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November 16, 2011

Internal Communications Check-Up – Part 2: Dig Deeper

When I talk with leaders who want to elevate their organization’s communications, I often hear that they see a need for improvement but don’t know where to start.  They want to lead effectively, harness their team’s potential and engage employees around collective goals.

But how, exactly, can they accomplish these needs?

To improve communication, you must first look at what’s going on in the organization from a macro, 30,000 foot level – like the assessment suggested in my last blog post on “taking your organization’s temperature.” Then it’s a matter of digging deeper – to understand how individual communicators, leaders, and teams function and what impact that has on the organization.

We use several tools to help clients gauge communications and guide decisions about how they can best focus improvement efforts. The tools assess effectiveness on several levels, helping point organizations in the right direction: 

1)   Internal Communication Climate Index™: This standardized, quantitative survey tool measures the effectiveness of the internal communication system in an organization (i.e. company overall and/or business unit, region or geography).  We look at key dimensions including senior leadership communications, supervisor communications, information vehicles, messaging, etc.  The Index was created by LCWA to address a need – for companies to look more closely at their communication system for ways to increase impact and save money.  The Index provides data companies can use to make informed decisions about what communication activities to start, stop and continue. The research methodology includes advanced statistics and regression analysis to get at drivers of specific communication outcomes.

To date, a number of large organizations (e.g., Microsoft, Unum, Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation, among others.) have used the Index to identify strengths and gaps and guide data-based decisions – at the organizational level and within different areas and geographies across the company. The data shows leaders and communicators how their organization is faring individually, as well as compared with the results of other companies.

2)   QuickAssess: This quick survey offers an easy way of diagnosing key strengths and gaps of individual communicators as well as the communications skills and capabilities of leaders in the organization. This tool has been used by a number of teams to quickly identify gaps in skills and areas for team and individual skill-building. Leaders also have used the results to clarify expectations on skills needed to elevate performance and for continued development on critical communication skills.

QuickAssess looks at about a dozen communication-related skills essential to a leader or communicator’s effectiveness (we have a version for leaders and a slightly different version for communicators, given their different roles).  Individuals rate themselves on the importance they place on each of the skills, as well how they view their own performance.  For added perspective, leaders also can assess their direct reports to identify gaps or congruencies in their performance, as well as in their perceptions of what is important.  We plot the responses on a grid so leaders and teams can pinpoint -- from an individual and overall team perspective -- which skills need to be improved, evaluated further, or are best practices they should continue to leverage.

3)  commpetent™:  This turnkey, 360-degree diagnostic assesses four critical competencies of communication professionals: business acumen, consulting skills, communication skills and personal effectiveness. While the Internal Communication Climate Index™ looks at communication effectiveness of an organization overall (or areas/geographies within an organization), and QuickAssess can evaluate a team’s performance, commpetent is a way to measure the effectiveness of individual communications professionals.  The diagnostic report, delivered on a dashboard, outlines gaps and strengths to guide an individual in the development of an action plan to address opportunities.

A roll up of this individual data into a team overview is another way to evaluate communication effectiveness. It provides a collective assessment of strengths and gaps that can be used to shape team development opportunities and action plans. When this is done annually, teams and individuals can see year-over-year progress.

In what areas might your organization benefit from a communications check-up? 

- David Grossman

In case you missed the first post in this two part series, you can read it here.


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