“Companies risk being short-sighted if they view employee communication as a cost centre rather than a revenue driver.” This is the conclusion of Risk Management specialists Arthur J Gallagher & Co as a result of their latest study of Internal Communication.
Leslie Lemenager, Gallagher’s President of Employee Benefits says “High-quality internal communications can improve employee morale, engagement and well being, which helps boost productivity and reduce turnover. And yet, internal communicators aren’t doing enough today to measure their impact and demonstrate their return on investment (ROI) to leadership.”
In some 86% of the organisations, internal communication functions reside within external communication departments, public relations and marketing. Some organisations even go so far as to call their employee communication function ‘Internal Marketing’ or ‘Internal PR’.
Employee well-being and productivity
But PR and Marketing serve a profoundly different purpose from Internal Communication (IC). The external disciplines are about creating the brand promise, whereas IC is about enabling the delivery of that promise. So if the IC teams are following their external sisters’ agendas, there’s a risk at least some of your organisation’s most important internal communications may be unfit for purpose (or fit for the wrong purpose). This can only hurt employee well being and productivity, with ill-informed people at risk of making costly mistakes, or feeling frustrated and becoming stressed.
In theory, integrating internal and external communication functions should ensure they’re better aligned. But more than half the survey’s respondents (51%) said this wasn’t happening in practice. And this suggests many organisations see internal communication as a secondary priority: the Cinderella discipline compared with its two externally facing sisters.
Importantly, though, IC Specialists may be their own worst enemies here.
A lack of measurement
The survey suggests internal communicators aren’t effectively measuring their impact. About 12% don’t measure their communications at all, while 27% do little more than report on their activity and audience uptake (e.g. emails opened and intranet page visits). This means they get no qualitative information about how to improve employee engagement and well-being.
But this attitude at least seems to be changing. 40% of IC Specialists believe improving measurement and evaluation of their activities is very important. However, some might argue even that figure is worryingly low.
As Lemenager says, “Not having a robust measurement process makes it very difficult to demonstrate the value created by an internal communication function. It’s not enough to just measure activity. You really have to know how the activities – individually and collectively – are engaging employees at different organisational levels and supporting a stronger sense of total workforce well-being.”
The message is clear: your organisation is likely to be under-performing if it’s not treating IC as a priority – and that’s likely to mean putting robust evaluation practices in place, so everyone knows it’s worth the investment.