Develop a Successful HR Communication Strategy
HR communication is vital to the successful management of any organization. Whether you are updating employees on new policies, gathering feedback on employee satisfaction, or providing critical information on how to prepare for an extreme weather event, effective communication is fundamental to business operations.
Developing an effective HR communication strategy will enable you to communicate successfully with employees and all internal stakeholders, linking your communication to the organization’s strategic plan and boosting its brand as an employer.
What is HR communication?
Communication is the foundation of all human relationships. In the workplace, it facilitates the exchange of information and knowledge. It’s essential for individual and team success and enables workers to develop strong relationships and establish themselves as collaborative team members who want to help the organization reach its objectives.
The HR department is responsible for not only hiring the right employees, but also ensuring they are equipped to perform their jobs properly. HR communication plays a key role in getting this right.
Organizations rely on HR professionals to communicate important information and policy changes to employees. Effective communication can increase productivity, leading to a more engaged and productive workforce.
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HR communication is a two-way process that involves information being sent from HR to employees and from employees up to HR. Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to perform their best work; a 5% increase in employee engagement can lead to a 3% jump in revenue.
Why is HR communication important for the organization?
People’s expectations of their employers have changed since the pandemic. Today, HR professionals play the central role in employee experience, providing a vital connection between leadership and staff. Internal communication has a powerful impact on employee engagement, organizational culture, and productivity. Simply put, employees want to hear from you.
Let’s look at some of the key benefits of effective HR communication:
Forbes defines employee engagement as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. Engaged employees care about their work and their company.
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report reveals that disengaged workers cost the global economy an astonishing $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, while engaged teams show 24% to 59% less staff turnover, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, and 41% less absenteeism.
A McKinsey study on the future of remote work reports that employees who feel more included in workplace communication are almost five times more likely to demonstrate increased productivity.
Another Gallup study made a connection between low engagement and team performance and found that when engagement needs are not met, employee turnover is higher. The cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times their annual salary. Losing good people also results in the loss of expertise and can have a negative effect on general morale.
Communication is a cornerstone for developing trust between employers and employees; 63% of employees and business leaders globally say trust must be earned. Trust is key to attracting top talent, with 74% of employees preferring to work for a company that’s viewed as trustworthy.
The 4 types of communication
Information flows in 4 directions: downward, upward, horizontally, and diagonally. The direction is usually determined by the size, nature, and structure of the organization.
1. Upward communication
Employees communicate with upper management to provide feedback, complaints, or suggestions. Upward communication is becoming increasingly popular because it encourages a participatory work environment.
Use upward communication to conduct employee satisfaction surveys with online survey tools like Survey Monkey. Retention and turnover surveys, for example, include questions regarding plans to stay with the organization for the near future or to leave. Based on the results, you can use this information to build a better workplace.
2. Downward communication
In downward communication, information and messages flow top-down through the organization’s hierarchical structure.
As an example of downward communication, An HR practitioner may send out an email explaining a new work policy, or a new training programme is communicated to the sales team by the HR department.
3. Diagonal communication
Diagonal communication occurs between departments with people at different levels of the organization. This is a dialogue between employees of differing ranks and functions who are not in the same chain of command.
If you speak to the head of research and development about hiring a new employee for her team, that’s considered diagonal communication. Because a junior staff member can interact with a senior staff member from another department, diagonal communication is fast and effective.
4. Horizontal communication
This is when people of the same level in an organization communicate, usually to coordinate work between departments. This flow of communication is used to run departments when it’s essential to gather information across members of the same work group or same level in the organization.
If the HR manager meets with the accounting manager to do a budget review, that’s horizontal communication. When people at the same level communicate directly, this facilitates problem solving and enables information sharing across different work groups.
In the next section, we will unpack the different communication approaches and channels you can use to build an HR communication model canvas – a tool that will help you measure and evaluate your internal communication strategy and practices.
How to build an effective communication strategy with the HR CMC
The HR communication model canvas (HR CMC), based on Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, has been adjusted to meet the needs of internal communication experts. It’s designed to help you keep employees informed on organizational strategies and objectives, employee policies and plans, and achievements.
The HR CMC is a strategic communication tool that lets you visualize and assess your ideas and concepts. Because it’s a one-pager, it provides a quick overview of the communication model and does not include unnecessary details. It’s easy to refer to and understand. It’s also easier to edit and can be easily shared with employees and stakeholders.
When completing each element of the HR communication model canvas, you and your team will brainstorm and conduct research on each of these, using the results for each relevant section of the canvas.
Developing a comprehensive HR communication strategy
1. Define your employee segments
Employee segmentation enables you to identify different employee groups in the organization – based on similarities such as roles, geographical area, gender, age, behaviors, and interests – so you can design customized practices and policies based on the common characteristics and needs of each group to increase the relevance of your communication.
Employee segments will vary in different companies depending on the sector in which they operate, the competencies they require, and how they define employee success.
Additionally, each employee has specific ambitions and drivers in the organization. Segmentation helps you to target individual goals and integrate them into your HR strategy. This includes all relevant stakeholder groups in the organization for which HR is (or should be) creating value.
2. Value proposition and communication goals
Defining the value proposition and communication goals starts with determining the full mix of benefits that it promises to deliver to all your internal customers. This requires you to think about the organizational strategy and the role of internal communication in helping to achieve that.
