Q: There is often debate about communication and its value within an organization. How do you create a framework to more closely align communication strategy with business metrics and measure the impact in a manner that is convincing to executives, to the point where they’ll understand how and why it can be built into the business model. We’ve made links to ESAT and CSAT, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough. Your comments would be greatly appreciated.
A: Dear Yves:
It’s nearly impossible to quantify the ROI of an entire communication program for an entire business strategy in a way that makes sense to executives. You’ll need to pick one particular business initiative that supports one business strategy and:
- Track your communication program’s outcomes (increased levels of knowledge, positive changes in attitudes, increased access to communication channels, etc.)
- Track the business outcomes of the initiative (increased sales, improved quality, reduced costs, improved safety, reduced turnover, increased productivity, etc.)
- Track the specific behaviors and actions of the employees who are doing things differently that are helping achieve the strategy more effectively–things they are doing BECAUSE of the communication. (Pick behaviors that operational management is already tracking, like how long an employee spends with each customer on the phone)
- Financially quantify the value of a specific level of change in the behavior (each accident costs us $X, each percentage of quality improvement saves us $Y).
- Draw a graphic that shows the increased knowledge and improved attitudes month by month against the changes in behaviors and the changes in the outcome. If the communication and operational outcomes are tracking with each other in the same direction, that presents fairly compelling evidence to management. If they want more, you might need to do some statistical analysis to compare various locations’ results. This can be even more compelling if you conduct pilot groups with your suggested new approach to communication and do nothing differently at other locations. Then you can compare outcomes for the pilot and control groups.
To achieve all this, you first need to work with operational management to identify the right behaviors and then conduct some open-ended research (interviews/focus groups) with the employees. You’ll need to discover why employees aren’t doing what they should be to maximize the outcomes of the business initiative. Identify what knowledge they’re lacking (how to do something, where to get certain resources, what, when or where specifically they’re supposed to do something) and identify any attitudes that might be blocking their behaviors (my efforts won’t make any difference, there’s no reward for me to change what I do, no one cares anyway, if I do this my customers might not like it, my boss will yell at me if I do this, etc.). What you learn should form the basis of your communication approach.
Hope this helps!
Angela D. Sinickas