Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

How to avoid screwing up internal communication measurement


For many years, measurement has been a source of frustration when it comes to internal communication and organizational alignment.

Embedded analytics and easy online survey questions can be helpful in adding numbers to the internal communication story. But using them without strategic intent and thought makes them a potential trap for internal communication pros.

It’s a trap that can actually limit the power and impact of internal communication measurement activity by emphasizing what’s easier to measure over what’s meaningful to measure.

To avoid this trap, here are some measurement tips that will help your objectives and ambitions drive the process, rather than have it be driven by what’s easier to measure.

• Drive the measurement agenda

Doing that is simple – choose what gets measured, or at least make sure that some of the things that get measured are actionable, and show a direct relationship between your contribution and the organization’s results.

• Don’t benchmark, baseline.

There’s another trap that a lot of organizations fall into – the desire to benchmark performance and attitudes relative to “similar” companies – sector competitors, other large companies based in the same country being popular targets.

A real pitfall of benchmarking is the need to use common questions (or, even a common research vendor) rather than to ask questions that are specific to an organization’s own reality and context.

Baselining is far more important – asking a given question before the organization or its communicators starts take action to address the issue being examined. Good baselining and tracking allows the ability to measure the impact of your involvement over time – and also the impact of specific one-off interventions.

• Use different types of questions and measures 

There are a lot of different data sources available to an enterprising communicator.

Aside from embedded analytics, one can use surveys to address different types of questions: open-ended questions (where participants are given limited guidance about answers), open-ended lists (where participants are asked to supply several different answers), closed-ended questions where participants select the “right” answer, and ranked lists which test alignment in direct way. Add in the ability to monitor enterprise search terms on an ongoing basis – a potent source of information that can be tapped into silently but powerfully.

What to not do.

Don’t ask people what they think they know.

Earlier in my career, when I was working on organizational change programs with certain (nameless) large consultancies, I was stunned by the surveys they used.

They would ask questions like “Have you heard about the change?” and my personal favorite: “Do you understand the change?: • Aside from being non-specific about what “change” they were asking about, these questions asked participants to out themselves as ignorant, stupid or both.

Don’t do this.

Better to ask another type of question and see how close people are to the official explanation of what they are being asked about.

Measurement is an activity that has tremendous potential to support internal communicators in delivering more effectively, and help them prove their value more convincingly to senior leadership and management.

But to do that successfully, communication pros need to avoid the “measurement trap” that easily accessed data with limited relevance can set.

By following these four steps, IC pros can raise their game – and have the words and numbers at hand that demonstrate their impact.

If you want to navigate and find opportunities in the worlds of measurement, strategy, content or messaging in internal communication, start with my measurement masterclass.

Or, if you’d like to talk, send me a note at


Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

Internal Communication: What’s the “tipping point” for small and medium-sized businesses?

What Is Your Footprint?

Coherence And Cohesion

Employees As Communicators

Proliferation Vs Prioritization

Avoiding A False Economy

Communication At The Heart Of The Business

Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

Making measurement your most effective internal communication tool right now: it’s easier than you think.

Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

Is it time to replace “magic numbers” with a “magic question” when it comes to alignment and engagement?

OVER the last twenty-plus years, organizations have been focused on finding a single “magic number” as the ultimate gauge of organizational health.

The two main candidates have been the “employee engagement (EE) score: or an “employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).”

But faced with systemic downward trends in both of those measures?—?could it be that we are focusing on the wrong numbers?

There are two key problems with EE and eNPS scores. The first is that both are based on sentiments?—?how employees feel?—?rather than on their actual words, actions, or priorities. Secondly, both are aggregates, combining employee attitudes towards positives and problems rather than separating them out so they can be targeted and addressed.

Time for a Magic Question?

To address those problems, I propose something new: a “magic question”.

And that question is:

“What are the top three priorities facing your organization?”

This question is “magic” for a number of reasons.

The answers tell us whether employees, leaders, and managers give official priorities the same level of importance.

The answers identify hidden or “unofficial” priorities?—?which can either reflect gaps between leaders’ words and actions or highlight chronic or systemic issues that get in the way of aligning employee actions with organizational objectives. These are not things that tend to be asked about in engagement surveys or addressed directly by eNPS scores.

Even with stated or “official” priorities, conscious or subconscious messages may emerge as perceived priorities even if not expressed officially. “Cost cutting” is one that is particularly pervasive. Macroeconomic headwinds (inflation, supply chain, labor market tightness) also may emerge as being more critical than the organization’s stated agenda, and workplace hygiene factors (communication, leadership quality) often surface as urgent for employees even if not on the organization’s official list.

Turning those answers into numerical data can send clear messages to management about disconnects.

When communication leaders and business leaders have differences of opinion, the business leader’s opinion prevails. It’s a game of “rock-scissors-paper” where the power of the business leader trumps the subjective expertise of the communication leader. But bringing numerical data to the table, like saying that the business leaders’ top three priorities don’t even make the employees’ top-ten list, adds some “rock” to the opinion of the communicator that a business leader will be harder pressed to ignore.

The strongest quotes provided can be useful in confronting the assumptions held by leaders about key issues. Quotes like “everything is treated as a crisis here”, “overwhelm?—?too many projects and priorities”, or “attrition in critical service areas and locations” can focus attention in ways that more diplomatically worded interpretations and answers can’t. They illustrate the real word of mouth, which, if left unchecked, can quickly dominate the organization’s agenda.

Even if the answers are collected from a subset of employees, the answers reflect real comments which have likely been shared informally inside and outside the company. And, once quantified, answers to the “magic question” can form the basis for turning internal communication from a cost center to an ROI engine by allowing the financial impact of comms interventions to be tracked, correlated and valued appropriately.

The “magic question”?—?by creating space for open, unaided feedback that can be easily categorized, scored and ranked?—?can provide actionable and targeted insights. In doing so, it provides an opportunity to enable communication leaders to deliver real, measurable and monetizable impact.

“The Magic Question” forms the basis for Mike’s Measurement Masterclass, which is being offered next on 22 August.

This article appeared previously in Strategic Magazine and Medium.