Your answers will only be as good as the questions you ask, so make sure to set clear research objectives.
Internal communications budgets are facing increasing levels of scrutiny and teams are under more pressure than ever to deliver — an internal communications audit can help you invest your time and efforts in what matters.
Done well, an internal communications audit enables you to develop the right internal communications strategy. More than that, it helps you get buy-in from leaders and secure more resources.
Our internal communications consultants have been conducting audits for more than a decade, working with more than 30 FTSE 100 companies. So we have a few tips to share if you’re considering reviewing your strategy, channels and measurement approach. Here, we cover:
- What is an internal communications audit?
- Why conduct an internal communications audit?
- A step-by-step guide to carrying out an internal communications audit
What is an internal communications audit?
An internal communications audit is an opportunity to take a step back and review the impact of your existing employee communication activities.
Ultimately, its purpose is to ensure that your internal communications strategy is aligned with your business objectives:
- Do your employees understand your business vision, mission and strategy?
- Are they able to articulate how their role supports your business goals?
- Do they feel positive about their working experience?
- Do you understand their information needs and channel preferences?
- Do your communication channels and messages support your company culture and values?
Why conduct an internal communications audit?
Reviewing your internal communications strategy and channels on a regular basis is good practice. We would recommend completing a review every two to three years, yet there will also be specific situations outside of this timeline where an internal communications audit is needed to provide clarity, for example:
- Your organization has gone through rapid growth and you need to scale your internal communications function.
- Recent merger and acquisition activities have left you with an inconsistent channel framework that doesn’t reflect your new organizational structure.
- Your organization is going through signification transformation, yet support for this change is poor.
- A new leadership team has been appointed and they want to get a sense of how internal messages are landing with employees.
- You work in a large, complex organization and don’t have sight of all the communications and channels that employees are exposed to.
A step-by-step guide to carrying out an internal communications audit
Step 1 – Set clear objectives
Before you get started, it’s important to understand why you want to undertake an internal communications audit. We often see clients tempted to skip this critical step and rush into the ‘how’, yet our experience tells us that collecting data and employee feedback without a crystal-clear view of the questions you’re trying to answer will get you nowhere.
Setting clear research objectives in order to formulate the right questions will deliver actionable insights. What’s more, when you have clear objectives in mind, it’s much easier to make the right choices when it comes to methodology. Here are some examples of the outcomes you might want to achieve:
- Measure the effectiveness of your current communication channels and test audience appetite for new digital channels
- Understand whether your people receive the right balance of strategic updates, operational messages and HR information
- Determine whether employees understand the business transformation taking place and how they feel about the changes ahead
We can help. Get in touch to discuss the support you need.
Step 2 – Define your current state
Another critical step to take before you start gathering employee feedback is making sure you have a clear view of the current state of your internal communications. It helps to consider the following four perspectives:
- Strategy: consider your organization’s goals, the transformations it’s going through, and how these translate as internal communication priorities. How can your audit measure progress against these priorities?
- Stakeholders: map out the functions that need to communicate with employees, starting with HR, marketing and IT. You’ll also need to consider Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and divisional and country leaders if you’re in a matrix organization. Will your audit cover their activities?
- Internal audiences: create a simple overview of your internal audience groups, their working environments and information needs. Are there any gaps in your understanding of these audiences that your audit could fill?
- Channels: our State of the Sector report found that only 31% of organizations have a written channel framework in place. An audit is your chance to fill any gaps in your understanding of your channels and to get full sight of everything employees are exposed to. So make sure you map out your internal communication channels, and if you work in a large organization, you’ll need to include divisional and regional channels as well as global channels.
As you process all of the above, make sure you take full advantage of all existing data available to you. This might include employee engagement survey results, pulse surveys, intranet and digital platforms analytics, HR data (talent retention rates, exit interviews, absenteeism, Glassdoor reviews) and town hall feedback.
This may take a few weeks, but the effort is more than worthwhile and will help to ensure you get your internal communications audit right.
Step 3 – Conduct your research
You’re finally ready to begin your research in earnest. Depending on the outcomes of previous steps taken, there are several ways you could complete this. We’ve outlined a few for you to consider.
- Surveys: employees may suffer from ‘survey fatigue’ but quantitative techniques are a critical part of an audit. Not only will they deliver the hard data that leaders want to see; they’ll also create a reference that you can use in future surveys to measure progress.
- Interviews: although time-consuming, interviews add real value when it comes to understanding how senior leaders and functional teams view internal communications.
- Employee focus groups: a critical complement to surveys, focus groups are a chance to explore the reasons behind some of your initial findings. We recommend using segmentation to ensure consistency across location, function and seniority.
- Benchmarking: your leadership team will likely be interested in how your organization compares with others, especially in terms of competition for talent. Finding reliable benchmarking data isn’t easy, but our State of the Sector report is a good place to start when it comes to channel use and effectiveness, internal communication budgets and topics.
Conducting an internal communications audit is a significant time investment, so consider carefully whether it’s something your internal communication team could deliver without support. If not, hiring an internal communications agency to do the job could be a solution – we’d be happy to help, so talk to us.
Step 4 – Develop your report and recommendations
Asking people for their opinion will open up all kinds of conversations, so don’t underestimate the effort needed to write your report. It’s often a challenge to strike the right balance between sharing the wealth of insights uncovered and staying focused on your key research objectives. As with any good piece of communication, make sure you keep your audience in mind – who are you trying to influence, and what do you want them to take away from the report?
Structure your report around a comprehensive summary of findings for each step of your internal communications audit. Then conclude with an executive summary and up to 10 recommendations prioritized according to ease of implementation and investment required – make no mistake, your leaders will jump straight to this section, so be mindful that you have the data to back up your recommendations.
Step 5 – Establish your roadmap
As your internal communications audit draws to a close, it signals the beginning of a new phase for your team. Sharing your findings is an incredible opportunity to start a conversation with your leadership team about the value of internal communications – alongside an honest discussion around the investment it requires.
It’s also a chance to increase collaboration with other teams and even readjust internal processes, so take the time to share the feedback with HR, marketing, IT and any relevant communication networks or groups.
And just when you think the job is complete, it’s time to revisit your internal communications strategy. An internal communications audit is never the end goal, so don’t stop here, even if it feels daunting to carry on – besides, now you have the attention of your leadership team, we recommend that you seize the moment.
As a global internal communication firm with offices across the UK, the US and Canada, we are market leaders in providing internal communication audits. Our team of experienced consultants use a tried-and-tested methodology to leave no stone unturned. Our scale and reach mean we have invaluable benchmarking data at our fingertips, enabling you to understand how you stack up against the competition.