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Measuring communication effectiveness: 4 ways to know you’re nailing it

Measuring communication effectiveness: 4 ways to know you’re nailing it

People analytics can often be a quagmire of numbers. 

There are so many things you could potentially measure that it can be frustrating. Especially if the only thing you want to know is, “are we doing well, or not?”

We hear you. 

In an effort to keep things simple, we have identified the four most crucial metrics that speak specifically to measuring communication effectiveness.

Like with many employee metrics, some of these numbers are easy to capture and some are not. Having a digital communication platform in place will make it much easier to track the four metrics we’ve listed below, but there are other ways to collect some of these numbers – more on that below. 

Also, one caveat: numbers are tricky. No metric will tell the whole story. Part of the magic of workforce analytics is finding the full story behind the numbers, and reacting to that. Again, if you’ve got a communication platform in place, finding the stories that will measure communication effectiveness are exponentially easier when you have robust analytics and an incredible CS team to guide you. 

1. Reachable rate

A “reachable rate” basically tells you what percentage of employees that will receive your communications. In other words, it’s the percentage of your workforce that have access to (and are active on) your communications tool. 

It’s not just the employees that have your tool – that’s your adoption rate. Reachability is more about who’s actually using it. For example, if you have a digital communication platform like Nudge, your reachable rate would be what percentage of your workforce has downloaded the app and set up an account, and then used the app within the past 90 days. 

Email is trickier. If all of your employees had an active company email address, your reachable rate for that tool would technically be 100% – however, a big part of reachability is whether your workforce is actually active on the platform, so email is harder to measure unless you, for example, took into account how many employees have opened an email in the past three months. 

Reachability is crucial to measuring communication effectiveness because it tells you what percentage of your workforce you actually have access to. You could be sending the most engaging employee communications in the world, but if your reachability rate is 20%, you’re not connecting with much of your workforce.

Reachability is especially important in an emergency, like the pandemic, where you need to get in touch with your entire workforce as quickly as possible. 

2. Reachability vs. open rate

Those of you who’ve ever measured email metrics before will find this very familiar. Of all the people who could see your communication, this is how many people actually opened it. 

Comparing your reachable rate against your open rate tells a few stories that can help measure communication effectiveness: 

How enticing your introduction or subject line is. This depends a lot on the message format of your communications tool, since not all tools allow for subject lines or any kind of snippet. But when possible, this metric will tell you how effectively you’re enticing your workforce to actually open your communication. 

What your user experience is like. Your open rate is going to be pretty low if your communications tool is hard to navigate, or people rarely get (or see) new message notifications. If you’re seeing a low open rate compared to your reachable rate, that might be a sign you need to make some usability changes. Consider running an internal survey or focus group to evaluate your tool’s user-friendliness. 

How relevant your communications are. Employees will ignore messages that aren’t relevant to them. This is a problem, because if employees start ignoring irrelevant messages, they might start ignoring the relevant ones, too. A low open rate may be a sign that you should audit your communications strategy or consider segmenting messaging to different regions or groups. 

3. Read rate

Next, a “read rate” will tell you how many employees actually read the content you shared. Again, the metrics that you’ll have access to will depend on your communication channels and tools. Sometimes, a tool can even tell you how much of the content they were able to finish. 

This is a great metric for measuring communication effective. If you get a consistently high read rate, then you know that your communications are hitting it out of the park. But watch for any variations. If any of your messages receive a surprisingly low or high number, investigate why. Compare it to previous communications and scan for differences. You may learn something valuable. 

Note that you won’t always be able to reliably track this metric, as it depends heavily on the comms tool in which you’ve invested. Nudge Analytics, tracks read rate through “response rate,” which would tell you if a user has read an in-app message and clicked the button at the end of it. 

4. Knowledge rate

“Knowledge rate” is basically a fancy term for skill testing. 

This is where your employees (whether all of them or a specific segment) are given quizzes or spot-tests to evaluate their knowledge on important work-related subjects. It tells you how well information has been consumed and retained. Depending on the nature of your communications, this might be one-off knowledge testing (like for a specific retail campaign) or ongoing (like for safety regulations). 

Any survey or testing app can put together a quick learning test, of course. But not all platforms are created equal. Some might be intended for desktop workstations, which means that frontline employees would have a hard time completing the tests. Other platforms might not be able to aggregate the data across the entire company, or might not go deep enough when it comes to calculating scores. 

Using a communication tool with robust knowledge analytics is a valuable asset for deskless and frontline organizations, because it allows you to zero in on red flags at scale. Even if your organization employs hundreds of thousands of workers, knowledge rates can tell you quickly if there is a region, location, or even individual workers that need extra training.

To get the most visibility – and the most useful insights – into your communication effectiveness, having access to all of the above metrics will give you a more complete picture and allow you to take appropriate action. 

