Measuring What Matters in Internal Communications

Simon Rutter

Award-winning Sr Communications Strategist

14 Aug 2023

How should you be measuring internal comms? Senior Communications Strategist Simon Rutter shares his advice.

Over the past decade, internal communicators have faced challenges when it comes to accurately measuring the success and conveying the value of their work. The result has been that already dubious senior executives’ views on such activities are reinforced, budgets and resources accordingly cut, and the vicious cycle continues. 

But when we talk about measuring the success of internal communications (IC), what do we really mean? Why is that important? And crucially, how can we start doing it better? 

What exactly should we be measuring? 

First, we need to focus on the areas in which IC teams have total or significant control of the messaging and accountability for it being understood and/or acted upon. For example, IC is often expected to improve overall employee engagement scores, yet it’s unsurprising that Gallup finds 70% of the variance in team engagement is down to the manager alone. In this instance, IC can help, but there are limits as to what it should be on the hook for. 

With that in mind, here are five metrics IC should be measuring to determine its success: 

1. Employees’ understanding of company purpose, strategy, vision, mission etc.

IC teams should be involved right from the start, or certainly as early as possible, when company-wide strategy is being decided. But regardless of when they’re brought in, it is their responsibility to ensure that this information is communicated in a way that helps employees easily comprehend it. 

2. Clarity on role and how that aligns to company strategy

Following on from Point 1, every employee must know how their job, no matter how menial it may seem, contributes to the delivery of the company’s business goals. Here, IC teams have a responsibility to help leaders and managers connect the dots for their teams. 

3. Key changes affecting employees’ roles (e.g. restructures, mergers/acquisitions)

Change, transformation, call it whatever you want – it’s happening everywhere, all at once, and it creates an incredible amount of noise. IC teams need to help impacted employees (whether at large or specific groups) understand what the changes mean for them, from the strategic rationale to, for example, new ways of working. 

4. Adoption and engagement on IC-owned channels

When IC owns the channel (for example, the intranet) and has control of the content (to a large extent) then they are responsible for adoption of the channel and engagement with the content. That could be numbers of likes, comments, click-through rates, etc – all of which demonstrate whether the content has been useful or not. 

5. Feedback on Town Halls/All Hands/Large-scale company meetings

Whether held virtually or face-to-face, these meetings are typically organized and run by IC teams. Therefore, it’s up to those teams to choose the right subjects and speakers, create or guide the content, and help executives land the key messages. 

Why is measuring internal comms important? 

Measuring anything is important, so you know where you’re starting from, can gauge progress, and identify where to make improvements. This is even more critical for IC, which is often misunderstood and undervalued by leaders (until a crisis hits) and hasn’t always helped itself by either focusing on irrelevant metrics or straying into areas in which it is only part of a much bigger picture (employee engagement). 

Now let’s walk through the five metrics above and why they’re important to measure. 

1. Employees’ understanding of company purpose, strategy, vision, mission etc.

In a recent study, IBM found that 72% of employees don’t have an understanding of their company’s strategy. This is frightening, because it means most people at work don’t understand what they should be doing, why, or how. As a result, they are wasting precious time and energy in the wrong areas, are less productive and engaged, and aren’t contributing as fully as they could do. Bottom line – if your people don’t know what your strategy is, how are they going to deliver it? 

2. Clarity on role and how that aligns to company strategy

Knowing what you’re doing and how it fits into the bigger picture is essential for employees to find meaning and purpose in their work. Without these, they won’t be focused in the right areas to move the business forward, they are more likely to be disengaged and, ultimately, leave your organization. We all know the cliché that people leave managers not employers, and so it’s critical that IC enable managers to create this clarity for their employees. 

3. Key changes affecting employees’ roles (e.g. restructures, mergers/acquisitions)

For any change or transformation program to be successful, behavior needs to have changed. This doesn’t happen overnight. Winning over hearts and minds takes a mix of rational and emotional communication techniques sustained over a long period. IC is at the heart of this. And when done successfully, compelling change communications can have hugely positive and demonstrable effects on culture, strategy, and business performance. 

4. Adoption and engagement on IC-owned channels

Measuring adoption and engagement on your channels is vital. Quantitatively, it tells you if your channel strategy is reaching the right audience, and whether your content is being viewed and acted upon or not. Qualitatively, if, for example, you have comments or feedback forms on your intranet, you get real-time sentiment on whether your communications are useful, relevant, or simply adding to the noise. This makes it easier for you to pivot and adapt your channel and content strategy, if you need. 

5. Feedback on Town Halls/All Hands/Large-scale company meetings

If you’re not measuring the effectiveness of these milestone meetings, you won’t have a good handle on what your people are thinking, feeling, and doing. You may think your content is fine, but without measurement, you won’t have any proof that employees are understanding the key messages and know what they need to do differently, or get any sense of how they’re feeling and what you might need to adjust in your communications strategy. 

How can you measure the success of these metrics? 

So, we’ve looked at what you should be measuring, and why it’s important. That’s great. But where do you begin? Measurement can often seem more complex and challenging than it is, which can prevent IC teams from getting started. The key is to keep it simple.

Here are some ideas for how you can measure our five metrics. 

1. Employees’ understanding of company purpose, strategy, vision, mission etc.

Idea: Send a quick and easy online survey to employees after launching and engaging in communications of this type. Check for their understanding of the key elements of the strategy (vision etc), but also how they feel about it. There are plenty of tools out there that enable you to create and issue surveys at the click of a button. Make sure these surveys allow for free text responses when you’re measuring emotional engagement (for example, belief). 

2. Clarity on role and how that aligns to company strategy

Idea: Create simple toolkits for people managers so they can have conversations with their team members about the strategy and what it means for them as individuals. This can be in the form of a Manager Briefing Pack, with information on the key topics and then a guided section for managers to complete for each of their teams, prompted by questions such as ‘How does my specific role support our strategy?’ 

3. Key changes affecting employees’ roles (e.g. restructures, mergers/acquisitions)

Idea: As part of your change communications, you can host regular ‘drop-in’ or ‘Ask Me Anything’-style sessions with senior leaders and members of the program team. These can be virtual, online, or a blend of both, and allow employees to ask questions, raise concerns and give feedback. By doing this, you can quickly assess what messages people are getting, how well they understand the changes, and what else you might need to do in your communications to help employees. 

4. Adoption and engagement on IC-owned channels

Idea: Here you have a range of digital tracking tools at your disposal. Google Analytics gives you good visibility on many metrics, including page views, length of time on page, bounce rate etc. If you send newsletters, some providers have built-in tools to measure click-through rates, which are a strong indication that your content is relevant to your audience. And any intranet worth its salt should have comment functionality and insight analytics, giving you further feedback on the usefulness of your communications. 

5. Feedback on Town Halls/All Hands/Large-scale company meetings

Idea: While the questions and comments raised either live or virtually are one indicator of whether your messages have been understood, another is having a direct line where employees can send feedback after an event. Sending an email or posting in an online space can feel less intimidating than asking a question live, and if you receive several questions on the same topic, this method enables you to adjust future communications and events. 

Start measuring internal comms effectively today

In summary, if you measure what matters in internal comms your employees will be more engaged and productive, you will be more effective and influential in your role, and your organization will turbocharge its performance. What’s not to like?