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Podcast: Proving Internal Comms’ value

Podcast: Proving Internal Comms’ value

Jonathan Davies


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8 mins read

Thu, Apr 4, '19  

How can Internal Comms start measuring what really happens? What kind of methods and metrics will really start to prove our worth? Is there a correlation between Employee Engagement and productivity?

Armed with new research results, Mike Klein is back to tackle these questions and more in the fourth Internal Communications Podcast. Listen to it directly by hitting “Play” below, or find it on your favorite podcast apps. Below is a written excerpt from the podcast.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | RadioPublic | CastBox

Numbers are meaningless for Internal Communications

“The problem with numbers is that without context, they’re meaningless. There are so many numbers being thrown around business today, and a lot of these have meaning because of the terminology they’re attached to. There is little meaning attached to a lot of the numbers generated from Internal Communications activities. Words are critical to putting things into context. One of the things I’ve noticed from Internal Communicators is a large number of them swear by open questions and pulling punchy quotes from respondents.”

“To say that 50% of people read something without having any idea of who those 50% are, or how that compares to other announcements or incidents, is pretty arbitrary. The key thing is to look at the trendlines and the words you use to describe the trendlines with become all important in that case. Or you look at the people those numbers represent – look at the demographics, they’re extremely valuable too. Unsophisticated or sophisticated, depending on the platform you’re using even the most basic platform should be able to tell you how many views you got from a location. The map of your readership can tell you a lot more about the impact your stuff is having or not having.

“Do you have a best friend at work?” is not a valid way to measure our worth

“There are a lot of people who believe in something called “Return on Engagement”. I think it’s a real stretch to try to base measurement of the entire value of Internal Communication on RoE, just like I feel it doesn’t work with ROI or other standard measurements. For example, with Employee Engagement, you look at popular Engagement measurement tools. Gallup Q12 ask a number of questions that has nothing to do with what Internal Communicators do, what’s in our remit and what’s in our span of control. ‘Do you have a best friend at work?’ Well, unless you’re an Internal Communications person organizing regular speed-dating for new employees so they get to know new people in the office, you have no control over whether or not they have a best friend at work, yet your performance is based on how employees respond to that question. That’s why I’m a real skeptic of RoE.”

Why Internal Communications has difficulty proving its value

“It’s difficult to prove our value because what Internal Communicators do drives binary outcomes. A friend who was on the previous podcast, Sanjoy Mukherjee-Richardson, was responsible to prepare his company for a hard Brexit by an agreed date. He managed, but if he didn’t, there wasn’t a percentage of preparedness that you would want to reward. It’s either 100% or 0%. A lot of Internal Communication is around all-or-nothing bets – change programs, sales targets, organizational outcomes, it’s ‘yes or no’. You delivered or you didn’t. ROI is great, but only if Internal Communications is aligned with linear measurements. Say you want to increase sales by x%, you could argue that Internal Communications had a contribution to that number. Organizations usually try to measure ROI after the fact – you have to do this huge forensic analysis. Most Internal Communications budgets are microscopic compared to the rest. If you have a $1billion Change Program, how much of that is Internal Communications? That’s where I came into something called The Comms Factor, which talks about how you measure Internal Communications from the front end.”

Directly from the report: The Comms Factor

The Comms Factor is a guess, but it’s no less real than other business metrics that get thrown around the organization. It’s based on an agreement between the comms function and the business of how much the success or failure of an initiative will be credited to Employee Engagement or Internal Communications. As imperfect as it is, it provides an approach for valuing the full range of comms activities in an organization in financial terms comparable to those that drive the rest of the business.

On using The Comms Factor

“Instead of waiting to hear how much credit would be given to Internal Communications, I thought why don’t we decide how much credit we’re due beforehand. Then we’ll look at the financial element of what that amount of credit looks like. If we work on a billion-dollar change program and we get a tenth of 1 percent as a result, that’s a million dollars. That’s more than most Internal Comms budgets worldwide. The amount of credit you can negotiate - particularly if you’re being strategic about it - will more than pay your budget, fund your team and allow you to do the professional development required to drive Internal Comms so it’s even more of a contributor in the future.”

To find out more about The Comms Factor, including the kind of skills necessary to execute and implement it, tune in to the podcast.