Remember; those are not arbitrary or abstract numbers you’re tracking. Every metric represents an employee who relies on internal communications to do their job. The longer you take to put those metrics together, or the fewer metrics you take advantage of, the more risk there is of the employee making a crucial error or becoming disengaged from the organization. 

In contrast, if you’re tracking all those metrics and doing consistently well across the board, then you can rest assured you’re on your way to building an engaged, agile team ready for anything.

7 mistakes organizations make when collecting deskless employee feedback

7 mistakes organizations make when collecting deskless employee feedback

There’s a right way to collect employee feedback, and there’s a wrong way. We’ve all been on the wrong end of that exchange at least once (30-minute employee surveys, anyone?).

And that’s when we’re already deskbound – supposedly an ideal arrangement for surveys. How much more difficult will this task be for frontline and deskless workforces that don’t sit in front of a computer all day?

The deskless/frontline workforce presents a unique set of challenges to any managers or organizations when collecting feedback, which makes it even easier to make mistakes. And mistakes result in the opposite of what you’re trying to do. Instead of boosting engagement and positivity, you foster disengagement and negativity. 

Here are seven mistakes organizations make when trying to collect information from their deskless workforce. How many of these are you guilty of? 🙄

1. Only asking for employee feedback once a year

12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days.

There’s a lot that can happen in that amount of time. An employee can have a brilliant idea, or they can have a personal crisis. There could be a serious team challenge, or a big company opportunity. 

All of them can pass you by if you only ask for feedback once a year. 

And it’s not like employees are avoiding you; they want to talk. 58% of employees wish their company conducted employee engagement surveys more frequently. But only 20% of U.S. employees say that they’ve had conversations with their manager in the last 6 months. 

Deskless and frontline employees especially need this attention due to the nature of their work arrangement. It’s generally faster-paced and more eventful than in other areas of the company, which leads to less time for administrative concerns, and so management needs to make more of an effort to engage them instead of waiting for the employee to raise their hand. 

You’re not going to be agile enough to react to timely ideas or mission-critical problems if you hear about them a year after the fact. 

2. Being unclear on what employee feedback you want

Frontline employees have lots of ideas. They’re in the thick of things, seeing customers at their best and worst, or they’re toiling at the core of your production and distribution. They see things that you can’t. They have a great sense of what will work and what won’t.  

But you have to ask the right questions in order to draw that information out. 

More often than not, managers or surveys ask extremely vague and broad questions that just confuse employees. What exactly are they asking for? When’s the right time to share my ideas? Will I get in trouble for volunteering this information?

Wondering if you’re being unclear on feedback? Well, have you sent any of these vague questions to your workforce? 👇 

  • How can the company improve?
  • Do you have anything you want to say?
  • I’m looking for ideas… (and end there)

These aren’t going to get you valuable feedback. Instead, be very specific. Are you asking for employee feedback about the hiring process? Thoughts on shift schedules? Do you need ideas on how to boost summer sales? Or how to address employee burnout? These are the questions that are going to tap into your employees’ experience and expertise. 

3. Not having the right employee feedback channels in place

There’s a time and a place for everything – including employee feedback. 

Sometimes employee feedback is sensitive or private, like if it involves a manager or another employee. These cases are best handled in anonymous or private channels. Other times, an employee’s idea is too good to keep private, and would be better off on an online forum where the rest of the organization can brainstorm and contribute.

If you don’t have either of these options, you’re limiting the avenues through which employees can communicate with you. Employees would normally not air private griefs in a public company forum. (Or, if they do, then that means your workforce is seriously past the breaking point, and you need to take action now.)

Feedback can also get stifled by access to proper feedback channels. Depending on the communication tools you use with your deskless employees, there’s a chance they don’t have regular access to the channels to share real-time feedback. And what good is valuable consumer insight if you can’t get it right away? Plus, it’s unlikely an employee will even remember to share the information if they have to wait until they’re home post-shift. 

A digital platform is a great way to provide always-on feedback channels to deskless workers – that way, they can log insights and ideas as soon as they come up, right from their phone. 

4. Making your employee feedback channels time-consuming to use…

Some companies love to make extensive employee survey forms in the hopes of “being thorough.” And while your intent is good, the actual effect is not. According to SurveyMonkey, survey abandonment rates increase for any survey longer than 7-8 minutes. Completion rates can drop anywhere from 5% to 20%. 

And while the study notes that employers may “push” respondents to complete the survey (and thus increase completion rates), people tend to rush through long surveys and are less likely to give genuine or thoughtful responses. 

In fact, the study found that employees give higher-quality responses when taking a shorter survey, because they take more time on each question.

5. …or impossible to find

Employees can’t provide feedback if they don’t know where to go. If your employee feedback channels are difficult to find or access, then your employees might assume that you don’t actually want feedback at all. 

