Auditing communication at Maersk Line

Klavs ValskovAf Klavs Valskov, head of communications, Maersk Line
Publiceret mandag 26. april 2010

Klavs Valskov is determined to prove to senior leaders that his function makes a difference to the organization as it journies through tough times. He explains how he carries out a yearly communication audit to assess how his team’s efforts impact the workforce and also to gather evidence of the value they bring.

Maersk Line is going through the most severe financial crisis in its 100-year history. Before the recession we had 24,000 employees but now we have 17,500 and we posted a loss for 2009, the first ever in the company’s history.

Communication in this traditional company has never really been seen as a way to achieve your business targets. In fact, communication was considered something to be scared of; if an inaccurate comment was made to the external media, you could be severely reprimanded.

The aims of the audit
However, times have changed for the better and we want to strengthen the way communication is now perceived, which is why we carry out a yearly audit. This has two aims.

The first, and the main point of it, is we want it to be a learning tool. How are our communications working? We want to see if what we’re doing is right so we can build on our strategy every year.

The second aim is to document to senior leaders that what we do makes a big difference. If we show that we improve business performance, our futures may be more secure.

Carrying out the audit
We’re currently working out the results of the 2009 audit and writing the report. We aim to present the results in quarter one every year. In an ideal world, I’d measure every quarter but it’s a huge task and we don’t have the resources.

Part of our research involves a bimonthly pulse survey online. There are 15 questions designed to find out whether or not people know the strategy and understand and support it. It’s not very scientific but it gives us an idea. You can quickly see if employees are experiencing change fatigue.

Change occurs so fast that you can’t rely on the yearly employee engagement survey, I need to be able to react fast, so that’s why we’ve put this pulse survey in place.

We also use the annual engagement survey to gather information. We want to run more focus groups in 2010 so we can qualify the statistics that we get on readership of articles on our intranet.

Collecting praise for the comms team
We have an area on the server available to the whole communication team called “Trophy Shelves”. This is where we keep emails congratulating us on our work. So if a business manager or the CEO praises the team, the email is stored here. They’re also used in the audit report to add some colorful quotes and to underline where we’ve made a difference. We can explain what we did, provide the data to show what a difference it made and add what the CEO said about it.

At the end of the year we have 30-40 complimentary quotes. It gives us a confidence boost but also builds the case for communication within the organization.

A success story
One example of how measurement has proven the success of a channel involves
a cartoon. We had a feeling that many employees understood the outline and the components of the strategy but they didn’t understand what was in it for them.

We gave ourselves the challenge of explaining the strategy and the benefits to them in less than five minutes. We devised a cartoon for the intranet that was similar to the Common Craft animations (

A quick poll asked “After watching this film, do you have a better understanding of how the business strategy benefits you?” We had an overwhelming response – more than 500 people replied. That alone was an indicator of success.

Around 92 percent of employees said they understood what the personal benefits of the strategy were. There was also a discussion forum where people could leave messages about it so we got a lot of qualitative responses. These results meant we had a strong case that this was an effective channel.

We’ve used this technique again and it’s working really well. Of course, producing a film like this can be expensive, but when you can document this type of result, it’s clearly worth the expenditure. You have a piece of communication that directly and positively influences employee engagement.

Words of advice
You need to be pragmatic. Of course you need good data quality but if you get too bogged down with it, it’ll become too hard. Have the ability to see what’s necessary and what isn’t. Think about how you’re going to measure before you start the campaign. You have the goal, how will you measure whether or not you’ve reached it?

About the author

Klavs Valskov is head of communications at Maersk Line. He has worked in the field of corporate communication since 1999 for companies like Accenture, L’Oréal and the largest bank in the Nordic countries, Nordea.

Denne artikel blev bragt i SCM, Strategic Communication Management, Volume 14, Issue 3, April/May 2010.

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