Qualitative: How surveys and focus groups help measure internal communications effectiveness

After making the sometimes arduous decisions of which internal communications channels and programs are the best for your organization, the question of “Is it working?” lingers for comms professionals.

There are two viable measurement methods for answering that question.

First there isthe quantitative data, which comes in the form of metrics and analytics gathered from your organization’s use of email, intranet pages, mobile pages and other communication tools. Qualitative data will tell you how many employees are reading an email message or regularly utilizing your intranet site. What that doesn’t tell you is why, and that’s is where qualitative data comes in.

Qualitative data is the internal communications feedback you get direct from employees by conducting surveys and focus groups. Qualitative data, using properly formed questions, can tell you why employees participate or now, and how they feel about the channel, program or campaign.

While surveys and focus groups are equally worthwhile methods of gathering qualitative information, each one achieves different things. Quantum Workplace points out the difference:

Often the employee survey itself simply uncovers weaknesses and strengths, but it doesn’t always point to action steps for improvements. This is the next part of the conversation and where employee focus groups can provide insight on how to improve employee engagement.

A broad survey of hundreds or thousands of people can often serve as a starting point for digging deeper using focus groups of 10 to 12 employees, Quantum Workplace’s article suggests.

The Society for Human Resource Management has provided a detailed, six-step outline communicators can use to set up an employee focus group, starting with choosing a purpose statement, through developing questions, to selecting a facilitator, inviting participants, holding the actual meeting, and then analyzing the findings.

SHRM’s guide suggests that “a productive focus group is much more than a chat session,” and requires care and planning to make sure the results are useful.

Surveys, likewise, require careful planning. The way a question is worded will impact not only the answer, but how participates feel. In many ways, communicators must consider the tone of a survey just like they do other communications. According to Custom Insight, “communicating and establishing trust will also increase the survey response rate as well as the candor of the responses.”

Like SHRM’s focus group guide, Custom Insight provides a planning guide for surveys, with tips for alerting employees that the survey is coming, then combing the results for information that can improve internal communications.

In a post on his blog, internal communications expert Shel Holtz notes that it’s important for communicators to not just ask employees about tools and features they currently use; they should describe possibilities that could come in the form of new tools:

If the responses come back pointing toward a mobile app or mobile version of an internal social network, you’ll know all you need to: You’ll know that employees don’t yet know what delivery mechanism they want. It is up to internal communicators to make that mechanism available.

Surveys and focus groups go hand-in-hand. According to Quantum Workplace, employees who receive follow-ups after a survey (possibly in the form of a focus group) are 12 times more engaged than those who have no follow-up.

To learn more about how communicators are measuring their communications efforts, download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

How to engage a multi-generational workforce

By 2020—not too far off—five different generations will be represented in the workforce, and they’ll all have different communication styles.

Traditionalists who were born before 1946, will be sharing office space with Gen 2020, people born after 1997. And of course, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials will be in the mix, too. The first generation to embrace television will be shoulder-to-shoulder with generations for whom a world without smartphones feels like ancient history.

That presents a challenge for communicators who need to effectively message all those employees so they’re all working toward a common goal. How do you get everyone engaged, with shared purpose?

It’ll likely take a multi-pronged approach. According to Staff Management, it’s not just about technological differences. Members of different generations have different values, with some expecting a more hands-off approach, while others want regular feedback and recognition. Staff management advocates for trying lots of approaches:

In a multigenerational environment, it is wise to mix and match strategies like the team-building events favored by younger workers and the opinion-sharing practices promoted by their older counterparts. Younger generations might feel more comfortable communicating their thoughts when they feel like they know their coworkers, while older generations might need a structured forum in order to weigh in on key decisions.

Staff Management also recommends face-to-face interactions, as does Dana Brownlee, founder of training and management consulting firm Professionalism Matters, in an article in Business News Daily: “Bringing staff members of different generations together for face-to-face team-building exercises and ice breakers can help break down some of the barriers that can occur with digital communications.”

