The internal comms metrics that matter
Your organisation has goals. To know if these goals are being met, we measure them. Everybody works collectively to achieve these goals and each department reports on their contribution.
If you think about the core departments within an organisation, it is easy to reel off some measures they each use to report on their contribution:
These measures will be reported at regular intervals and used to establish if the department is fulfilling it’s part of the group-wide goals.
Then there’s internal communications. While you may be able to think of some measures, how often are these actually captured and reported upon?
The answer is ‘not enough’, as demonstrated by these statistics:
- 48% do not measure the effectiveness of their internal communications.
- 68% of internal communicators say they lack time and/or resource when measuring the impact of their comms.
What’s the reason for this?
Compared to its counterparts, internal communications is a “new” department. While it is a vital function in helping an organisation deliver its objectives, it isn’t yet “bedded in”.
Looking back in history, staff newsletters have been a thing since the 40s, but a fully-fledged internal communication function has only been in place since we had the technology to effectively engage employees.
It is only in the last two decades that it has been commonplace for organisations to recruit for standalone internal communication roles. And these roles continue to be created today, as many organisations realise the investment in employee engagement is a worthwhile cause.
As a fresh-faced newbie, the internal communications function hasn’t yet found a guaranteed place around the board table. As such, there is often no business requirement to measure, and report on, performance. It is therefore no surprise to hear that 27% of internal communicators say a lack of interest from the business is to blame for their lack of insight into the impact of their comms.
But, perhaps it is time for internal communicators to take the lead rather than waiting to be noticed?
Internal communications is a hugely advantageous business function. It’s time we evidenced this.
The objective of internal comms metrics
We’ve all heard the phrase “data is king” and it is. With data we can clarify opinions. Without it, we just have an unproven idea.
Given internal communications is such a new business function, you are likely to need to prove its value amongst your peers. You may need to work harder than other departments to drive your vision. After all, we aren’t all pioneers. Many of us need hard data that clearly evidences the reason (or need) to do something before we will accept it or get onboard with the idea. This will be the case for many of your colleagues.
But beyond convincing others in your organisation of the benefit of internal communications, you yourself can reap many rewards from collating the right metrics.
- You will know whether your internal communications are reaching your internal audience.
- You will know if your internal communications are resonating with your audiences.
- You will know which channels are most effective.
- You will know how engaged your employees are.
- You will know how to improve what you do.
It’s not easy
As an internal communicator, you will no doubt already recognise the value of measuring internal communications. Your awareness isn’t the challenge. The challenge is making it happen. There are many issues that may be blocking your way to a seamless, data-driven internal communication process. For example:
- No access to tangible metrics
- Not enough time to put measures in place
- Undefined objectives and measures
- Too much data to analyse
- Difficulty comparing data from different channels
Pretty much all the barriers you experience will be caused by one of three things:
- Lack of leadership buy-in
- An embryonic internal comms strategy
- Not enough time
This guide will help you home in on the metrics that will best support you when you are faced with each of these challenges.
The internal comms metrics that matter when you lack leadership buy-in
For internal communications to be successful, your managers and leaders need to believe in its capabilities and support the delivery of your strategy. A lack of buy-in could show itself in a number of different ways:
Leaders may not give you the stage you need to promote your strategy.
- They may be unwilling to assign budget to you.
- They might not live by the company values.
- They might push back against some of your plans without considered reasons.
But rest assured, the challenges you are experiencing are not unique to your organisation. 17% of internal communicators say they do not have enough buy-in from their leadership team to make their internal comms effective. And there will no doubt be many more who are persevering with somewhat lacklustre support from their leadership team.
Ploughing on regardless isn’t an option you should consider. Your internal communications strategy will only be able to reach its true potential if you have the full backing of your leadership team. So, persevere on this one – it will be worth the effort.
The importance of data when engaging your leadership team
To engage your senior leaders, you must evidence how your internal communications strategy will bring positive change to the overall business strategy in a way they will quickly understand. Emotion plays little part in decision making so for them to sit up and listen, your strategy must talk their language: numbers.
The internal comms metrics that will resonate with senior leaders
The most powerful metrics that will “speak” to your leadership team are those that demonstrate improvement and growth.
