An Edelman perspective on making meaningful employee connections that deepen engagement, build trust and accelerate business performance.


What’s the best way to communicate to employees? If this seems like a deceptively straightforward question, that’s because it is. Easy to ask, but much harder to answer. Here’s the bottom line: every company is different. A highly digital approach may effectively connect virtually based employees, such as those in professional services, but might prove a huge waste of resources in a manufacturing environment where employees don’t have access to computers. Or relying heavily on managers to cascade information might not work if a company doesn’t have a robust process in place to support managers as communicators. A good first step to creating a best-fit internal communications strategy is to conduct an internal channel audit, which is essentially taking stock of the company’s current communication channels, messages and processes to determine what’s working, and what’s not. Such research can be as in-depth or as basic as needed; the primary objective is to understand:     How employees receive company-related information; What topics are most relevant to them; What channels employees prefer; and What they want to know more about

This research helps communicators determine the most effective content and channel strategy, including whether to invest in existing vehicles or establish new ones. THREE STEPS TO CONDUCTING AN INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS AUDIT A well-rounded audit typically encompasses three focus areas: 1) Examine any existing research As a first step, it’s important to review existing data to help uncover any trends, themes or gaps that may inform the overall approach. For example: • Intranet metrics reports, with a focus on bounce rates (percentage of users who enter the site and "bounce,” or leave, rather than viewing other pages), average time spent on a page and interaction with tools and content

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Employee workplace surveys, such as any annual employee engagement surveys, new hire surveys and exit interviews Internal forums and polls, including content and quality of questions asked at employee town halls, discussion themes generated on internal social media forums such as Yammer, and data from any internal online polls Feedback from external employment rating sites such as and as well as other industry-specific social media sites, such as and

During a recent employee communications audit, after reviewing the client’s existing analytics reports it became clear to us that the company’s intranet wasn’t hitting the mark. Return visits were low and bounce rates were high. Thus the team made sure to include research questions specifically addressing this channel, including thoughts on content and feature areas. In doing so, the client gained detailed insights to make a solid case for investing in a revamped intranet. 2) Conduct primary quantitative research Sound research requires measureable data to help benchmark and track progress. Through an online survey (see sidebar), ask employees specific, measurable questions on:  What channels they have access to;  What channels they prefer when receiving communication regarding company strategy, performance, customer wins, benefits information, etc.;  What information they’d like to hear more about/less about; and  What improvements they’d like to see to existing channels, such as email and intranet. Position survey questions to capture measurable responses – for example, ask respondents to capture their thoughts regarding a communication channel using a five point Likert scale. Certainly open response (essay) questions can add color to the analysis, but keep these questions focused on a few select topics.

What online survey tool should I use? While Survey Monkey has served as communication professionals’ go-to for years, another viable option is FluidSurveys. This cost-effective tool offers many advantages, including:  The ability to administer a survey in multiple languages and easily analyze and filter all responses in a single online view  The ability to seamlessly merge data sets together into a single view  An intuitive drag-and-drop interface  Customizable, professionallooking reports created with just a few clicks

Don’t forget to include any up-front demographic questions that will prove useful when cross-cutting data by tenure, location, function and role. For example, in a recent client audit, survey data uncovered that sales teams felt the company’s incentive programs needed significant improvement – a vast difference from the rest of the employee population who felt incentive programs met their expectations.

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at For more information, please contact Edelman Engagement at Employee


3) Conduct primary qualitative research Through a series of structured, facilitated conversations, deeper insights can be gained into the “why” behind quantitative research. Focus groups and structured one-on-one interviews can help:  Expand on findings from survey;  Uncover why employees find certain types of communications/channels more effective than others; and  Identify differences between managers and employees in the types of communications they find useful, how they wish to receive information and what they do with it once they receive it. To inspire candid focus group discussions, keep groups contained to no more than a dozen individuals and ensure employees are never in a focus group with their direct supervisors. During focus groups for a global animal health company, we learned that while employees said communication leading up to a major organizational change had been good, they felt communication had stopped following the change. This led to uncertainty regarding the company’s recently announced strategy (a finding that was confirmed in quantitative survey data). In reality, the company had nothing to hide, but the executive team felt if there was nothing new to communicate, why add to the clutter? However, during times of change, employees crave information, even if it’s a simple message that things are proceeding as planned and more information would be shared as soon as possible. This finding would not have emerged without qualitative research. PUTTING RESULTS INTO ACTION Once the audit is complete, the real work begins. Turning findings into recommendations and actions requires examining quantitative data to determine where the opportunities and gaps exist, and using qualitative data to help uncover the “why” behind those findings. For example, while all organizations are unique, through our research we’ve consistently found the following themes to hold true with most companies:  Email overload: Multiple emails vie for employees’ attention, so critical messages often get missed or overlooked; consider implementing email protocols to streamline the quantity and improve the relevancy of company-wide emails  Limited time and attention: Employees prefer information in short, digestible bites; for example, consider providing a bulleted summary of key points above corporate emails and packaging communications into a weekly blast  The importance of managers: Employees generally find the most value in receiving information directly from their managers in group or one-on-one settings  Lack of context: Corporate messages often lack sufficient context for employees outside of corporate HQ; consistently stress the “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) factor

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at For more information, please contact Edelman Engagement at Employee


Leverage existing channels: Rather than introducing a new channel, such as a newsletter, it’s usually more effective to refine and strengthen existing channels, such as the company intranet, that employees already use and are familiar with

ABOUT US Edelman’s Employee Engagement Practice helps organizations accelerate business performance, delivered by highly engaged and trusted employees. We do this by making meaningful, trust-building connections — connecting employees with the company, connecting employees with each other, and connecting employees with the outside world. We have a global network of employee engagement specialists who can develop engagement strategy; deploy the tools and processes to deliver it; create the multimedia channels and content that support it; and design the insight mechanisms to measure it. For more information, visit us at, follow us on Twitter at @EdelmanEE or email us at

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at For more information, please contact Edelman Engagement at Employee


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