Don’t just assume that your employees know how, or where, to give feedback. Find ways to share your channels often and consistently. If you use a digital communication platform (we know a great one! 😏), it will be easier to keep feedback top-of-mind for your staff. And remember: being clear and direct about the types of feedback you want will also help to keep your channels front-and-centre for your workforce. 

6. Not building up psychological safety with your staff

If you worked in an environment where management ruled with an iron fist, had a closed perspective, and belittled their staff, would you feel safe volunteering an opinion?

Of course not!

And yet managers complain that nobody responds when they solicit feedback. 

Why would they? You’ve made it clear that speaking up is not a wise career move. You haven’t built in any psychological safety

A study by Gallup found that managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Meaning that if your employees don’t feel they can communicate safely, then it’s likely management who is to blame. Of course, you might not even be actually frightening them. It could be you who’s frightened. 

A survey conducted by Interact found that 69% of managers are often uncomfortable communicating with employees, and 37% said they’re uncomfortable having to give direct feedback about their employees’ performance if they think the employee might respond negatively to the feedback. Employees are like kids and pets – they can sense fear. They know that you don’t want to talk to them, even if they don’t know the reason why. And that kills any motivation they have to talk to you

7. Not following up 

So you’ve gone through the effort of sprucing up your feedback collection channels, communicated it to all your frontline workers, and assured your employees that their opinions are valuable and will be heard. 

Responses flow in and you have a hefty chunk of employee suggestions and feedback to peruse, which you do. 

And then you do… 

… nothing. 

No action. No change. Not even thanking people for their opinions. 

What was it all for, then?

Not only are you tanking morale when you ignore feedback, you’re missing out on an opportunity to boost morale. 

90% of workers said that they’re more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on feedback. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve found an environment where management cares about their opinion enough to actually make positive changes. That’s a real rarity!

No company is perfect. Even the best companies in the world commit some of these employee feedback blunders. But the more aware you are of the potential pitfalls, the better chance you have at getting it right. After all, the goal isn’t just a smooth collection of data. It’s about ensuring that every single employee in your organization has a voice – and a role in helping your company to thrive. 

8 components of an effective employee communication strategy

8 components of an effective employee communication strategy

This is an excerpt from our Ultimate Guide to Deskless Employee Communication. Download the free 40+ page guide for more information on building out your communication strategy – including a four-month campaign template to get you started! 

An internal communication strategy is important for updating employees on crucial issues, promoting company culture, and engaging team members. Unfortunately, though, only 15% of employees feel engaged at work – which suggests comms aren’t doing their job. 

Part of this lapse is due to the communication channel being used. Despite the availability of more effective platforms, most managers still use email for 95% of their communications. Email can be easily accessed by head office, but deskless employees like frontline workers, warehouse staff, and field employees can’t access email as easily. 

This is a problem, because over 80% of global workers are deskless. By limiting your message to email, you risk excluding a significant portion of your workforce. 

Another aspect of the problem is what communications are being sent. They’re simply not working. We’ve all probably skimmed that 1000-word long memo about the company’s Brave New Direction – if we opened it at all. Can you really say that engages your workforce?

Internal communications have the potential to do so much more, and they don’t have to be limited by where your employees work. The beauty of technology is that our message can now overcome physical and digital hurdles. All we need to do is apply it properly. 

Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a list of the crucial components of an employee communication strategy to keep your deskless workers engaged and in-the-know.

Here are 8 components of an effective deskless employee communication strategy: 

1. Timely information and real-time updates

Have you ever tried to redeem a promo coupon, only for the cashier to have no idea what you’re talking about? 

It’s frustrating for the customer, but imagine what it’s like to be the cashier. Your customers are getting mad at you, but you were never told about the promotion in the first place – and now you’re both in a bad spot.

Companies know they have to keep employees in the loop, but gaps in communication still exist. According to Gallup, 74% of employees feel like they’re missing out on important company information and news. 

This can lead to embarrassing situations like the one above, but can also have serious safety ramifications, such as in the case of food poisoning or product recall (remember Chipotle?). Organizations need to spread information quickly to prevent further incidents and keep consumers safe. 

But timely updates aren’t just preventative; they can be used to delight customers, too. Take the example of Golf Town. Whenever there’s a golf tournament, they push real-time updates to their store employees so they can chat about it with customers. 

2. A central hub of procedures, processes, and SOPs

Having a central information hub is foundational to an effective employee communication strategy. It lists down all the protocols, procedures, and policies that dictate how employees function. Businesses are very good at formulating and compiling these documents, but when it comes to access… 

Let’s just say it needs work. 

