This is an excerpt from our Ultimate Guide to Deskless Employee Communication.
You put so much time and effort into the information you share with your frontline – but is it truly effective? According to research in The Deskless Report, 59% of workers say the communications they receive are somewhat to not at all useful. Meanwhile, 86% of frontline leaders believe their organization is sending out meaningful, quality communications. That disconnect can be seriously damaging.
That’s where a communication audit can help to uncover exactly how your communications are performing, how accessible your channels are, and more.
In this article, you’ll learn what an internal communication audit is, the basics of running an audit, communication audit questions to ask, and much more.
What is a communication audit?
An internal communications audit is a review of how well your organization and its leaders distribute and collect information to and from your workforce and how well the current setup aligns with your overall strategy.
This audit is especially crucial for organizations with deskless and frontline employees, who spend very little face-to-face time with management and don’t have regular access to computers, so a specialized strategy is crucial. A communications audit will ensure you identify the right way to share information.
The benefits of running an internal communication audit
It may sound unnecessarily bureaucratic at first, but an audit is actually one of the best things you can do for your organization. Even organizations without a formal strategy can benefit from an audit. In fact, we would argue that they need it even more.
Well-executed internal communications can engage and motivate your frontline staff. Just ask Clear Company, who found that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover. And ThinkTalent, who discovered that organizations with effective communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.
The reverse is also true. Poorly-run communications can lead to disengagement, and disengaged employees are a flight risk. According to Gallup, 56% of not engaged and 73% of actively disengaged employees are either looking for jobs or watching for other opportunities.
Auditing can uncover serious issues with your internal communications strategy and reduce the risk of disengagement. It can also provide easy wins that open lines of communication and get employees back on board.
So let’s get started. Here are the first steps to take when starting a communication audit:
How do you plan and run an internal communication audit?
1. Create an audit team
Conducting a proper audit will involve time, effort, and dedicated manpower. While it’s tempting to hire an external company to conduct the audit, an internal team can be just as effective, provided they approach it in an organized fashion, and they have the independence and authority necessary to gather data and act on their findings.
If you don’t have a dedicated internal communications team to run the audit, put together an ad-hoc team composed of delegates from operations, HR, and marketing. You may also want to include someone to represent the frontline employees to provide additional perspective.
2. Set goals
Question: what part of your internal communications do you want the audit to improve? You may be tempted to conduct an audit with a broad scope (“are my communications working?”), but you might see better results if you fine-tune your audit.
Audits work best when they focus on improving specific aspects of your internal communications. The narrower and more measurable the goals are, the greater the chance your audit will succeed.
3. Collect info and insights
Collecting the intel for your communication audit is a multi-stage process. If you have a digital communications platform in place, collecting these insights will be much easier – but taking a more analog approach is definitely possible as well. Let’s take each stage one at a time.
We’ll talk about numbers more later, but workforce insights are a critical step in any communication strategy – and are extremely informative in your internal communication audit. Raw numbers can be used to either support or challenge the anecdotal feedback you’ll be collecting later. They may also signal warning signs for internal communication problems.
Look for the metrics that relate closely to the goals you set, but make sure to consider multiple data points to get as wide a picture as possible. Again, a digital communication platform will make collecting these metrics easier, but there are still workforce insights you can tap into and learn from, even if you’re not using communication technology.
Communication tools review
An internal communications tool is a method, product, or software that you use to send and receive messages to and from your team. Many companies use email, but we’ve seen everything from low-tech solutions like bulletin boards and posters to high-end digital communications platforms. The tools you use should make your communication strategy more effective and streamlined. And the only way to truly gauge its effectiveness is by questioning your assumptions.
For a worksheet to help you assess your communication tools (and track your full audit start to finish!) get our free Internal Communications Audit Worksheet!
Numbers can tell you a lot, but the human side can tell you just as much, if not more. Asking the right communication audit questions can uncover valuable insights and red flags about your channels. It’s important to interview both sides of the conversation: executive management and the workers. When talking to management, get their perspective on what they prioritize, how they think the company should be communicating, and what they think the gaps are.
Here are some examples of communication audit questions to ask management:
- How would you describe the communications your frontline receives?
- How effective do you feel the communication channels are?
- Are you comfortable leveraging these tools to share information and collect feedback?
- What channels or tools do you use to share information?
When you do get to talk with frontline workers, don’t ask leading questions. Balance quantitative and qualitative responses and give respondents an opportunity to free-write their answers.
Here are some examples of communication audit questions to ask your frontline:
- How would you describe the communications you receive?
- How do you use our communication channels?
- When do you access them? How often do you access them?
- Where do you go during your shift when you need information?
- Do you know who to ask if you don’t have access to the information you need?
4. Analyze the intel
Once you’ve harvested your information, you can analyze the data to uncover weaknesses in your internal communications strategy and look for signs your communication is broken (check out our sidebar for warning signs). Compile your findings into key insights, then go back to your audit goals to see what conclusions you can derive. From there, you’ll develop a list of recommendations to share with stakeholders and start to prepare a plan of action. Here are a few examples of recommendations you might bring back to the organization based on your audit findings:
- Choose a new communication tool or platform to make communication simple and easy.
- Create a monthly or quarterly communication calendar to ensure your communications are targeted around a core goal or objective.
- Identify the metrics you want to track and how you’ll track them.
- If you don’t have one, create a dedicated communications lead who will work with various stakeholders to create and share information.
Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire internal communications system all at once. You can improve one component at a time, focusing on the area that will deliver the most value to the organization and its employees.
Ready to try your first audit? Use our free Internal Communications Audit Worksheet to track your full audit start to finish 👇