The three strongest metrics are:
- Staff turnover – recruitment and onboarding is expensive. Statistics show that on average it costs £30,614 to replace a single employee. Your board will be very aware of this.
- Employee satisfaction – evidence shows that engaged employees are more productive (organisations in the top quartile of employee engagement scores had 18% higher productivity than those in the bottom quartile) and also more profitable (businesses with engagement scores in the top quartile had twice the annual net profit of those in the bottom quartile).
- Customer satisfaction – an informed workforce is one that feels part of the overall business strategy. If they understand how they contribute to the goals they will deliver more effective customer service. As always, the stats prove this to be the case! (Organisations with a top quartile engagement score average 12% higher customer advocacy)
But your challenge is demonstrating how your internal communications strategy has directly impacted each of these three metrics. If nothing else in the business changed, this would be easy. But sadly, it’s rarely that simple!
Instead, you need to tie these metrics into your internal comms objectives and assign meaningful KPIs to evidence the direct correlation.
Here’s two examples:
By creating the link between your strategy and the business improvements, you will have all the pieces your senior leaders need to map out the influence and benefit internal communications has on business performance.
The importance of benchmarking
Critical to all the above is benchmarking. It is only when you compare two data points that you can generate any value. One data point means nothing.
The sooner you benchmark, the sooner you can evidence the value of your internal communications.
The metrics that matter when your internal comms strategy is in its infancy
Anyone who takes the helm of a new function or project knows what it is like – there are a billion things to do and not enough resources to do it. But investing in measures at the outset will save you a huge amount of time and give your internal comms strategy the best start possible.
We recommend only introducing channels if you have the means to measure their success. One well used, well measured channel will be far more beneficial to your company than four sparsely populated, infrequently visited and poorly monitored channels.
Once you have your channel(s) set up, there are a few metrics that will be particularly valuable as you start your internal comms journey.
The essential internal comms metrics for a new internal communications strategy
Most internal communicators now face the challenge of a hard-to-reach, or dispersed, workforce. Whether that is employees without access to a computer or employees working from home – the challenge is very pronounced. You need your communications to reach each and every employee and you need the channels in place to help make this happen.
How you will measure this – employee surveys, channel engagement (i.e. opens, clicks, logins, comments)
Consistency of engagement
For your internal communications to be effective you need your employees to tune in regularly, not just a one off at the beginning because it is new and exciting. By drilling into the way your employees interact with your comms you can start to tweak your strategy to better accommodate them. For example, if you find the majority of your staff read your comms on their mobile at 12pm, you will look to produce more mobile friendly content which is released at that time.
How you will measure this – login times, device usage stats, frequency of engagement.
You need to know if your channel(s) are effective. If employees aren’t engaging, something needs to change.
How you will measure this – by comparing channel engagement over time and side-by-side against other channels. For a new strategy you would expect to see a gentle increase in engagement as time goes on (with a potential peak at the beginning depending on your method of launch).
Impact of internal comms
This is the time to prove your internal comms strategy is having a positive effect. These are the metrics you will take to your board when you ask for more budget or resource!
How you will measure this – employee engagement surveys, employee turnover, customer satisfaction surveys (see the metrics for leadership buy-in section for more info).
The internal comms metrics that matter when you are short on time
If you have visited this chapter rather than the previous one it suggests your internal communications is established, or at least not in its infancy, but that you suffer from the extremely common issue of being overstretched.
Firstly, remember you are far from alone. 68% of internal communicators say they lack time and/or resource when measuring the impact of their comms.
What internal comms metrics will have the greatest impact?
The answer to this question will depend on your organisation, the level of employee engagement and the length of time your internal comms strategy has been in place. Consider what you would like to achieve first. Do you want to:
- Learn about your audience?
- Measure channel effectiveness?
- Measure behavioural changes (particularly useful if you have new values or need to realign your values)?
- Measure resonance of messaging?
- Measure the impact of internal comms?
By pinpointing a focus, you can identify the metrics to explore. This table highlights which metrics are useful for each objective.
Email open rates – while this metric will show you what proportion of your employees have opened your messages; it doesn’t tell you if they have actually read it.
