Measure your communication gaps
You can find out how well you are currently communicating on important organizational subjects and whether you are using the channel preferred by your internal or external audience. For instance, it is pointless to use your employee newsletter as the sole channel of information about a key issue if your target audience generally prefers to have a dialogue about it face-to-face with their supervisor or through the organizational intranet, electronic channels like Zoom, or even social media. This article explains how to measure your communication gaps. Then you can use this information to strengthen your employee engagement levels and stakeholder relationships.
It is worth committing resources to lifting employee engagement levels. Gallup’s 2020 report, “Employee Engagement and Performance: Latest Insights from the World’s Largest Study” found better engagement levels provide impressive benefits to individual employees and the organization as a whole.
The audience responses would be a valuable guide for you to focus your communication more tightly on what they don’t know, on what they want to know and using channels of communication they prefer.
Typical questions to ask respondents would be:
- How interested they are in learning about it (on a scale of 1 to 5).
- How well informed they currently believe they are (on a scale of 1 to 5).
- What their current sources of information are on that topic (multiple choice).
- What their preferred sources are on that topic (multiple choice).
The questions could be put into a matrix.
The matrix could include two categories of “How interested I am” and “How well informed I am” on a scale of 1-5 ranging from “Not at all” to “Very interested.”
The selected information could be on topics such as:
- What I’m expected to do in my job
- Superannuation/pension plan and other benefits
- How I can help meet objectives
- Products and services
These types of questions could be included in a short and simple questionnaire. You could put the questionnaire to selected groups in problem areas to identify the nature and extent of communication bottlenecks in those areas.
If people aren’t interested in the information you wish to convey, you can conduct focus groups to find out why, and use the responses to change your communication tactics.
To check that any communication activity initiated after the survey has resulted in a smaller gap between the level of information and the level of interest, you should conduct a follow-up survey.
(I’m indebted to US communication measurement consultant, Angela Sinickas, for this technique.)
A way to ask about preferred employee communication channels
One way to find out what your team members want is simply to survey them on their preferred sources of information on selected important topics compared against the actual range of sources to identify where any gaps lie. This will measure communication gaps that are hampering effectiveness.
Typical questions to ask the respondents would be:
- “What is your main current source of information on that topic?”
- “What is your preferred main source on that topic?”
- “What is your preferred communication channel to receive this contact?”
- “How often would you like to receive this communication?”
For simplicity, the sources of information could be numbered as follows for each item of selected information:
- = CEO
- = My Divisional General Manager
- = My supervisor/manager who directly supervises me
- = My manager (where the manager does not directly supervise me).
- = Hard copy newsletter
- = Email newsletter
- = Intranet
A follow-up survey should be conducted to check that any communication activity initiated after the survey has resulted in a smaller gap between the main source of information on a topic and the preferred main source of information.
Some further thoughts on preferred employee communication channels are added in my article, “How to measure information gaps in your communication.”
It may be important for stakeholder groups such as supervisors or managers to have a minimum knowledge level about a particular topic, eg planned redundancies or new employee superannuation/pension plan policy. Testing of knowledge about a particular topic can be administered with questions that have right and wrong answers. The questions can be asked in a true/false format or in a multiple choice format. It is advisable to offer an “I don’t know” option to gauge the number of people who realize that they don’t know the answer. This will measure any communication gaps and lack of employee knowledge about subjects. The review can be conducted before and after a communication project.
Similar tests can be conducted with external groups.
These quick measurement activities can be conducted at minimal cost. If you want to communicate more effectively, you can use the techniques to improve your focus.
Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. His wide-ranging career includes roles as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer and business manager. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.