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Measurement is at the top of a communicator’s importance list according to recent research – so why is it also so low in their skills learning and practice? Susan Walker, author of Employee Engagement & Communication Research, discusses what she believes could be holding us back. 

Listening is becoming an increasing part of the communicator’s role and measurement or, as I prefer to call it, evaluation, is integral to that process. Here’s a key reason to put it higher on your agenda.

Your role as a communicator is developing  and growing – understanding and knowledge of research as part of the listening process is an opportunity to add to your skills portfolio and be seen as a proactive member of the management team.

So what might be holding you back?

Fear of figures? Some communicators avoid numbers in a bid to be more intuitive and creative. But there’s no reason to fear figures. You don’t have to be a statistician – listening and measurement is about far more than data. And, as a communicator, who better to interpret and transform any figures into management information?

Skills scare? There are some basic skills to ensure the evaluation is reliable and robust – objective questionnaire design, statistical reliability – and it is possible to equip yourself with these so you can present your results as trustworthy evidence – not guesswork.

Evaluation evidence? There is no point in evaluating engagement and communication research if you can’t also show evidence of its value to the business. An integral part of any measurement programme is to identify and show its benefits to the organisation – and it is possible to do this and even show return on investment.

Absence of action? Here I must admit this is the biggest challenge and where most measurement projects fail. The end of any research is actually the beginning – here is where potential action is identified, put into practice, communicated and assessed for success.  And, yes, it is possible to achieve and again can become a real part of your role as communicator.

You may want to gain these listening and evaluation skills to carry out your own research, either questionnaire based via user friendly online systems or qualitative through interviews or discussion groups. Or your organisation may already be working on a regular employee survey with an external supplier, perhaps organised by your HR colleagues. Here, by equipping yourself with knowledge about the process, you will have the confidence to become involved and positively contribute to the process. Getting to the top of those measurement mountains.

Susan Walker’s career was in communications before she became an engagement and communication researcher, first heading the HR research practice at MORI and now working independently. She is a frequent speaker on the value and practice of employee research and author of the definitive book on the subject, ‘Employee Engagement and Communication Research’. On the 22nd of June, Susan will be delivering a one-day ‘Introduction to Measurement & Evaluation’ course for the IoIC. For more information and to book your place, click here
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