The internal communicator: creator, advisor, curator, strategist and… data analyst? The hunt for data to prove our worth is hardly a new consideration for internal communicators but as Nick Andrews, Business Development Director at Sequel Group, said in his introduction to last Friday’s Aspic seminar: “We’re not quite there yet.”
Held at the Soho Hotel in London, the seminar brought together a group of internal communicators professionals to ask, and hopefully answer, the questions: how do we go about getting that precious data? And once we have it, what do we do with it?
A strong start
Aspic’s first speaker Russell Grossman, Director of Communications, Office of Rail and Road and Profession Head for Internal Communications, UK Government, says effective measurement starts with a focus on its audience.
“Be clear at the beginning what you want to achieve,” he says. “How do I want my audience to react – to do, think or feel? What end behaviour do you want to achieve, both immediately as a result of the campaign and long term?”
To do this, Russell had a handy acronym: OASIS. This is a series of steps that helps bring order and clarity to planning work. You outline your objectives, gather audience insight, decide on a strategy, implement your campaign and score the outcome.
He advised following another acronym when thinking about how you are going to gather and use that data: PROOF (pragmatic, realistic, open, objective and fully integrated).
Russell says, “Be pragmatic and realistic by doing the most you can within your budget and acknowledging what you can’t measure. Share your results openly and objectively so you can learn for the future. And finally, make sure measurement is a fully integrated part of your planning and delivery – not just an add-on at the end.”
Finger on the pulse
For Annabel Dunstan, Co-Founder of Question & Retain, the answer to good measurement lies in one simple fact: the annual engagement survey is dead. Instead Annabel advocates smaller, regular Pulse checks that give you real-time data about how employees are feeling.
“Keep it simple; less is more,” she says. “Gather less data, more quickly. Then rather than having to wait months to hear what you intend to do with their feedback, employees will know the survey results and what actions you’re taking from them within a matter of weeks, sometimes days.”
It’s clear many internal communicators are already making the most of this approach, with Question & Retain’s own survey (run in September 2016) showing that 40 per cent are already running regular temperature checks.
And although an equal number said they still have an annual employee survey, Annabel believes that their allegiance will shift to a pulse approach, as “more internal communicators start to understand that listening plus action equals trust” when it comes to employee communications.
Although Question & Retain use the growing appetite for technology and innovation to deliver their pulse surveys, Annabel warns that – as with any type of communication – face-to-face still wins out: “Make sure you’re sending out your senior leaders to talk and listen to your people.” You’ll collect more worthwhile, honest feedback and help to build trust between employees and leaders.
Of course (from a completely unselfish standpoint…) strong measurement has the undeniable benefit of making you look good too. As Annabel said, sharing prominent internal communicator Liam Fitzpatrick’s wise advice: arrive with data and leave with respect. Now, that’s something we can all get on board with!