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How to Share Performance Updates

In a survey by Newsweaver, 64% of internal communicators agreed that managing the volume of communications was their top challenge. 

Sharing business results and communicating performance updates is a key part of this responsibility for most internal comms teams. 

We’ve been hearing about some super effective ways to conquer this comms challenge! 

We work with a number of clients to help them develop strategies for sharing impactful business updates with their employees and key stakeholders – in-depth info like financials, competitor performance reviews, profit/loss figures and other KPIs that aren’t always known for their captivating qualities. 

We consulted our network of fabulous IC folk to find out how they were taking on this challenge, posing 3 simple questions:

How do you share your performance updates? 

What methods have you found work best? 

How do you measure and track results? 

A vast mix of potential approaches, tips, ideas and general guidance emerged depending on the size and shape of the business as well as the frequency of the updates. 

Here’s a summary of the great stuff we’ve been hearing (we had such enthusiastic input, there’s a lot to get through, but it’s worth it! :)

Sharing weekly/monthly updates

Annual, quarterly and monthly updates all require different approaches. Build this into your strategy with monthly comms focused on succinct, top level updates. A key priority for frequent reports is consistency; enable employees to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily without constantly changing formats. 
  • Let the 'numbers' become a positive obsession for all - Heathrow Airport publish their weekly performance KPIs with their staff via a custom mobile app. Interestingly, Google Analytics reveals that this information is one of the most popular parts of their content. Find out more about Heathrow’s success story by reading their case study from Simply Communicate.
  • Broaden interactive experiences - If you use SharePoint or other similar collaboration software it’s possible to create KPI widgets and pull in data from performance systems to build visually appealing leaderboards. Top Tip: Get as creative as you like to craft fully customised, branded reports, perhaps even animated versions.
  • Keep it simple - Monthly reports can end up being bogged down with in-depth stats and complex graphs. The National House-Building Council is implementing ways to simplify data; in particular, a dashboard using easy-to-follow traffic light status updates (loved by many of you!).
  • Keep the dots connected - Which? takes a staged approach to reach a wide audience, with a monthly update of their KPI dashboard on their business plan micro-site. This highlights and reinforces the connection between regular measures and the overarching business goals.  
  • Use imagery to tell the story - High impact visuals like infographics often prompt positive feedback and satisfy the visual learners - "I never used to understand what financial results meant and now I get it!" Experian transformed financial updates and annual employee survey results using their vibrant storytelling approach, which features highly in their internal e-newsletter. 
  • Look forward – When circulating updates remember to draw attention to next month’s goals and be mindful of what needs to be achieved to remain on track. 

Sharing quarterly updates

Demonstrate progress and take advantage of opportunities for a different approach as your updates become more in-depth and you include elements that won’t always lend themselves to monthly updates. You may be able to apply a lighter touch to Q1 and Q3 whilst introducing additional formats to the rest, again, remembering that overall consistency remains crucial. 
  • Hit the headlines - Quarterly email messages from the CEO work well as headline stories and can be impactful when kept uncluttered. You can include links to a specific part of the intranet or a purpose built site containing a breakdown of the actual business performance and the finer details. 
  • Personalise the message – Make it relevant by asking department leaders to share quarterly messages, perhaps direct emails to their staff, each with the same overall points. Provide specific detail on what it means for their own particular part of the business.
  • Discover the hook – Finding the right angle and linking business updates with key motivators such as career progression or pay and bonus structure can make the figures more real for employees. 
  • Offer a handy toolkit - Do managers really know how to talk about performance updates in a consistent way? Can they explain what the numbers actually mean? Consider accompanying your webcasts and videos from the CEO or MD with useful briefing packs, enclosing guidance on the areas that require particular attention. It’s also important to add background and context – reeling off figures will only work when people understand their significance.
  • Catch attention and create continuity with a single page report – For quarterly performance reporting, present headline results on one page in the simplest possible way, using icons and minimal text. Enhance the message by creating a short film from the CFO/CEO to send out alongside the report - a video that uses the same headline visuals, but also offers the finer detail for those who want to know more. 
  • Share project and initiative updates – Are plans on track? Combine updates with information about other projects that are happening within the business, particularly those that relate directly to the KPIs you’re sharing.

Sharing annual updates

Enhance year-end announcements and annual off-site meetings with an in-depth update report from the CEO, tying in with other suitable annual reporting to minimise the volume of heavy publications or briefings. Remain consistent, where possible alongside monthly and quarterly updates so employees can easily recognise what’s important and digest the details. 

  • End of year event and review - Make the moment something to remember. This is not only a review and update on the year but setting the scene for the year ahead. Capture the moment so that it can be shared with all aspects of the business and illustrate the bigger picture in areas where employees may have little day-to-day contact.
  • Team workshops - Create a process for team workshops that goes beyond regular team meetings. Encourage teams to define their own objectives for the coming year. Invite input and ideas from employees that will enhance engagement and will allow the opportunity for employees to personally connect with the business strategy.
  • Tangible takeaways for employees - Offer ‘packs’ of material to bring things to life in team meetings, something to soak up and reflect on later when time permits. Use this as an opportunity to interpret the numbers in a variety of clear and concise ways that will help your employees to understand and connect.
  • Link with your employee performance review process – Which? recently introduced behaviours to Performance Development Reviews so employees understand that "how we do things" is equally as important as "what we do". The categories and measures created to determine the desired behaviours are linked closely with the overall business performance and are published on the intranet alongside the CEOs own objectives, aiding transparency and reinforcing that executive teams are 'in it together with staff’.

Other key points to consider

  • Include independent viewpoints – Consider enhancing your message with external commentaries and topical news stories supporting your performance to bring the detail to life. 
  • Mind your language - It's easy to overlook your terminology, but ask yourself, does it actually mean anything to your intended audience? A key pitfall to avoid is using highly technical jargon or complex financial terms that not every employee will immediately understand. 
  • Timing’s critical - Sitting on information for too long or ‘massaging the end results’ will mean that by the time employees receive them, they’re out of date and irrelevant. Get the info out in a timely manner.
  • Rewarding good performance is crucial – Where possible, be selective with what you highlight and celebrate successes, rather than focusing too much on the negative. 
  • Infographics, infographics, infographics! Yes, we’ve touched on this but it’s such an important point we thought we’d raise it again! Infographics are vibrant, versatile and effective, enabling the ability to mix stats, visuals and anecdotes in one communication channel. By positioning infographic posters by lifts and staff areas, the content is visible and easily digestible for a diverse audience and for those less likely to access the intranet regularly.

In summary

We’re not talking about sharing information as part of a box-ticking exercise or a formal obligation here; it’s deeper than that. The sharing of performance updates involves delivering messages appropriately and in a way that will influence employee attitudes and behaviours to generate desired outcomes. We also recognise that, suitably delivered, business updates should be an effective tool to support employee engagement, keeping staff at all levels involved and informed.

Much of the content in this article comes directly from those who contributed to the conversation, so huge thanks again for your input! 

We've also had loads more brilliant comments, ideas and thoughts which we'll put together in a follow-up post in the New Year. Watch this space....!

Tweet us @Alivewithideas with your own experiences and top tips on developing and sharing your performance updates. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

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