Why you should publish results of an IC audit

It should be obvious and simple – we organise an internal communication audit in our company in which we ask the employees about their opinions, so after developing the results we present the results to the participants. Unfortunately, it’s not so obvious for some companies. Read how it should be.

If a company decides to organise any research – it may be an IC audit, an organisational culture assessment or an employee engagement survey – and has an idea to keep the results only for the board or for a limited number of people (usually only for the management and the IC team) or to keep them in the sock drawer to be forgotten, they should be punished. It’s totally against the idea of open communication built on trust.

Why aren’t companies willing to reveal the results of their internal research?
I’ve often heard stories from you about companies which didn’t want to share the IC audit outcomes with their employees. Usually the reason was the same – the results were poor and dissatisfactory for the board. The top management avoided showing others how bad the IC situation was in their company. But let’s take a step back. If the employees assessed the IC badly in the audit, they had already known how bad the communication situation was. And now they’ve just shown their opinions in these marks. And for sure they’ve been discussing these communication failures with each other.

Showing the results shouldn’t surprise anyone. Probably the scale of the problem may be a sensitive issue. So, dear board, don’t surprise your employees by not showing the bad outcomes (they’re already aware of them) and don’t frustrate them more because of lack of actions. Surprise them by revealing the results and announcing the action plan to improve the diagnosed problems. Then there is a chance the internal communication will get better marks in the next audit. The best cure for the poor IC is to take proper actions. Avoiding them may lead to deeper frustrations among employees and more serious consequences than the bad IC marks in the surveys.

Once I heard a story when after seeing the poor communication audit results the board informed the IC team they would never agree to any other IC audit in the company. What a great idea! Congratulations! It’s difficult for me to believe it’s better to maintain this frustrating IC situation and pretend no one sees and hears anything than to hear, swallow and try to change these communication deficiencies. Not doing anything seems like a great idea for managing a company, don’t you think? Success guaranteed. I wish all the best to such companies. Their leaders are simply immature.

Why we should present the IC audit results to the employees
We engage our employees to fill in the questionnaires, to take part in the focus groups or other form of the research where they express their opinions and afterwards we disappear with the results. It’s like voting for a president in an election and never finding out who wins. Or like taking part in a lottery, choosing your lucky numbers and never finding out if you won.

If we engage our employees to take part in any research, we should feel obliged to show them the results. If not, we make the IC situation even worse. It’s a very simple way to build mistrust.   

Moreover, if we don’t reveal the results, we shouldn’t expect a high turnout in the next IC audit. Why should it be high? If the employees got engaged once, but they weren’t informed about the results or the results didn’t change anything in the communication, their motivation and willingness to take any further actions would decline. It’s like somebody heard them but didn’t listen to them. Frustrating.

Presenting the employees’ marks and opinions is just the first step. After publishing the IC audit results, we should prepare the action plan of improvements and implement it in the company. This is the reason for organising IC audits – to change what’s wrong. If a company decided to organise an audit and then was surprised their employees assessed it low and complained, this firm shouldn’t organise any research at all. Because we organise audits to hear these bad comments from our employees.  

If a company isn’t ready to hear them, our role as IC professionals is to prepare them for this moment. Before the start of the audit it’s worth enlightening the top management on the possible bad results and next steps to be taken. It’s also helpful to be focused not on the upcoming marks but on changes and improvements that will be implemented to raise the quality of communications.   

When and what to show in the IC audit results
But if our board is mature enough to reveal the results, there will be a moment of announcing them. I think the best option is to publish the results up to max 2 months after the audit. We need about 2-4 weeks to work out all the numbers and thoughts from the questionnaires and the focus groups. What we should do for sure is to inform our employees at the end of the IC audit when they may expect the results and why it will take so long.

I’ve often been asked if we should publish the whole report with all the results. If we want to be transparent and open, then yes, we can, but unfortunately it may bring a risk of misinterpretation. The full report without any explanations may be understood incorrectly. That’s why a better solution is to choose the most important results and present them only (not only these bad once; remember about underlining what works well). You can make a presentation, an infographic or describe them in an article published on the intranet or in an internal newspaper. The best option is to organise a meeting to present and discuss the results. They may also be discussed or even should be during workshops where the IC team along with chosen employees will create ideas for improvements. And don’t forget to engage the leaders.

It’s important to give the employees any materials they may go back to if they are willing to read more and in depth. It’s also worth explaining what these results mean. Without such an interpretation, it may lead to communication chaos.  

We’ve published the results and what’s next…
We must remember that presenting the IC audit results, it’s just one of the steps on our way to improving the communications in our company. The next important step is to work out changes (e.g. written down in an IC strategy or an IC plan) and implement them to improve these elements that were assessed poorly. It’ll show our staff, they have the influence on what is going on in the company. It also shows what they said was heard and now it is used to change the way the company communicates.

Moreover, we should remind our employees later that these implemented changes and improvements are the result of the IC audit and their opinions. It shows them the real influence on the company and that it’s worth sharing what needs to be changed in the internal communication.   

Are you planning to organise an IC audit?
If you’re facing this challenge and need an external support, feel free to contact me. I can support you in preparing questions to questionnaires or for focus groups, I may share my experience on how to run focus groups or help you prepare the final report and improvements in the IC after the research. 


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