First—when was the last time an internal communication audit was conducted at your company? Second, it’s a great idea to understand precisely why you’re performing the audit.
- Is the company adjusting to a new process, like hybrid or remote working?
- Perhaps there have been recent mergers or acquisitions requiring newly aligned communications strategies and technology.
- Or maybe you need to look at the consistency of communication and the various channels you’re using and see if any reorgs are required.
While you’re defining the reason for an upcoming audit, look out for the following warning signs that indicate good reasons for a change:
- Ideally, corporate communications must align with the company mission and objectives, which is pretty straightforward if you have a desk-orientated workforce. However, if some of the workforce is on the frontline or in transit, you could find your communications aren’t hitting home. Ask yourself whether off-site employees receive relevant information when and how they need it.
- If processes don’t change or develop as expected, there’s a high probability that your communications aren’t being adequately absorbed as intended. Remember, communication isn’t merely the action of sending a message. If that message isn’t read and understood, no honest communication has taken place.
- Employees who aren’t picking up on a company’s communication efforts could be bored with old content or strategy—or spammed with too much of it. People and companies constantly change, along with the world around us, so it helps to be proactive rather than reactive when designing an effective program. You need to understand what is happening to change, however.
- There may be an old-fashioned silo mentality mucking up the works. This tendency to purposefully not share information with other teams or individuals creates a bottleneck in any company’s communication efforts. This thinking needs to be rooted out as it makes some employees feel excluded and fosters an atmosphere of distrust.
Low engagement can be really disappointing when you’ve put your heart and soul into a communications campaign. Don’t blame yourself entirely because this can be symptomatic of a problem wider than internal communications in the organization, like unhealthy culture or low motivation.
Once your audit is completed, you can adjust your strategy by using tactics that get messaging to people when and where they want it. In addition, the audit can also help create a case for buy-in from senior leaders toward investment in communications technology.
The best way to kick off a communications audit is by—would you believe it—communicating! Do this with interviews, surveys, and round table discussions. You’ll get valuable feedback data from these processes. And while this is happening, don’t forget to include communications data from any technology or intranet in use.
For on-site employees, round table sessions are a great way to collaborate and build connections. You’ll find that many interesting and relevant things will surface by encouraging open dialogue. Don’t forget your remote and frontline workers. Include them by using digital surveys and virtual meetings.
Regarding surveys, you’ll get a better level of feedback if these can be completed anonymously. Also, in group meetings, mix things up a bit. You’ll get a more open result where managers and teams have been shuffled, and no one has to answer possibly awkward questions beneath the gaze of their direct report. Face-to-face interviews are usually better when done by a neutral party for the same reason.
You’ll also want to look at metrics from your current communications channels to see what’s working and where improvements are needed. Check email rates, direct messaging feedback, internal blog traffic records, and those everyone-in-the-company Zoom meeting attendance lists.
Top tips and critical questions
You’ll obviously have an idea of the type of questions you want to ask during an audit, but here are a few not to be missed. Find out what employees actually want to read about, hear and see. Be prepared for a wide variety of responses.
- Are you getting the communication you need, and does it arrive at the right time? This is about critical information and timing. A frontline worker doesn’t want to know their shift has been canceled after a one-hour commute in a monsoon.
- How would you rate the communication you currently receive? This is a chance to gauge the quality of content you send out and its general or specific relevance.
- How do you like to receive notifications? Ask all employees—remote, hybrid, frontline, plus those who travel frequently, how best to ensure they receive their communications. Some will want email, or direct messaging, while others will prefer to check the intranet. Information sent via the wrong channel won’t make a difference as it won’t be read.
- How easily can you find the information you’re looking for? Find out if people are struggling to access needed information. We’ve all been there—on a user-unfriendly site where we simply don’t know what’s happening. Make sure your information is seamlessly accessible to all users.
- What information interests you the most? Give participants a chance to tell you what they like about the current content you send them, plus what they would love more of in the future.
- How would you rate our current company communications? This can be a difficult question for an internal comms professional to ask. Don’t forget that the audit is a collaborative exercise toward the greater good, so don’t take anything personally.
- How can we better improve our comms strategy in the future? This question will hopefully bring a large quantity of data. While it’s never possible to implement every suggestion, consider all input so employees feel their contributions are worthwhile.
- What’s your opinion on communications from leadership? This is an important one. Employees need transparent and trustworthy communication from managers. Make sure to get buy-in from the top here.
- Are you aware of company goals and how your work contributes to these? Here’s a chance to see how communications have positively or negatively affected employee engagement. An excellent communication strategy enhances employees’ feelings of inclusion and increases engagement.
- What would you like to see or hear less of? Again, this is a tricky question for internal communication professionals to ask, but if you survived number six above, you should be okay! Again, it’s worth remembering that we’re all different, and what’s fascinating or necessary to one person will go totally unnoticed by another. Embrace the input and move forward.
Having an open mind, with eyes on the target
Surveys, interviews, and group sessions will give you an idea of the type of culture that already exists in the company and what is or is not working from a communications standpoint.
Throughout the process, it’s essential to put aside established mindsets. Everyone faces a unique set of challenges at any time during life’s journey, so don’t take it the wrong way if your communications efforts aren’t generating 100% response throughout the organization.
Some people will appreciate your efforts but choose not to get involved beyond what is absolutely necessary for their day-to-day work. Bear in mind that the point of the audit is to evaluate and improve internal communications where needed, to the benefit of all employees, as far as possible. You won’t always make everyone happy, but you can make them aware!
Write the story
Research is done; it’s now time to analyze that data and present the facts. Share your report with leadership and employees. Unfortunately, we’re not all Shakespeare, but a brief, clear, engaging, attractive, well-presented report is more likely to be read than any other.
For leadership, it’s a good idea to present benchmarking data to identify and consider competitive trends immediately. Time is typically short—be concise. Looking at what other companies are doing with their communications can also highlight areas for improvement. Include that data in your benchmarking report.
Encourage input to help identify weak spots or gaps and where to implement required improvements. Ask leaders for any support or technology needed. Raise any relevant issues that might have come up in the group discussions and make recommendations where possible.
If changes in strategy are made because of this report, be sure to share that with employees, too, so they can see the value of their input. They’ll know that the time and effort they put into feedback will enable you to develop ways to communicate when and how it’s best for them.
To round up
Once all the stages of an audit have been completed, it can be challenging to know where to start. Get started by fixing the minor problems first. This way, people will see the difference a few quick adaptations make, and buy-in in the areas of greater concern should be easier.
Communication audits are best done every quarterly to keep your finger on the pulse of employees. It’s essential not to leave it for more than six months, or it becomes a tedious, time-consuming task of little real-time value. Minor, regular tweaks are preferable to a mighty overhaul and a lot cheaper. Reach out, and we’ll show you how to consistently monitor and improve your internal communication efforts!