Today I stumbled across an interesting discussion on Twitter: #nzlead. Turns out it’s a tweet chat that happens every week on a Thursday, originating in New Zealand, but generating responses internationally. (Worth a look if you’ve an interest in HR, internal communications or organisational development and are ever available at 8am on a Thursday – or check their website for write-ups.) Anyway, today’s discussion was about employee communications, which is what made me keep an eye on the action.
The conversation centred on four main questions (although there was a rather nice little ice-breaker at the beginning asking people to take a quick pic of what was on the wall of the room they were in):
- What is HR’s role in employee communications?
- How well does HR usually communicate with employees?
- How can employee communications help or harm an organisation?
- What employee communication capabilities can HR improve?
Who owns employee communications?
What particularly interested me was the notion of who takes ownership of employee communications in an organisation. There were a range of views, but what was clear is that it should be a partnership between HR, internal communications, senior managers, line managers... and everyone else!
I realise this sounds rather idealistic, but what it means is that everyone should have a role to play in employee communication in order for it to work effectively. Yes, of course, there will always be the dull process stuff that every organisation needs people to know about. And, indeed, there will always be key business information that should come from the top of the organisation. However, there should also be employee input – working with employees to develop good communication strategies, empowering them to take some ownership over the kind of communication they want to receive will ultimately mean they’ll be more likely to take notice.
A key message was not that HR should take full responsibility for employee communications itself, but rather that it should act as a conduit to bring all parts of the organisation together to enable better, more authentic and more effective employee communications.
The collaboration effect
One of the most read (and in demand) employee communications I’ve ever seen was an under the radar staff magazine that was penned and distributed by the employees themselves. It didn’t include much about work, but it did foster great collaboration between colleagues. It enabled you to get to know people on a more personal level, so that when you spotted people in the lift or by the coffee machine, you felt more comfortable starting a conversation. And if you felt more comfortable starting a conversation, you actually found yourself talking about what you were currently working on. Which in turn helped you make valuable connections, share learning and gain knowledge that you might otherwise never have known about.
I’ll leave you with five top tips for good employee communication drawn from this morning’s tweet chat. I know none of this is rocket science, but it does require a culture of openness and transparency, which for some organisations still proves hard to achieve.
- Honesty – be open and honest, say sorry if stuff doesn’t work
- Authenticity – keep it real (people will know if you’re bluffing)
- Conversation – don’t just broadcast, make it two-way
- Simplicity – use plain English and don’t overthink
- Not just email – be creative, think of other ways of doing it (staff advocates, face to face meetings, social media etc.)
If you’d like to get involved in more conversation about communicating with and engaging employees, please join the new Engage for Success Public Sector group.