The Gatehouse Blog

Strategic measurement – Sarah-Jane Wakefield, Standard Chartered

When it comes to internal communication, nothing proves effectiveness like strategic measurement. Sarah-Jane Wakefield, Global Head of Communications (HR and Culture) at Standard Chartered, talks audits, analytics and the power of networking through times of transformation.

Where did your story in internal communication begin?

I started my career as a journalist, before moving into PR, and have done several roles covering all aspects of public relations. My first big move into internal communication was at HM Treasury, where a great man looked beyond my experience to my potential – and took a chance on me. The rest is history, as they say.

You talk about the importance of effective measurement – why is that so important?

I think measurement has become one of those ‘scary’ words because it has become so talked about and it is hard, but I don’t think there are many organisations that have got it completely right yet. I know we haven’t.

But it’s important. If you want to be a trusted strategic advisor and want to be listened to, then you need to be able to influence and challenge your senior stakeholders. To do that effectively, you need proof points, feedback, data, evidence – some form of measurement. You can’t convince anyone that what you are suggesting is the right course of action unless you have some proof. My advice would be to just start and do something. It doesn’t matter how small it is or if it’s just viewing rates; start somewhere, because something is better than nothing. You can then build from there. Or just go out and start talking to people – networking is probably the most important thing you can do. Internal communication is about building relationships and understanding how your people are feeling.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Where does this come in at Standard Chartered?

We are still working hard on how we measure our work more effectively, and the challenge for us is how you measure the impact/outcome of your communications – the resulting behaviour change. Some of the things we have done include:

  • Three years ago, we underwent a full internal communications audit with Gatehouse. We wanted to find out what people thought of our communications, our channels, what messaging was landing, what was working, what wasn’t, and what was missing.
  • Since then, we have undertaken a couple of pulse surveys to track momentum and to measure large cultural campaigns, such as purpose, valued behaviours, brand refresh and so on, and are now about to undertake a follow-up full review to see what progress has been made and how else we need to evolve our communications.
  • We also undertook an external benchmark to see what some of the more ‘innovative’ companies, such as Facebook, Google and start-ups, plus some competitors, were doing, to see how we compare and what we could learn.

Combined with our annual employee engagement survey, these have all provided us with invaluable insights on what is and isn’t working, where we needed to focus and improve, and gave us a starting point to get two-way feedback and have ongoing conversations.

As a business. have your made any significant changes as a result?

We continually change and evolve our communications due to the feedback and insights we get. And sometimes it proves that what we are already doing is right. We have introduced new channels, stopped channels, streamlined our communications, spent a lot of time focused on improving our social collaboration platform, introduced new and improved technology, created a new internal brand and gained a greater understanding of what our management team needs and wants from us.

We are starting to introduce an approach of ‘failing fast’. We try new things and if they work, then great; but if they don’t, then we stop doing them quickly and try something else. Of course, it would be great to do everything – but you must weigh up the impact that communication has versus the resources that go into creating it; recognise it for what it is and use the measurement to guide you.

Our focus now is on how we can be more agile, flexible, innovative and productive, and measurement is critical to that.