Internal Communications has long been criticized over its ability - or willingness - to make data-driven decisions. It’s difficult to measure the impact Internal Communications has on the company when its influence is often indirect. We don’t immediately reduce costs like procurement does, we don’t directly drive revenue by signing new clients like sales does, and we rarely sit in on board meetings. But one thing we do know: not having us around is detrimental to the health of an organization and its lifeforce – employees. In Mike Klein’s third research report, titled “How to measure what matters”, we start seeing ways to look past the narrow-mindset of Return on Investment and onwards to more meaningful data. For the first time we’re seeing the formation of a framework on what will hopefully become the next step in proving our worth – without the stress-induced, defensive mindset.
“We need to measure what matters. We measure too much of what doesn’t matter” says one Internal Communicator in the report. “Data is great if you are quantitative, but words are where the story lives” says another. This is where things get interesting. Data, in the mindset of many, consists of figures, numbers and is represented in charts and graphs. But really, data is just factual representation of reality. It isn’t limited to numbers and figures, and words are equally suitable to help identify patterns. Why, for example, do we not measure the amount of times certain terms are mentioned in our digital workspaces, social intranets or Enterprise Social Networks, after an official message has gone live? What if we’ve just rebranded and introduce new brand values – wouldn’t the amount of times that these are mentioned in our company’s digital space count as significant?
Looking beyond eyeballs and ‘likes’
“You learn a lot by understanding how people search and what they search for. It’s crazy IC doesn’t use this”. One of the most challenging and informative quotes from the report hits the nail on its head: in the digital space there is much more to measure than just page-or-post views, “likes” and a general amount of comments. Taken directly from the report, Mike Klein says “The power of enterprise search as an employee data source is that the data is both quantitative and qualitative. Not only can the popularity of search terms be identified, but the prevalence of alternative terminology (‘performance optimization’ vs ‘cost-cutting’) can be assessed. In some cases, search term usage can be analyzed geographically and even demographically. It also is possible to track and measure changes in popularity and terminology over time.”
Measuring the impossible, or the impossible measurement?
It’s something we’ve all struggled with, even if we know that the financial impact of -not- having Internal Communications can be significant. Measuring our impact is difficult. The report highlights the two reasons why:
ROI is a linear measure, and Internal Communication supports both linear improvements in performance and the achievement of binary (all or nothing) objectives.
The extent to which Internal Communication is a factor in achieving improvements and objectives is generally subjective.
This results a new framework for IC measurement. Comparing investments in comms with other investments means looking at three different, key numbers, namely:
The size of the anticipated change in behavior,
The additional revenue that change will generate or save,
The level of credit an agreed communication approach should be given – something Mike calls “The Comms Factor”.
Mike highlights “The Comms Factor” as something difficult, because it’s an agreement between the Comms function and the business. And perhaps that is the beauty of it. We’ve long said that getting buy-in from senior leadership and the C-suite is one of biggest challenges to Internal Comms. What better way could there be than making them part of the conversation in what determines our success?