For each employee segment, you will have to come up with the main value proposition and goals.
Types of HR communication value propositions
- Performance: Improving HR communication so that it’s faster, easily accessible
- Customization: Tailoring communication services to the specific needs of internal customer segments
- ‘Getting the job done: Creating value by enabling employees to get the job done better and more efficiently.
- Convenience: Making things more convenient or easier to use can create substantial value for employees.
3. Define your HR communication channels
Choosing the right communication channels for your organization is key to keeping employees productive, engaged, and aligned with business goals.
Today, digital communication channels – email, internal communication platforms, employee collaboration software, intranets, internal podcasts, internal company blogs – are the most popular in the workplace.
To determine which channels are most suitable for your different employee segments, think about what you’re communicating and in which direction the communication is flowing.
For example, upward communication is about keeping management aware of how employees feel about their jobs, policies and procedures, and the business. You could opt to use anonymous online employee satisfaction surveys or conduct pulse surveys, brief and regular sets of questions sent to employees.
Downward communication, such as instructions, policy statements, procedures, manuals, and company publications can be circulated via emails, newsletters, memos, handbooks and staff meetings.
4. Determine your internal customer relationships
What type of relationship does each of your internal customer segments expect from HR? You need to clarify the type of relationship you want to have with each employee segment.
Relationships are established and nurtured through your different communication channels.
What are employees expectations in terms of communication? We know that employees want different things at different stages in their working lives. You need to understand the perspectives of different employees and know what they value. It’s vital to create targeted, focused, and relevant messages for each segment of your audience.
5. Define your HR communication activities
Consider which are the best activities to deliver important messages to your internal customer. Key activities should focus on fulfilling the value proposition, reaching internal customer segments and maintaining internal customer relationships.
Apple is famous for cloaking product launches in secrecy that creates media frenzies. The hype is unquestionably effective. Introducing a teaser campaign into your internal communications plan can be highly engaging and effective when it comes to employee buy-in.
Consider the power of the people when it comes to online reviews. If you’re launching a new policy or set of benefits, consider offering selected employees a ‘sneak preview’ and get them to create a review.
The human aspect always brings communication to life and makes it relatable. Whatever you’re communicating, try to focus on the impact it will have on the people it will affect, and what it means for them.
Introducing an element of gamification can generate lots of engagement. Nike’s Kobe 11 scavenger hunt saw 20 pairs of sneakers autographed by the NBA star Kobe Bryant hidden in 20 cities worldwide. Importing this type of concept into your internal communication plan as a team building exercise can get employees excited about solving clues and winning prizes.
6. Determine the resources required
Determine what resources you require to best deliver your message. Engaging customers is a strength of marketing, so your marketing team may be able to support you in creating engagement programs in the workplace.
When it comes to workplace communication, technology can facilitate highly efficient and clear communication that happens through the best delivery method possible. Consider the mode by which your message will be clearest and most likely to be interpreted correctly.
Technology facilitates workplace communication, so consider what new digital communication tools you may need to invest in, such as onboarding centers or employee experience tools.
7. Determine the communication costs
Determine the costs associated with HR communication strategy and create a budget. A properly defined internal communications budget helps turn communication flowing across the business into valuable and measurable business assets.
Costs to consider include software subscriptions, as well as the human capital and internal resources required to develop the internal communication strategy.
8. Define the HR communication value drivers
Organizations rely on HR professionals to relay important information and policy changes to employees. Communicating effectively not only ensures that everyone is kept informed, but it also can help the business to remain compliant and avoid unnecessary challenges. Perhaps even more importantly, it leads to increased employee trust, engagement, and satisfaction.
Good communication can improve employee creativity by up to 93%, which can, in turn, contribute to increased levels of productivity. Employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to perform their best work, and a 5% increase in employee engagement can lead to a 3% jump in a company’s revenue.
It’s important to also measure your HR communication efforts so that you can understand how effective they are and enable you to adjust where necessary.
Here are 10 frequently used internal communication metrics:
1. Employee engagement rates: The company intranet can help to measure employee engagement with key performance indicators (KPIs) such as readership, participation and social metrics like the number of likes, shares, and comments a piece of content generates.
2. Open rates or Intranet read receipts: Read receipts on a company intranet measure whether an employee actually acknowledged receiving and reading important updates.
3. Page visits and logins: Capture unique page views and other observable metrics for day-to-day optimization.
4. Adoption rates for new apps: When introducing a new employee app, tracking the adoption rate is critical.
5. Employee feedback: Encourage employees to ask questions and give their opinions about what is happening within the company.
6. Employee turnover rates: Employees who feel engaged at work are not likely to leave their job. For this reason, an important internal communication KPI to measure is employee turnover rate.
- Why HR communication: Effective HR communication is a critical part of employee engagement, which in turn promotes better performance, employee retention and wellbeing.
- The trust imperative: Internal communication has a powerful impact on trust. Employees are more likely to engage and contribute when there’s an open, trust0-driven organizational culture.
- Retaining talented employees: The cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times their annual salary. Losing good people also results in the loss of expertise and can have a negative effect on general morale.
- Creating a communication model: The HR communication model canvas is designed to help you keep employees informed. It lets you visualize and assess your ideas and concepts and easily share them.