Measuring the Impact of Communication on Business Outcomes

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Communication Skills

Employee Communication: How to Measure the Impact on Business Outcomes

Everyone involved in employee communication knows that an important part of employee communication today is measurement. However much of that measurement  records only whether employees access the tools organisations use to communicate with them.

Questions like: 

Do employees open the newsletter?

Have employees accessed the company blog?

How many employees look at the company web site?

Not one of these measurements shows any scale of actual employee engagement.

Have you actually communicated a clear message that has been read and understood by someone?

You don't know because you are measuring the acceptance of communication skills tools, not measuring employee communication strategy.

So here's what to do

1. Every organisation conducts market research surveys. These surveys typically measure customer satisfaction levels across services and products provided by your organisation. Sometimes they even ask questions about competitor products and services. Organisations then take that information and work towards improving the rating they received by introducing improvements to services, products and information.

Now many organisations have a human resources department that usually conduct a staff survey annually. This survey typically includes questions about communication skills within the organisation, understanding the corporate vision, satisfaction with employee benefits and training and so on.

What I suggest is that organisations include a supplementary survey of just 10 questions at the end of this survey. And these questions should be framed by selecting key questions from the customer survey and asking staff what do you think customers think about X? These 10 questions in effect become your employee communication engagement measure.

2. Typically the result demonstrates disparity between what customers think and what employees think customers think. Once you have the difference measured between perception and reality then you have the opportunity to commence dialogue about with your employees about what customers really think. Most importantly it allows you to design employee communication skills strategies specifically to target that business issue. So now you have a business and know the key messages for your employee communication skills strategy.

3. One year on when the customer survey is conducted, you ask the same questions and again do the same with the staff survey. What you seek to find is that the measure of the perception staff have of what customers think and what customers actually think have moved closer together and towards the organisations desired outcome. This becomes your business measure of whether you have engaged employees.

4. This information is important because your ultimate aim in employee communication skills has to be to create the "Aha Moment". The Aha Moment is based on information that challenges the employee's belief about an aspect of the business. The information that suddenly helps employees say, "Now it makes sense", "Now I understand", "Now I can do something about it".

It is only once you see this gap close between what customers actually think about an issue and what employees think the customer thinks that you have a measure that demonstrates your employee communication skills engagement strategy has been successful. If the gap still exists then the design of your employee communication skills strategy is flawed in some way.

5. Finally, it is important that we measure employee communication skills tools such as readership of our staff magazine, access of our intranet and other tools. However the only way to impact perceptions of the value that the employee communication function contributes to an organisation is to measure engagement strategies against business outcomes.

This approach to measurement is low cost. The investment in the human resources staff survey and the marketing departments' customer research is already locked in. You are simply adding 10 questions to the end of the human resources survey based on the marketing questions.

The engagement strategies are generally low cost because they involve people, not tools. By this I mean that employees are involved in doing something differently to bring about change in an organisation. The staff newsletter and other information tools already exist, all you do is tailor the articles to reflect the main focus of your employee engagement strategy. This low cost yet highly effective approach will ensure that you can measure your employee communication skills strategies against business outcomes.

This article was contributed by Marcia Xenitelis

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