by Andrew Brown

Confessions of a measure-aholic

I get it. Not everyone is like me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved making sense of data – data about how people behave and data about why they behave in the ways they do. That’s meant that over the years, I’ve developed skills in quantitative and qualitative statistics. It’s also meant that I’ve used a variety of digital and not-so-digital measurement tools. But, most of today’s employee communications professionals are not first and foremost measure-aholics (like me).

The good news however is that to be effective – and to demonstrate value to their organizations – employee communications professionals DO NOT need to have anything approaching a PhD in measuring.  And, while measuring employee communications can generate amazing insights and be rewarding, it can also lead you down some lengthy, costly and distracting wormholes.

So, here are three things to help you maintain a positive and practical measuring mindset while keeping your feet planted firmly in your organization’s reality. As a result, you will be far more effective at measuring employee communications that make a difference.

Thing #1: The realities about measuring…(BTW, you can’t unread this)

So, let’s surface something that rarely gets talked about when it comes to measuring employee communications. Specifically, I’m talking about what nearly everyone assumes about measurement.

Just keep in mind that you can’t unread these three assumptions and doing so will cause you (for better or worse) to re-think your measurement strategies. (Of course, these assumptions about measurement span more than just the area of employee communications too).

Assumption: By measuring employee communications, you automatically bring a scientific-like discipline to the organization.

The reality: Measuring employee communications alone does not guarantee you will measure the right things, you will measure them at the right time, interpret them in the right ways or present them in ways that will effectively persuade your most skeptical supervisors. Rather, you need to have a legitimate reason for measuring employee communications to ensure the process and its outcomes have some practical application and integrity. I’m talking about more than just a business reason like a desire to increase productivity. There must be a reason why the employee communications being measured are considered to have an impact on the business outcome you are targeting. In other words, you need to focus on asking the right questions and have clarity on what your organization values enough to measure.

Assumption: By using digital communications and/or automation tools to measure employee communications you will automatically have better measures.

The reality: Increasing the volume and speed of measuring does not mean what you are measuring is more relevant, more accurate or any more actionable. In fact, having the means to measure can have the opposite affect. Because digital and automation tools increase the volume, speed and granularity of what employee communications can be measured, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, or blinded, by the sheer quantity of measurement results.

Assumption: Measuring employee communications automatically increases certainty (or reduces uncertainty).

The reality: Measuring alone is not the great revealer of truths.  While measuring can provide insight into “what is happening” and “why things are happening”, measuring employee communications unearths a whole wack of stuff that needs further investigation. Furthermore, measuring employee communications is never done in a vacuum. There is always an organizational context that plays a huge role in making sense of whatever is measured (and why).

Thing #2: There is a dark side to measuring

Did I mention that measuring employee communications is critical? Well, I should have. But, let’s be real. There is a dark side to measuring. Measuring employee communications is almost never truly neutral. For example, if you’ve ever been charged with the goal of rolling out employee communications to increase employee engagement, you soon realize there are people within the organization whose internal reputation (and bonuses) are tied to the outcomes of such initiatives. That means the employee communications tactics along with their associated measurement outcomes are politically charged. Leaders across organizational levels can use the measures you gather, analyze and report on to further their goals – and sometimes that’s not for the better.

**Check out The Swear Jar episode, The Curtain Rises on Measurement Theatre to hear abut other harsh realities of measuring employee communications and how to tackle them.**

Thing #3: You’re a detective not a scientist

If you’re like most dedicated employee communications professionals, when you approach measurement, you think that you must be an expert in quantitative statistics or data analysis. You see yourself in the same vein as the white-coated scientist in a superhero movie who toils thanklessly and gets the all-important eureka moment that helps defeat the villain and gets us all closer to the end credits.

I can’t stress this enough: you DO NOT need deep math, statistics or data manipulating skills to measure employee communications well. The more accurate image for you should be that of a detective e.g. someone like Sherlock Holmes, Velma Dinkley (for you Scooby Doo fans) or the classic TV detective Columbo.

Why? Because the key qualities that make these fictional detectives successful translate to employee communications professionals when it comes to measuring. These key qualities that will serve you well include: 1) A desire to find meaning in the data (i.e. solve a mystery); 2) A determination to ask questions that increasingly add more clarity; 3) A commitment to validating findings across different sources; 4) A commitment to place measurement findings into the relevant context; and 5) The ability to present measurements, their findings and conclusions in concise ways that key stakeholders easily grasp.

Consider the realities of measuring, address the dark side of measuring employee communications, and approach measuring like a detective (rather than a scientist) and you will have the Right Measuring Mindset – a mindset that will ensure your efforts to measure employee communications will be more successful (even if you’re not a measure a-holic)..

A path forward – just listen to The Swear Jar

Listen to The Swear Jar Podcast episode, The Curtain Rises on Measurement Theatre to hear abut other harsh realities of measuring employee communications and how to tackle them.

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