Most employee communication departments don’t measure the right things or they don’t measure at all. What gets measured has little to do with operating or financial performance. So, how do they know if they’re adding any value to their businesses?
The number of tweets, re-tweets, page views, content consumption, readability, channel usage, quantity or quality of content delivered, word count, visitors to a website and internal social media, clicks to open videos, podcasts or social media, frequency of topics mentioned and a ton of other measures tell you absolutely nothing about the health of the business. Nevertheless, many of these departments continue to shovel out stuff whether or not the stuff has any significant impact on business results.
Superior communication management can dramatically improve business performance, just as communication breakdowns in the form of mixed messages, lack of information, slow moving and inaccurate information can dramatically reduce product quality, on-time delivery, sales, productivity, cycle time, yield loss, employee absenteeism and turnover, etc.
Why do so many communication departments measure the wrong things? Adopting the right measures requires a relatively high level of business and financial acumen, two competencies that not all communication people have. Hence, their disconnectedness from the business of the business.
It doesn’t have to be this way. One of the most powerful measures that I have often used with my clients is sometimes referred to as a value-to-cost assessment, which I discussed in an earlier Leadership Report.
The value-to-cost assessment is designed to improve the return organizations receive on their communication investments. It identifies which communication activities are important and effective and which aren’t and how much is being spent on each.
CEOs love this. Former General Motors chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner likened the assessment to portfolio management—a way to manage a portfolio of communication channels and processes as one would manage a portfolio of operating units. Gary Rodkin, former chairman and CEO of ConAgra Foods, referred to the assessment as “the-two-by-two” because the assessment’s results are portrayed in a two-by-two box similar to the one below.
- IBM used the assessment to identify hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be re-deployed to get more for their money.
- ConAgra Foods used the assessment to identify more than $400,000 in under-performing communication channels.
- Using this tool revealed more than $1 million in underperforming activities at a power company in Florida.
In every case, the organization generated a far better return on the investment it was making in communication activities. Business performance improved because funds were invested in performance improvement opportunities that paid off.
KEY TAKEAWAY: If you want to be a hero in your organization, learn how to measure your communication efforts against what the CEO is measuring. Follow the money. When he or she looks at you, s/he sees you as either a cost or gain. The business doesn’t grow on tweets.