For this second Internal Comms Teacamp we settled on the thorny topic of evaluation. With budgets being squeezed, we’re all under increasing pressure to demostrate the value of what we do, so this was a popular subject and we all had plenty to say.
With the summer holidays in full swing this was a smaller group than the first time around, but included a mix of internal communications professionals from the public, private and voluntary sectors keen to share ideas on the challenges we all face in our line of work.
Camilla West from Royal Bank of Scotland kicked things off with a short presentation on the work she’s doing to develop measurable KPIs for internal comms which link to wider business objectives. This turned out to be a common theme in the ensuing discussion; how we move away from simplistic measurement of click-throughs and measuring outputs towards a more meaningful evaluation of the impact comms has on achieving outcomes for the business.
The discussion moved on to KPIs. We all need to report our performance regularly to our management boards, but all too often this focuses on outputs (such as numbers of intranet visits) rather than outcomes (such as numbers staff who signed up to a training course). The difficulty we all seem to have is demonstrating what impact comms had on any single outcome; generally success or otherwise is determined by a number of organisational functions and variables, of which communications is just one.
While staff surveys can be useful in measuring staff engagement and objective satisfaction with communications channels, they’re far from a perfect means of measuring the performance of an organisation’s communications function. The group strongly felt these were often given far more attention than they deserve, so surveys should be followed up with additional research such as focus groups to gain a better understanding of communications effectiveness and identify points of failure.
This led nicely on to a discussion about the extent to which internal comms can be responsible for organisational objectives around staff engagement and morale. Many public sector organisations are noticing a dip in engagement scores at the moment, which is unsurprising given the headcount reductions and budget cuts so many are going through. This means that even where communications is working well, it performs badly in surveys as staff are cheesed off for myriad reasons beyond the control of comms.
Everyone in attendance emphasised the need to evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns and specific communications activities as well as employee satisfaction with communications. This needs to be an honest review of what works and what didn’t work as well, rather than simply trumpeting success stories.
In summary, it’s clear that evaluation is essential, but it’s not easy. Different methods of evaluation will be needed for different activities, and we need to combine this with regular reporting on our own performance to demonstrate the value of internal communications spend – linked to financial performance where possible.
The next Internal Comms Teacamp will be on 21 September from 4pm-6pm. We’ll be discussing Internal Comms and Hard to Reach Audiences, so I’ll be talking about the work I’ve been doing to bring intranet content to smartphones and iPads for Members of Parliament. For more information contact me and I’ll add you to our email list.
Not sure what Internal Comms Teacamp is? Here’s an introductory blogpost.