Measuring Up: India's Tata Chemicals Ltd. Scores with a Comprehensive Program to Assess Internal Communication Programs

By Sudhakar, B.; Patil, Sujit M. | Communication World, September-October 2006 | Go to article overview

Measuring Up: India's Tata Chemicals Ltd. Scores with a Comprehensive Program to Assess Internal Communication Programs


Sudhakar, B., Patil, Sujit M., Communication World


The ability to send clear, concise messages and to listen effectively often spells the difference between successful business relationships and lost productivity. Every large organization has a communication department and develops programs to communicate with employees. But how do you know if your internal communication tactics are meeting your objectives? Can they be quantified? What is the yardstick by which we can measure them?

Internal communication managers often fall prey to two major myths. The first is that intangibles cannot be measured. The second is that even if it's possible, measurement is expensive.

In a way, they are right. We measure what looks measurable. While the effectiveness of activities like product launches, contests and press conferences, or even tools like web sites, has been measured, not much work has been done on the internal communication front. While monitoring the efficiency of internal communication in terms of, say, the timely printing and distribution of newsletters, updates to the intranet and adhering to the communication calendar is easy, doing so does not determine whether these tactics are getting the job done.

Internal communication managers often wonder, Are our tools working? What communication gaps exist in the organization, and how do I plug them and improve communication at every level? The first step to answering these questions is to look at your various modes of communication through the eyes of your target audience: employees. How do they perceive all the wonderful tactics that you engage them with?

Tata Chemicals Ltd. (TCL), in India, developed an index that could indicate the health of internal communication processes. This index, now called the Communication Effectiveness Index (CEI), has become the yardstick for measuring the performance of the communication team. The outcomes have been tremendous and have given the team a direction to focus on to meet their internal communication objectives.

Effectiveness vs. efficiency

The communication team at TCL reaches out to employees and their family members through a variety of communication vehicles. The employees come from different cultures, work at different locations, and have diverse experiences and education levels. Internal research showed that employees in different strategic business units, or SBUs (TCL has three of these units: chemicals, fertilizers and food additives), and work levels, or levels of responsibility (ranging from frontline employees to senior leadership) preferred different modes of communication. For instance, a worker in the plant preferred bulletin boards to the intranet because the boards were closer to his work area than intranet access.

After this initial research, the communication team decided to go deeper and measure the effectiveness rather than just the efficiency of the various communication processes. The aim of this effort was to create a diagnostic tool that could address the following needs:

* Measure effectiveness of the various tools on a scale of 1 to 5.

* Arrive at a Communication Effective Index value for each SBU, location and level of responsibility, or cadre (such as frontline employees, managers or leadership).

* Identify the key issues on the communication front.

* Use qualitative research to collect employee feedback to address the issues.

After identifying the six major modes of internal communication in use at the company (intranet, e-mail, employee communication meetings, notices/ bulletin boards, internal events and printed materials) and listing the individual objectives and impact of each, the team created a questionnaire to be used during one-on-one interviews with some 400 employees, representing groups from top management to the front lines.

Trained behavioral experts conducted the interviews, collecting both viewpoints (qualitative) and scores (quantitative, on a scale of 1 to 5) for each mode. …

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