That same Business News Daily article warns that communicators and business leaders shouldn’t get bogged down in stereotypes. While workers of different ages will certainly have different methods and ideas, it isn’t fair to underestimate them or assume they’ll have certain flaws.

In another article at Forbes, corporate trainer Dana Brownlee notes, “It becomes very frustrating when you communicate with someone in a mode that they don’t like.” She advises that “workers across all age groups to individualize their approach by learning their coworkers’ preferences and attempting to meet in the middle.”

Once again, that likely means using numerous channels to communicate with employees, since face-to-face communication isn’t often the most feasible way to stay connected. It also means delivering messages through different platforms.

For example, consider sending emails that can be read across different devices. While some older employees may prefer to read email on a desktop computer, sending mobile-optmized emails means employees who prefer to view messages on their smartphones will get what they want, too.

Learn more about how communicators are measuring which internal communications work best by downloading PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

7 tips to justify internal comms measurement to business leaders

Most people who have worked in internal communications for a good amount of time are likely aware that top executives aren’t totally sold on the idea of making the effort to measure it.

In PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey, 25 percent of the communicators surveyed said the biggest challenge to measuring internal communications was that leadership didn’t see the value in it or doesn’t view it as a priority.

Yet 54 percent also said that measurement is valuable because it makes it easier to persuade C-suite executives to make good communication decisions.

Measurement justifies further measurement. That means communicators must be smart with the resources they have to prove why top business leaders should make measurement a cornerstone part of their corporate communications.

Here are seven tips that help make the case:

1. Go beyond “awareness.”

In an article for the Institute for Public Relations, Ethan McCarty, Global Head of Employee and Innovation Communications for Bloomberg, argues that “awareness is just one arrow in our quiver.” Communicators must show executives the business outcomes that arise from that awareness, not just prove that employees know more.

2. Demonstrate how information moves.

To build on McCarty’s point, internal communications are the most effective when messages don’t just move from the top down, but flow between employees and out into the world in a positive way. If you can show that employees are engaged and being activated to speak up, executives can instantly see the value. It can also change the culture. “The combination of openness and the easy flow of communication to everyone combine to make people feel like part of a coherent whole,” states the University of Kansas’ Community Tool Box section on internal communication.

3. Prove that the internal audience is unique.

The notion that internal communications are not PR may seem obvious, but it isn’t always immediately apparent to top-level leaders. You have to show them. “The models employed by strategy-focused internal communicators are…vastly different from the earned-media models that occupy most of the time of most PR practitioners,” communications expert Shel Holtz writes at his blog. With surveys and other tools, you can show that.

4. Show what you’re learning.

Measurement doesn’t mean much if the numbers aren’t being put to use. The people in the C-suite need to know communicators are changing up their strategies based on the metrics. In a LinkedIn post, Stuart Z. Goldstein, former managing director of corporate communications and public affairs at Depository Trust & Clearing, puts it this way: “Research won’t win the budget battles by itself, but it does provide a valuable lobbying tool, and it signals to management that corporate communications is learning from best practices.”

5. Drop what isn’t working.

Trying new things is really important, but executives aren’t going to stand for adding one thing on top of the other. If commuicators can show that measuring results has led to them dropping some less-than-effective channels to make room for the new stuff, it can prove that resources are being used more wisely.

6. Give examples of how it helped solve problems.

The KU Community Toolbox bluntly states, “Problems can be resolved, but only if they’re identified and acknowledged.” How do you identify them? Measurement. Show executives where you’ve pinpointed problems—perhaps email messages weren’t formatted in the most appealing way—and fixed them through employee feedback.

7. Participate in “strategic marketing.”

Goldstein says most communications reporting is viewed as “drudgery.” Don’t make yours a slog to get through. Serve up a road map that directly ties the metrics you’re presenting to business goals. “This approach addresses management’s question about ROI quite directly and is a powerful way to sell the value of corporate communications,” he writes.

Can your organization reach employee smartphones without investing in a mobile app?