Click rates – this applies for any channel that includes a hyperlink. This metric gives a good indication into the topics your employees are interested in learning more about, but remember that hyperlinks may not be used in all communications.
Interaction rates – this metric can be taken from various channels, for example likes or comments in an employee engagement app, shares of an intranet article or forwards of an email. You may want to apply different weighting on different interactions. For example, if someone adds a thumbs up emoji to a post, they are not as engaged in the topic as they would be if they added a comment.
Logins – the validity of this measure will depend on your systems. For example, if you only have to login once, it will purely be used as a metric for new employees.
Time in app/ bounce rates – this is a strong metric to measure engagement as long as you take into consideration the varying lengths of time it will take to digest different pieces of information.
Search volume – relevant for intranets and employee platforms, this metric will give insight into the independent thinking of employees (rather than what you prompt them to read).
Time of engagement – a really good way to understand work and habitual patterns. This metric will be most effective when measured over a set period of time.
Device usage – a metric that can be used to inform the length and style of your communications but only relevant for those who have a choice of device.
Channel adoption rates – use this metric to compare your channels, however, bear in mind that some channels may be more accessible to some employees than others.
Social media engagement – if you use closed social media groups for internal communications you have two potential metrics here. One that measures engagement within that closed group and one that measures interactions with your public corporate profiles.
Event attendance – make sure you compare like-for-like events. For example, the motivation and commitment to attend a social event is very different to attending an online Town Hall event.
Employee turnover rate – while internal communications does influence employee turnover, there are many other factors that play a part, so this metric needs to be viewed at a high level.
Employee absenteeism – this metric holds greater value if you can identify short-term and unplanned absences and the times in which they occur. This is more likely to pick up on absences that are driven by employee disengagement. For example, if one day absences are common on a Monday that suggests disengagement could play a part.
Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) – a quick and easy way to measure employee loyalty through one question, but it doesn’t give you any qualitative information.
Employee surveys – an extremely effective way to capture quantitative and qualitative feedback. But ensure you avoid asking leading questions, or questions that will result in answers that cannot easily be measured or utilised. For example, an open-ended question that asks “What do you make of our brilliant new intranet” ticks both these fails! The question is leading, and the answer will not give you constructive feedback for how you can improve the intranet.
New sales – a useful measure to have should one of your objectives be to increase product awareness or collaboration with the sales team. If you don’t have such objectives, this metric is probably unnecessary.
Customer satisfaction – employee engagement is proven to directly impact customer satisfaction, but you must also consider other influencing factors from around the business when using this metric.
Buying more time
Having established which metrics you should measure, ask yourself one question: do you have the time to measure them all? If you don’t and you think a failure to measure these additional metrics will be detrimental to your business, it’s time to explore whether:
a) You can work more efficiently, or
b) You can have extra help.
But either way, you need to answer a) before you move on to b)!
Making internal communications more efficient
There are a number of opportunities to tighten efficiencies within your internal communications. Read our “Guide to delivering effective internal communications” to find recommendations on how you can:
- Ensure everyone understands their role in internal communications
- Remove silos
- Ensure buy-in from senior leaders
- Instill clear processes
- Ensure your systems are fit for purpose
The fifth point looks at your systems and processes. If you have an established internal communications strategy, this is the area that has the greatest scope for efficiency savings.
- Are all your channels working effectively?
- Could a different system reduce workload?
- Could you use a reporting tool that brings data points together for easier analysis?
By pausing, looking at what puts the greatest strain on your time and reviewing alternative options, you may be able to claw back the time you need to properly measure your internal communications.
Conclusion – gut feelings don’t cut it
To summarise, the reason you should capture internal comms metrics is twofold:
- With data-driven insight you will be able to drive continual improvement that makes a lasting change.
- Your internal communications function deserves recognition for the part it plays in making your organisation successful.
To achieve this, you need to paint a very clear picture and present it to senior leaders in a language they understand. This requires clearly defined objectives and enough capacity to analyse your data.
Internal communications are critical to the success of your organisation. By measuring the internal comms metrics that matter, your internal comms function will be able to achieve so much more.