This chapter presents an example of a maturity model - a diagnostic tool for assessing an organization’s proficiency in a particular area. Though such an evaluation can be carried out by external experts in the field (typically consultants), maturity models are just as often used in self-assessment exercises.

The Internal Communications and Employee Engagement Maturity Model (Figure 8 below) is intended to be:

  1. Descriptive: As a mechanism to help statistical organizations understand their current capabilities with respect to the most important characteristics of internal communications and employee engagement.
  2. Aspirational: As an indicator of potential next steps in organizational development, providing guidelines for improvement.

Note that every assessment using a maturity model will require an element of subjective judgement.  The intention behind the model is not to generate an empirically validated, statistically sound “score”, but rather to give management and other participants an objective sense of organizational capacity, using a tool-based process that can be repeated over time to evaluate progress or lack thereof.

What happens after the maturity assessment?

1.Structure the problem

It is uncommon for an organization to display the same level of maturity across all characteristics.

One of the most valuable results of using a maturity model is recognizing that a high-level structure exists and seeing how the different characteristics fit into a larger equation. This helps to frame a broader discussion and begins to focus the right questions.

2. Determine desired level of maturity for each characteristic

Does an organization need to be ‘proficient’ in all characteristics? Maybe, but maybe not, at least not in the short term. Getting to the highest level of maturity rapidly can be expensive in terms of both financial and human resources. The cost of improvements in internal communications and employee engagement will need to be balanced with other organizational priorities. The maturity model can help identify areas where the most improvement can be achieved with realistic resource allocations.

3. Identify and prioritize opportunities for organizational growth

Maturity models are often the first step in a larger opportunity identification process. Based on the desired level of maturity in each characteristic, an organization can set measurable short, medium and long-term goals for improvement.

4. Develop a strategic internal communications and employee engagement plan.

(For a detailed description of strategic planning, see Chapter Strategic Planning and Tools).

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Figure 8 - Internal Communications and Employee Engagement Maturity Model






Little or scattered management awareness of, or support for, internal communications and employee engagement. 

Explicit promotion of internal communications and employee engagement by top management. Value and priority communicated to middle and front-line managers. 

All levels of management committed to effective internal communications and employee engagement.


Internal communications are ad hoc, according to manager preference

Internal communications are routine but mass-market (e-mail, newsletters, intranet, formal meetings)

Internal communications are frequent, direct, conversational, tailored to individuals or small groups


Communication is ad hoc, no mechanisms are in place for staff feedback or participation

Staff are consulted on visioning, work processes

Staff actively participate in visioning, determining work processes

Information flow

Ad hoc, top down

Routine, bi-directional (top down and bottom-up)

Routine, multi-directional (top down, bottom up, peer-to-peer at all levels)



Tactical, event or project focused

Strategic, coordinated organization-wide

Metrics and Evaluation

Few or none

Assessment once per year or less frequently. Results are shared among top management for information purposes. Little or no coordinated response.

Assessment at least once per year. Results are compared to benchmarks and established organizational key performance indicator goals.  Results shared among management for coordinated action.


Tasks are assigned piecemeal to (possibly multiple) existing units, no additional staff, no professional specialization or designated budget

Tasks are assigned to a single designated existing unit, little professional specialization, some designated budget

Tasks are assigned to a specialized independent unit with professional expertise, adequate ongoing budget

Organizational Alignment

Staff identifies primarily with their own narrow work unit

Staff identifies with their own work unit and general organizational values

Staff identifies with organizational goals, are willing to cooperate across work units to achieve results


Ad hoc, according to individual preferences

“Soft skills” training for all levels of management

Coaching for management; coaching, team building, facilitation, career development, etc. training for staff

Performance management

Communications and employee engagement are not incorporated into performance plans or reviews

Communications and employee engagement are a standard element in management performance plans and reviews

Standard procedures are in place organization-wide to recognize superior staff performance aligned with organizational goals

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