From flyers on bulletin boards to digital signage in the lunch room to posters inside bathroom stalls, internal communicators have placed messages in all kinds of different places to try to get employees’ attention and keep them informed.

Within the last decade, employees have equipped themselves with convenient, versatile devices that are the perfect venue for direct communications. They’re small computers with a large screens that they carry around nearly all the time, and most people often glance at those screens throughout the workday.

The ubiquitous smartphone. And they’re easier to reach than many communicators think.

Yet many organizations haven’t tapped into their potential. According to PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey, only 5 percent of communications professionals think of their own organizations’ mobile solutions as effective. Only 30 percent have intranets that are accessible via mobile devices, and just a little more than half send mobile responsive email messages.

Only about a third (35 percent) think of mobile as the best way to reach employees and deserving of research, even though 84 percent of respondents themselves check their work emails using their mobile devices.

According to research from Informate Mobile Intelligence conducted in 2015—so the numbers are likely even higher now—Americans spent 4.7 hours on their phones each day. That’s about a third of their waking time. It would seem that the mobile audience is a captive audience.

So why aren’t more organizations moving toward using mobile apps or other mobile communication tools? It could be budgetary. In the PoliteMail survey, a whopping 70 percent of communicators said they don’t expect their budgets to increase or barely have any budget for new technology at all.

Also, more than half (54 percent) of respondents said their communications departments are understaffed and can’t get everything done, let alone add a new channel.

Or it could also be a matter of training. A little more than a third of respondents said they simply don’t know how to implement a mobile strategy.

But you don’t necessarily need an app or a mobile-optimized intranet to communicate internally via mobile devices. Every mobile device comes with an email client built right in. All an organization needs is an effective email strategy.

Mobile hurdles, may not seem easy to clear, but Inc. spells out the need for mobile internal communication in this post by Jeremy Goldman, founder and CEO of brand engagement consultancy Firebrand Group.

“Mobile is not only the current medium of the choice, it’s the future,” Goldman writes. “Leaders should be proactive in establishing a mobile-friendly workplace by ensuring all assets are compatible with mobile.”

According to new research by PoliteMail, employees with company email addresses will check email on their smartphones 38 percent of the time.

Instead of yet another app, it would seem the easiest way to reach employees where they are, is just to make sure they all have a company email address.

consolidate internal comms channels

Should You Consolidate Your Internal Comms Channels?

Executives don’t always know what they want or need when it comes to internal communications.

In a PR Week column, Philips ASEAN Pacific’s head of communications, Elaine Ng, calls internal communicaitons “highly underrated” among executives, and made the argument that it’s widely misunderstood. That’s why the first reaction execs often have is to scale back, simplify and consolidate internal communications channels.

That’s not always the wrong decision, but it’s not always the right one, either.

In a sweeping 2015 post on his blog, Holtz Communication + Technology’s Shel Holtz makes the case that internal communications should always be a separate discipline from PR and other external communications. He also pushed back against the idea that internal communications is just about sending mass emails to employees.

“One distribution tactic…does not comprise the employee communications discipline as practiced by the best communicators and organizations,” Holtz writes.

If anything, Holtz seems to be arguing that expanding the number of channels—not consolidating—is the path to healthy, effective internal comms. This blog itself has laid out the benefits of a strategic communications approach targeting different audiences with different communication techniques.

Yet there’s a reality executives and communicators can’t deny: Sometimes, communications methodologies become outdated or simply don’t work to begin with. It’s a waste of time and resources to keep investing in that particular channel.

The problem is that communicators and executives often don’t know if communications channels are working or not, because they don’t have any mechanism by which to measure their effectiveness. They’re simply making decisions in darkness, by gut feeling or as a reaction to a handful of employee comments.

The answer to the question of whether you should consolidate your internal comms channels isn’t a blanket yes or no. It all depends on what’s working and what isn’t. If your analytics show that a channel is waning in effectiveness or never was effective, drop it or fold it into something else. But it’s also valuable to try new approaches and evaluate new channels to see if they catch on.

