November 26th, 2018
I’m frequently asked to run internal communication audits for clients and it’s one of my favourite types of work to do. I love getting under the skin of an organisation, speaking to people about what really matters to them and having the opportunity to make a real difference.
Recently I had the opportunity to run a webinar for Contact Monkey on how to audit your internal communications for future success and here I’ve shared some of the key highlights:
Why run an internal communications audit?
There are many reasons an audit can be right for your organisation. You might have little in the way of meaningful measurement and don’t have a sense of how effective your internal communications are. So, an audit can be a great way of providing you with a baseline which then helps you set SMART objectives (aligned with your organisation’s strategy). You’ll then be able to see if you have achieved those objectives by comparing future measures to that baseline.
It might be that you’re new in a senior IC role and you want to understand the organisation and how effective IC currently is.
Or you might be writing a new strategy or have important strategic decisions to make and the outcomes of the audit can help inform these.
And for some people, regular audits are part of the internal communication rhythm where they regularly check in on the organisation and the effectiveness of internal communication.
Whatever your reason, it’s really important to be clear on why you’re doing the audit and what you want to get out of it as it helps you understand what it is you’re trying to measure and what type of audit to do.
Things to think about before doing an audit
- Budget and scope – If you want to get in an external agency or consultant, be clear what you can afford to help them tailor their approach. Audits can be scalable so even if you have a small budget, there are ways of still getting the outcomes you desire. Scope creep later on can end up costing you money you haven’t budgeted for.
- Who should conduct the audit? Ideally an external agency or consultant as they will bring objectivity, be able to provide anonymity, plus they can bring their wealth of experience of working with other clients in various industries, which is especially helpful when making recommendations. Another option is if you’re brand new to the organisation, as people are more likely to speak openly to you and you can be objective.
- When to audit – It’s important to consider what else is going on in the organisation. If you’re asking people to give up their time for focus groups or surveys, make sure it’s not during their busiest time of the year, or during school holidays.
- Be prepared to listen and act on feedback – this sounds obvious, but it’s not unheard of for organisations to run audits, not like the feedback they receive and do nothing. If you really want to improve internal communication, you need to be prepared to hear some hard truths. You will seriously damage trust if you ask people to give up their time and speak openly and then they don’t hear anything again, or don’t hear anything that reflects the conversations they had as part of the audit.
- Leave your ego at the door – part of being able to listen and act on feedback is leaving your ego at the door. Don’t take feedback personally, see it as an opportunity to improve.
- Communicate the audit – remember to not only ask people to take part in focus groups and surveys but give them the wider context of why you’re doing this and what you’re hoping to achieve. If they understand the ‘why’ they’re more likely to want to get involved and speak openly.
- Offer anonymity – it’s important you get honest and open answers so offer anonymity – which is why it’s helpful to bring in external help. Agencies or consultants don’t need to attribute comments to individuals in their final report, they’re looking for key trends and themes.
- Keep objectivity – when choosing participants for interviews and focus groups try to get a good mix of people. There can be a temptation to only choose people you have good relationships with or who you know will say good things about internal communications. Try to get a mix of roles, responsibilities, departments, locations, etc.
- Be prepared to share next steps with employees – It’s important that you don’t just share the feedback with employees but also tell them what you’re going to do next.
What does an audit look like in practice?
- A comprehensive brief – it’s incredibly important to create a comprehensive brief of what you require, if bringing in an external party. Be clear on what is in scope, what you’re trying to achieve, what elements of an audit you want, whether it will be done on site or remotely, etc.
- Engage stakeholders – audits can be a great measurement tool but it’s also a way you can demonstrate that you’re acting and thinking strategically in your approach to internal communication and that future decisions will be based on sound evidence. It’s also important your stakeholders are on board as you’ll need them to endorse it and encourage others to get involved.
- A scoping session – this can be a good idea, especially in organisations that are structured in complicated or unusual ways, or are global, to help the third party to understand the organisation and how they might approach the audit.
- Desk research – this is where you review channels, strategies, data, basically anything that will help create a picture of how internal comms is currently working.
- Interviews – phone or face to face – one-to-one interviews can be a great way of getting more in-depth information from key individuals in the organisation as you have more time to delve into the discussion further.
- Survey – it’s not possible to speak to everyone, but it’s important that everyone feels like they can share their voice, so surveys are a great way to do that.
- Focus groups – focus groups are another way to get employee feedback and to get multiple views at one time – it’s also good as people bounce off each other, and comments trigger thoughts in other people so you receive richer information. You can also sense if an issue is an individual gripe or something bigger.
- Analysis – once all the information gathering has been done, the auditor will then analyse all the information and look for key trends and themes across the surveys, interviews and focus groups. Using SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis can be a great way of thinking through your findings.
- Recommendations – recommendations will normally come in the form of a report along with key findings. There are many ways you can present the recommendations – a great way can be quick wins, medium term priorities and long-term priorities.
How do you ensure business as usual doesn’t take over, and your audit report ends up gathering dust on a shelf somewhere?
- Take action straight away – that’s why including quick wins can be a good idea as it allows action to happen and create momentum.
- Be held accountable – tell the business next steps – by saying what you’re going to do publicly means you’re more likely to do it.
- Book in a follow up audit and/or do other regular temperature checks – measurement shouldn’t just happen once a year.
You can also read Contact Monkey’s blog and watch the webinar here: https://www.contactmonkey.com/blog/internal-communication-audit