Correlating communication with engagement

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and is the author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

Correlations can be a bit tricky to get your head round at first. A correlation is an association between one thing and another thing, for example, weather and ice cream sales. When it gets warmer, ice cream sales often increase. However, correlations are not necessarily cause and affect relationships and there may be more than one factor at play. For example, ice cream sales could also be affected by advertising and/or changes in attitudes about healthy eating. Correlations can though give you a reasonably good sense of when two things are linked.

During the last 9 months, I have been administering a new communication and engagement questionnaire developed by my University of Central Lancashire PhD supervisor, Dr. Mary Welch. It includes questions about internal communication and organisational engagement and it has now been run in five different organisations.  The questions about internal communication include topics of interest, methods, line managers and senior managers. The questions about engagement are broken down into three dimensions; cognitive (think), emotional (feel) and behavioural (action). This design enables us to correlate different aspects of internal communication with specific dimensions of organisational engagement and action.

Early analysis indicates that there is a fairly wide range in the strength of correlations with organisational engagement across a broad spectrum of internal communication activities and levels are pretty consistent in all five organisations.

Some aspects of internal communication, such as senior manager communication and employee voice, appear to have moderate level correlations with engagement and a significant secondary association with action, through what employees think and feel.

As with the ice cream analogy, there will always be other factors involved with a broad concept such as organisational engagement. However, these findings, if validated through further analysis, will potentially help us to better understand which specific aspects of internal communication are more correlated with organisational engagement and action than others. More on these when the thesis is written up in due course. For now, I’m a convert to the way that quantitative data can reveal very useful insights that can have a significant impact on practice, especially when you include correlations.