Internal communications audit? Five common pitfalls to avoid

Five internal communications audit pitfalls to avoid

March 1, 2016

We all know how it feels to be swamped with work, facing project after project with no time to do it all.

The result is often that internal communications (IC) becomes reactive using the same tried and (un)tested channels rather than being genuinely productive.

To get out of this rut, an IC audit is an excellent way to take a step back, review your approach and ensure communications are aligned with the overall organisation’s strategy.

However it can be easy to fall into an audit pitfall.

Here are five of the most common mistakes.

1. Jumping the gun

Leaping straight into the research phase will ultimately result in wasted time and effort with inevitable gaps in the findings. Often you’ll be left wishing you had asked such and such a question, or done the research in an entirely different way.

You need to know why you are doing the audit and how the information is going to be used. Before doing anything else, spend time setting SMART objectives to provide direction for the research approach and questions to ask.

2. Underestimating the time and resource needed

An audit should never be rushed. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to plan, conduct and analyse the feedback required for a comprehensive audit.

Set clear timeframes for each phase before you start, including factoring in time to speak to different groups of employees across the organisation, especially those offline ‘remote’ employees.

3. A generic research approach

An ‘off-the-shelf’ audit will not provide insight into your organisation’s specific challenges and potential solutions.

Choosing an appropriate research approach based on your objectives and organisation is essential.

Before undertaking primary research, interrogate and analyse existing information, identify gaps in information to explore further and highlight where questions have been asked previously and could be used for benchmarking.

Getting questions for primary research right is essential. They need to be devised with a focus on the audit objectives.

For example, many people fall into the trap of asking about outputs, such as channel use, access and preferences.

However issues regarding what people think about the organisation and why people have changed behaviour can often be omitted.

4. Relying on survey information only

Surveys allow for precise measurement and are the most common way to evaluate IC.

Yet they have limitations. People read questions differently and may not understand what is being asked, sometimes due to very general questions or the use of jargon.

Too often surveys also have leading or biased questions, skewing the results.

The power of detailed research from focus groups or colleague interviews to complement the quantitative data is often overlooked.

Qualitative research often unearths perspectives and issues that haven’t been previously considered and are therefore not covered in questionnaires.

5. Audit over – back to business as usual

An audit is an incredibly useful tool but it doesn’t mean that no further research is needed until the next IC audit.

On-going and real-time research and analysis is a key part of an IC professional’s role, ensuring that activity is focused on achieving objectives.

Following the audit, the findings and next steps need to be communicated clearly, taking an open and transparent approach. Be sure to contact all those involved in the research to highlight key recommendations.

Use the research and act on it. Findings from the audit should be used to inform the development of the IC strategy, listening and acting on different perspectives and aspirations of employees.

It’s important that a fixed view for the way forward hasn’t been predetermined.

Good luck with your audit. Do share your experiences and top tips for an effective approach.