Is communications a problem in your company? Does information flow top/down, bottom/up and laterally? Do employees get the information they need to be effective in their jobs? Are employees informed on the culture and strategy of the company? Are employees clear on their job and goals? Are decisions communicated? Is progress shared? Are employees up-to-date on what’s happening with others in their organization?
Periodically, you should conduct an internal Communications Audit to evaluate the practices that are in place to share information within the organization. The process involves first compiling a picture of the current communications practices that are being used, their effectiveness, and recommendations to improve the flow of information.
Gather Information on Current Practices
To begin the audit, first ask a few people on varying levels of the organization, through interviews and focus groups, general questions like:
- How would you describe the effectiveness of communications in this organization? Please explain.
- What do employees need to know? What additional things do employees want to know?
- What practices exist (vehicles) for sharing information? For each ask, how effective it is and what changes would improve communications.
Create a Complete Picture of the Communications System
To build a comprehensive picture, gather information on the following:
- CHANNEL and MEDIA: What written forms of communication are used such as memos, letters, email, webpages, blogs wikis, text messaging and instant messaging? What spoken forms of communications are used such as phone, conference calls, voicemail, and podcasts? What blended forms of communication are used such as face-to-face discussions, meetings, presentations, webconferences, and webchats? Be sure to compile all traditional and electronic forms of communication. Are the best media being used to share that information or would a different channel choice be more effective?
- AUDIENCE and MESSENGER: For each channel and medium, determine what audiences receive that communication and who is the messenger? Code each as being top/down, bottom/up, or lateral communications.
- CONTENT: Then indicate the content of the message. Categorize content. Is the focus of the communications things like company goals, culture, job duties, decisions, employee updates, customer updates, progress and metrics, etc.?
- TIME/FREQUENCY: For each, indicate the frequency that information is shared. Have a clear picture of what information is shared, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.
More specifically, when talking about the flow of information, ask questions such as:
- Does information flow effectively down throughout the organization–from leaders to managers and from managers to employees (or whatever levels exist)? What changes would improve communications? Is there sufficient sharing of information or is information lacking?
- Does information flow effectively upward from employees to managers and from managers to leaders? What changes would improve communications? Is there sufficient sharing of information or is information lacking?
- Does information flow effectively laterally–with others in your group or department and on a similar level in other departments? What changes would improve communications? Is there sufficient sharing of information or is information lacking?
With a clear picture of all the ways information is shared, be sure to uncover:
- How effective is it?
- What can be done to improve it? Is information lacking? Is there information overload?
Before you can improve communication, you must get this baseline data of what communications are in place and compile recommendations for making communications more effective. In addition to gathering the data through interviews and focus groups, observe communications activities like meetings, and review samples of communications like emails, memos, and letters. From your data gathering compile a chart of the communications system used by the organization and list recommendations to improve communications.
Survey All Employees to Get Their Views
Then, using a survey, have all employees evaluate current communications and give their opinions on a list of recommendations that might improve communications.
Develop a Communications Plan and Share It
Analyze the input from everyone and develop a plan for improving communications. Present the plan to the leadership team and finalize the recommendations. Then, communicate the communications plan to everyone in the organization and start implementing it.
Make Communications an Ongoing Focus
Periodically, evaluate communications in your organization. When possible, use outside consulting support in this process to ensure that employees feel free to share their views. Communication drives employee satisfaction. And you cannot have an engaged employee if that employee is not satisfied.
If you have conducted an internal Communications Audit, please comment on the practices that worked for you and anything to avoid. Thanks!