Either way, measurement is imperative. It’s the only way to know for sure that you’re making the right choices and connecting strongly with employees.

To learn more about how communicators are measuring their communications efforts—if they are at all– download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

The Benefits of Measuring Internal Communications

Over 500 internal comms professionals participated in PoliteMail’s 2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey, offering an inside look at how they define and measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

Among the survey’s most striking findings is that many internal comms professionals remain unsure of what and how to measure. Perhaps because of that, 20% of respondents measure very little of their efforts, and 15% don’t measure at all. More than half (60%), however, measure at least some of their work.

According to survey respondents, there are three main benefits to measuring internal comms:

Stronger Employee Engagement

76% of internal comms professionals surveyed said measurement strengthens employee engagement. One practical way to use measurement to encourage engagement is through the process of audience segmentation. Creating targeted, segmented messaging builds trust, delivers more appropriate messaging and shows that engagement is a priority.

Also, companies with high employee engagement enjoy 6% higher profit margins than those with lower engagement.

Proof of ROI—and Support of Senior Executives

Everyone in the business world has been told they “better have the numbers to back it up” at some point—and that’s exactly what internal comms measurement provides.

Having firm data in hand helps communicators prove their departments’ worth (44%) and supports increasing department budgets (22%).

Data-Informed Decision Making

Communicators need to know the outcomes for all of their efforts to help them create the best game plan for their next project. And they can find those results through measuring their communications.

83% of survey respondents say measuring internal comms efforts helps them make data-informed decisions. 79% of those cited the ability to create stronger campaigns based on that data as a major benefit.

Start Benefiting from Communications Measurements

Want to see how (and why) other teams are measuring their internal communications efforts? Download our 2016 Internal Communications Survey Results.

2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey Results

PoliteMail Software commissioned Gill Research to conduct the 2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey to examine how internal communications professionals define and measure the success of their efforts.

Nearly 600 internal comms professionals participated, giving us a deep look into the world of measurement: Who measures and to what extent, what challenges and obstacles they face, which channels and tools they use, and more.

Who Is Measuring?

90% of respondents are located in the Americas, and organizational size split almost evenly across three tiers: 37% have 1,000 or fewer employees, 34% have 1,001 to 10,000 employees, and 29% have more than 10,001 employees.

Although communicators are making an effort to measure internal communications efforts, most are still unsure of what to measure, how to measure success, and, in particular, how to measure behavioral changes. 20% of respondents admit they measure very little and 15% don’t measure at all. More than half (60%), however, measure at least some of their work.

Benefits of Measuring Internal Comms

Those who do measure internal communications cite a variety of benefits:

  • Stronger employee engagement (76%)
  • Support of senior executives (54%)
  • Proof of ROI (44%)
  • Larger internal communications budgets (22%)

Top Measurement Challenges

Since PoliteMail’s 2014 survey, more communicators report that lack of time, tools, and staff are the biggest obstacles to measurement. More than half of current respondents struggle with understaffing, which in turn makes it difficult for them to spend time on measurement.

  • Lack of time and/or personnel 63%)
  • Lack of tools (63%)
  • Lack of budget (42%)

Get the Complete Survey Results

The 2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey found that despite the many challenges, communicators are refining their strategies to deliver maximum impact.

To learn more, download a copy of our complete 2016 Internal Measurement Survey Results. 

3 Internal Email Metrics More Valuable Than Open Rate

You’ve just finished composing an important internal email communication, created a compelling graphic to grab your employees attention, and survived rounds of content edits and approvals. After rereading it a few more times, you hit send — now all that’s left to do is sit back and celebrate your successful broadcast (well that, and getting going on the next one)!

But the send is only half your success.  Did people read it? Now it’s time to consider the second half: measurement.

Why Measuring Internal Communications Makes a Difference

Think about all of the time you spend writing, reviewing and sending internal emails. You put in countless hours each week, and suffer through significant changes to content and style?  You’re not sure who’s approach is better.  What really works? If you aren’t measuring your communications, you can’t really answer that question. When you start tracking your email metrics, and comparing results of all your internal communications — then you will have the results to prove what works and improve what doesn’t.

