Internal comms – Use data to justify your existence

Other functions use hard evidence to prove they meet business goals. It’s time for internal comms to do the same

By Lisa Pantelli,

In recent years, there has been a significant and positive shift towards PR campaigns based on solid insights derived from data.

CEOs are increasingly turning to communications directors for strong commercial understanding. Performance measures are now expected to include key performance indicators, cost savings and benchmarks. However, there is still more to be done.

Despite engagement and internal communications being a key focus for CEOs, research published in May by VMA Group found that as many as 31% of internal communications teams do not have a strategy. This figure is staggering and perhaps an indication of why employee engagement scores are failing to increase.

Data-driven strategies can be closely aligned to wider business objectives, whether it’s recruitment, retention, sales or service levels. By working in this way, we can demonstrate the positive impact that internal comms has on business performance and corporate reputation, and harness the power of employees as brand ambassadors.

Niall Ryan-Jones, head of employee experience at Harrods, believes that using data is critical to the company’s success: “I have heard internal communicators say that their focus is on measurement but they struggle to find measures. We work closely with HR and business insight to draw on data to help us clearly identify how effective our communications have been. We can clearly demonstrate our worth by mapping sales and service data to the engagement and performance levels of individual employees and teams.”

RBS achieved something similar during the roll-out of Workplace by Facebook. Sharing their ideas on the platform helped employees identify innovative IT-storage solutions, resulting in tens of thousands of pounds in cost savings.

In the throes of organisational life, identifying and obtaining data – and then avoiding getting bogged down in it – can be a challenge. On the opposite page are five easy ways to work with data well.

Five smart and simple tips for using data

1 Start with the end in mind

Before you start brushing up on your Microsoft Excel skills, start with the end in mind. Ask what problem you’re trying to solve, and then think about what data you need to do it. A practical example of a problem you’re trying to solve might be attrition. Are your attrition rates high? Look at how much it costs when you lose an employee and have to recruit a new one. The internal comms team can be involved in this process.

2 Sourcing the right data

Closely collaborating with other teams and functions will help you identify which data will help you meet your objectives.

You can gather data from a number of sources, including staff surveys, focus groups, enterprise software systems such as SAP and Oracle, and audits, as well as business-performance figures. If you have an in-house finance team, seek their help in developing a model that can help you link your strategy to commercial benefits.

Don’t be afraid of being a bit creative either. Data isn’t just about numbers. Gather testimonials, anecdotes and what you can from external sources such as stakeholders and social media.

You might also need to do your own research, such as focus groups or pulse surveys, to plug any gaps.

3 Break down the silos

Once you have sourced and identified the data you need, that’s when the fun starts. Use the data to tell a story and demonstrate your worth.

There are, of course, systems that can integrate business data, but they are expensive. There are ways of getting what you need without them. Start by making sure you are approaching the right people for qualified insight.

4 Don’t be afraid

Financial data can be challenging to deal with. Work with a colleague who understands it, and dig into what you can use. Then, make sure you use it regularly. If you draw on data just once a year, you’ll be looking backwards rather than forwards. So look at how to gather data on an ongoing basis.

5 Always use data to communicate with senior leaders

They will be far more receptive if they can see the impact of internal communications on other organisational priorities.

Lisa Pantelli is a CIPR Inside committee member and the founder of Become Communications.

A version of this article was originally published in Influence magazine, Q3 2017.

Image courtesy of pixabay

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