If you’re in HR, no matter your role, you have complex messages to communicate to employees. You also likely have a hard time getting them to pay attention. This frustration is always in the top three for HR — you’ve told them multiple times, but they’re not doing what they need to.
But why? Partly, it’s because of who’s telling them…HR.
Employees tend to see HR as a corporate function, with company goals in mind. A recent Gartner Human Resources survey shows that only 41% of employees think senior leadership has their best interest in mind.
The good news? The fix is (metaphorically) staring you in the face.
HR Communications Channels – People Vs Marketing
Your best channels are staring you in the face. When you think about multi-channel communications, it’s probably a mix of email, monitor screens, home mailers, posters, etc. What you may be forgetting is a more personal way to reach employees.
The Gartner study points out that employees are more likely to trust messages coming from people they know…and see — their peers and managers. It seems employers are starting to agree, at least in theory and expectations.
77% Say It’s Effective – Only 31% Actually Do It
According to Gallagher’s 2022 State of the Sector, 77% of those surveyed said employee advocates (peers) are an effective way to communicate with employees. Yet only 31% use employee advocates for HR communications. This is an untapped HR resource.
In that same Gallagher study, 81% of companies report having an increased expectation of managers when it comes to communications. And, for the first time in the study’s 14 years, a top-three priority for employers is enhancing manager communications skills.
If peers are an effective way to get the word out, and managers are bearing the load of yet more expectations, there’s an opportunity here to build your human communication channel.
First, Find Your People
Most managers are, by default, part of your human channel due to their job description. But employee advocates can be hand-picked. Whether it’s by department, division, or location, managers and local HR folks generally know the popular employees with positive attitudes. Ask them who would be a confident, trusted, and enthusiastic messenger.
Make it a personal invitation, not a mere email. Build up the importance of this new role by explaining why you’ve chosen them. “We’ve heard good things about you, and we know others trust you. So, we’d like to entrust you as an HR representative.”
To Make It Effective, Make It Easy to Help
Employees are busy — whether they’re managers, programmers, drivers, or accountants. For most, helping HR get messages out isn’t at the top of their to-do list on any day. But, if you make it easy, it won’t fall to the bottom either.
To make your human communication channel effective, you’ll need to do more than send an email with talking points and attached flyers. Like any assignment, it’s easier to accomplish when there’s an organized plan with easy-to-follow instructions.
For Routine, Predictable HR Communications
Quarterly tool kits are easier than unexpected emails. Kick-off each quarter with a 30-minute manager/advocate call. Give them the gist of each month’s topic and make sure the two groups are working together, not duplicating effort. After each call, send (or post) the quarterly materials in three separate packets, one for each month — these could be printed or digital materials.
In each packet include:
- Talking points and an FAQ on the topic.
- Flyer, poster, email text, monitor screen, etc.
- Detailed schedule showing when and how to use each piece (talking points in huddles, posters in break/bathrooms, etc.).
For Ad Hoc “This Just Came up” HR Communications
Be sure your managers and advocates are plugged into a “message cascade.” This is especially important when you need to communicate change. Cascading starts with messaging for senior executives that are then tailored as it flows down the chain to regional, local, and team managers, and eventually to advocates and employees. You can read more and download a template here.
If you’re depending on people to help you get the word out, they need to know you’ll help them when there are questions or concerns. Commit to having answers (or at least get in touch) within one or two business days.
A Rewarding Experience — Show Your Gratitude
There are many ways to thank managers and advocates for being the trusted voice of HR, from plaques and certificates of appreciation to gift cards or an extra vacation day. The simple act of a handwritten note is an easy, inexpensive, and authentic way to say thank you.
Employees aren’t ignoring HR communications because they don’t care what you have to say. They’re expecting a complicated message that takes time, so they plan to review it later. Then it gets later…and later. If you can put your message in the hands of someone they know, see, and trust, they’ll take the time.