Communications audit

Purpose, method and questions

The purpose of a Communication Audit is to check the effectiveness of existing communication machinery (formal and informal); to find out how information actually travels downwards, upwards and laterally within the organisation and to highlight strengths and weaknesses of current procedures.

The Communication Audit is over a very short period to get a ’snapshot’ record of what is and is not happening. It must not take into account what was done a year ago or what people intend doing in the future. It is a record of now.

It is usual to have brief (20-30 minute) informal interviews with at least 10% of employees – including directors, managers, supervisors, shop floor and office people, plus a few employee representatives.  Many employees are relaxed and open up more freely when you meet them in groups of 3-4 at a time, and this enables you to interview many more. Reassure everyone that they can talk freely and in confidence as comments quoted in your final report are not attributed to any named individuals.

It is not advisable to complete a questionnaire while interviewing as people might feel they are being interrogated. However, as a matter of courtesy ask each person if he/she minds you taking notes because you need to remember so many topics. Most people talk freely when asked open-ended questions inviting more than simple Yes/No answers.

On the next page are abbreviations of typical questions asked by a consultant conducting a Communication Audit. These would be supplemented by other questions relevant to a particular organisation’s methods and procedures. In addition, there would be questions about a specific item of news issued from the top of the organisation 2-4 months prior to the Audit to check how and when that information was transmitted.

Also to be studied are frequency and usefulness of team briefings and consultative meetings, their content and Minutes of meetings over the previous 3-9 months period.

Communications audit

  • Who is your immediate boss? Who is his boss?
  • How profitable was the Company last year? How about the Group?
  • Are you asked your views and ideas before decisions are made which directly affect you?
  • If you have improvement suggestions, who do you pass them to?
  • Are suggestions encouraged?
  • Do you read the minutes of the Safety Committee?
  • Do you read the minutes of the Works Council?
  • Does the Company journal/newsletter interest you?
  • How do you learn of changes in Company policy?
  • How do you learn of top management decisions?
  • Do notice board announcements interest you?
  • Do you see/talk with any directors?
  • (If no) Would you like to?
  • Does your team have weekly/monthly targets?
  • Does your manager/supervisor get the team together?
  • Do members discuss their ideas/opinions with the manager/supervisor?
  • Would you like to be consulted?
  • Who gives you the most information – your manager/supervisor or shop steward?
  • Is there any information you don’t get which you would like?

Additional questions for directors, managers, supervisors and team leaders

  • How many subordinate managers/supervisors/team leaders do you have?
  • Do you pass information through them?
  • How do you know they always pass it on?
  • When did you last hold progress meeting with them?
  • Do you get your team together?
  • When your team meets, what topics are covered?
  • Do you ask for ideas/opinions?
  • (If yes) Do you get them?  Give recent examples.  Which have you implemented?
  • Do you explain weekly/monthly targets?
  • How do subordinates learn about management decisions and plans?
  • Do you explain reasons for decisions?  Recent examples?
  • Do you consult employees before making decisions?
  • How often are you bypassed from above?
  • What training in management of people have you had?

Note:  Listen for contradictions.  Do not interrogate but, while taking care not to provoke defensiveness, allow pools of silence to develop when the person needs time to think before answering.

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