Company intranets generally have terrible UX and are a labyrinth of files, folders, and security gates. It’s hard to access at the best of times, but even harder for deskless and frontline employees. According to research done by Poppulo, only 20% of companies have mobile-friendly internal communications tools. This gap is likely part of the reason why only 13% of employees use their intranets on a daily basis, and 31% never do!

Quick access to crucial operational documents is important for every industry, but it’s especially valuable for complex industries like manufacturing and facilities management. When an emergency occurs in a chemical plant, for example, you’ll want to bring up your emergency procedures right away. But even day-to-day processes need to be easily referenced by the people who need them. 

Speaking of which…

3. Standardized task lists

General policies are great, but sometimes deskless employees need something a little more tactical to help with their day-to-day duties. 

For example, retail or restaurant employees might need a standardized task list to walk them through opening and closing. Management might want to publish new COVID cleaning and safety protocols to ensure their teams and their customers stay safe. In manufacturing settings, factory workers could have maintenance or inspection task lists on-hand to ensure proper care of expensive equipment and to increase worker safety. 

No matter the case, standardized task lists help employees comply with approved procedures, even without direct on-site supervision. 

4. Knowledge tests to boost retention

With the right communication platform in place, you can get a lot of information in front of your workforce. But how will you know that they retain the info if you don’t test them?

Knowledge tests are often used to test awareness of basic safety and security procedures, such as OSHA best practices for handling hazardous materials, or the safe handling, preparation, and storage of food. Having the ability to easily conduct, store, and evaluate these tests at scale is a great benefit to organizations that need to both keep employees safe and protect the business from liability. 

Knowledge tests are also valuable in less critical situations as well. For example, these tests can be used to gauge employee familiarity with your new loyalty program, or with seasonal product offerings. 

5. Feedback forums (upward and downward)

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a manager or a frontline employee – everyone appreciates feedback. In fact, research indicates that 68% of employees that receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs (and that number is even higher for millennials). 

But it’s not just receiving feedback that matters to employees – it’s giving feedback as well. A study by Qualtrics found that more employees feel more engaged at work when they’re asked for feedback versus those that aren’t. 

You might think that upward feedback is purely for the benefit of the employee. If you do, you’d be wrong. A study by Gallup found that engaging employees in this way can have multiple tangible benefits to the business. Engaged employees had a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. In addition, highly-engaged business units achieved 59% less turnover than other less engaged business units. 

If your company wants to get serious about upward and downward employee feedback, you need a communication channel where these conversations can happen organically, ideally with a way of capturing those insights for the head office to digest. 

6. A channel for idea sharing

Many deskless employees in retail, foodservice, and hospitality are widely dispersed, with locations spanning various regions or even worldwide destinations. Warehouse locations and fulfillment centers are likewise spread over a wide area. This makes it difficult for people to get together and exchange ideas in person. 

But employees want some way to overcome this hurdle. A study by Queens University found that 39% of employees believe that people in their organization don’t collaborate enough. 

Organizations, too, enjoy ample benefits from idea sharing and fostering a sense of collaboration among its workforce. Employers can work around the distance restriction with a  channel (ideally mobile) through which employees can share best practices and offer suggestions – and head office can review these suggestions to take immediate action.  

7. An internal community

The simple truth is that people accomplish more when they feel like they belong. Don’t believe me? Look at the stats. McKinsey Global Institute found that companies that foster better connections between employees see a productivity increase as high as 25%.

Yes, this may be difficult when retail or foodservice employees are working at fractured locations with only five to 10 employees on each team, but it’s still possible to create a sense of community across the whole organization. All they need is the means to connect to the larger community. The Queen University study discovered that 31% of baby boomers, 40% of Gen X, and 49% of millennials all support using social tools for collaborating within a company. Companies just have to approach internal community-building effectively and with intent. 

8. Bite-sized “micro-communications”

One final thought on communications: most internal company emails are ineffective. 60.8% of employees ignore work emails, which is probably due to the fact that 62% of those work emails aren’t actually that important to their job. All this is compounded by the fact that deskless employees don’t spend much time in front of computers in the first place. 

So how can organizations drive engagement and promote a sense of community among frontline employees? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep communications short and to the point. Bonus points for instituting a BYOD (bring your own device) program and sending communications to employees’ mobile devices.
  • Be targeted with your communications. Don’t send info that’s only relevant to specific regions or departments to the whole organization. 
  • Leverage video. Employees are 75% more likely to watch video than read text. 
  • Use gamification to increase participation and engagement (we love a good points system). 

Great employee communication can make the difference between a revolving-door workforce with high turnover, and a family of employees that will stick with you through anything. While any one of the above ideas may help elevate your internal communication strategy, the best way to make them work is to apply them consistently and with purpose. Invest the time and resources necessary to do it right.


Remember: get additional tips and a four-month communication campaign template in our Ultimate Guide to Deskless Employee Communication. (It’s free! And it’s awesome!)