Here are a few benefits of measuring your internal communications:

Whether you send to 1,000 employees or 100,000, the objective of your internal communications is to inform employees, educate and motivate them, and boost their engagement with your business. To make the most of what you’re doing, measurement can provide the insights you need, with the right metrics.

Looking at the Big Picture

It’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus just on your email open rate as a key performance indicator. On the surface, this seems like a good metric because it tells you how many employees read your message, right? Not quite.

Open rates are just a piece of the bigger picture when it comes to measuring your internal communications’ success — and they are usually misleading. Whether someone spends one second or 10 minutes on your email, the open count is the same. Depending on the email service you use, someone who reads your email may never be counted because they didn’t click to download images in the email.

Here are three more important email metrics that will give you a more accurate measurement of your internal communications’ performance.

#1: Time on Page

The key email metric is time on page, also known as the read rate. That tells you how long the person has the message opened — not just that they opened it.

By measuring the time on the page, you’ll have a much more accurate picture of if people are actually reading or ignoring your content.  You are sending the message for a reason, so you want to know if people are taking the time necessary to read it.

If not, you can change your content, your layout, and other message component and compare results to see what works to get your message read.  A read time metric is critical if you want to improve the value of you email messaging.

Of course, you’ll have the occasional employee who leaves the email open while they run to the break room, but a good analytics tool should factor that in.

#2: Click-Through Rates

This metric is pretty simple: The click-through rate is when someone clicks a link in your email.

For news and action oriented messages, it’s a great metric to measure your employees’ engagement.  You are trying to get someone to do something. You could link to a video, an internal blog or intranet news story, an online survey or social media page — whatever it is, it’s good to what percentage of our audience actually did it.  And if they didn’t click, but really need to, being able to reach back out to that specific group is essential to successful communications efforts.

It’s also beneficial to measure mobile and desktop click-through. According to an Experian email report, 58 percent of email opens occur on a mobile phone or tablet — so your click-through rates may be affected if your message isn’t mobile friendly, or if your content is not accessible via mobile devices.

#3: Email Engagement Vs. Employee Engagement

These metrics are related, but not the same. Email engagement is how interactive employees are with your digital communications over time. Consistently high readership and click through means high engagement. When you see engagement fall off, that is a leading indicator that you need a content refresh or a new messaging strategy.

Employee engagement might be a soft metric, but it is important to the executive suite, as higher employee engagement has been correlated to higher company profitability. Engaged employees also have higher morale and stay with the company longer. Employee engagement is typically measured through annual surveys or focus groups.

When employees are engaged with your digital communications, including email, likes and comments on your Intranet and company social channels, blog and social media interactions, they are more likely to rate higher on engagement surveys.

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.” —Timothy R. Clark, founder of LeaderFactor

Wondering how to get started with email measurement?

Ready to stop the guesswork and learn how to measure and get the most out of your internal communication efforts?

Download PoliteMail’s “Guide to Internal Communications Measurement.”

Christmas in July

Big ships are slow to turn.  Large enterprise customers make very deliberate and careful decisions.  The benefits of measuring and improving employee email communications using Outlook email analytics are often understood within an hour.  The process of making business cases, technical and security reviews, and procurement cycles in companies of 25,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 300,000 employees occurs, due to the very nature of their size, in slow motion.

Which is why the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of the new one is so exciting.  Communicators may have been waiting literally years to get modern email communication tools.  The approval process crawls forward, as the email analytics project slips through the hoops to arrive as an item within the enterprise budget cycle.  Then, seeming suddenly, this month and next, the flood gates open.  Email measurement finally has a budget, the technical and data security light is green, we’re moving ahead.  Now, after months or years of evaluation, the question becomes how fast can we get it implemented?  Yes, it’s a joy to tear open the wrapping isn’t it?!