Humanising HR: Communication in the ‘next normal’

‘Employees must feel seen and heard to remain productive’

Humanising HR: Communication in the ‘next normal’

Developing effective communications that account for the complexities around our new working arrangements is front of mind for CHROs. Too easily, businesses share a handbook noting the changes to operation without thinking about their employees as anything other than a resource, rather than a person.

A particular pain point will be ensuring those working remotely don't feel left out, as businesses look to accommodate a surge in employee desires for hybrid working and increased working-from-home arrangements. Communication strategies will vary across markets, sectors, divisions and teams. But given the evolving business priorities, caring for your workforce during hard times is of utmost importance to supporting and retaining your talent.

Read more: Why CEO transparency isn’t a one-way street

1) Feedback is your friend

Employee communications has always been challenging, even pre-COVID. In the "next normal," it has the potential to be even more ineffective. Employers need to find new ways to counteract the absence of face-to-face interactions or the loss of staples in the diary that are communication-driven, such as monthly town hall meetings.

Employees must feel seen and heard to remain productive, so it's vital that employees know that their leaders are paying attention. HR teams need to ask employees what they need to stay connected, and from here, assess the effectiveness and impact of any changes made.

The best way of designing and delivering these changes is through a multi-channel approach. At ADP, employees are included in the journey through stories shared in everything from an internal employee portal to town halls, and a cadence of messages from our leadership. It’s especially critical for teams to create guidelines that connect everyone and include diverse voices and experiences across the enterprise, from front-line teams to mid-level associates and managers.

Read more: These workers feel 'less connected' with their teams

2) Put the ‘human’ back into HR communication

Impactful communication in the workplace starts with recognising that your people are your most valuable organisational asset. Put the "human" back in all HR communication. Move away from the doublespeak commonplace in many HR initiatives, including referring to humans as "resources", or talking in business jargon or using other confusing terms. When it comes to effective connection, voice and tone matter, so be as human as possible. 

HR teams must measure, measure and measure again to evaluate the impact of their messaging. This evaluation can be done through email metrics, video views and engagement surveys to assess sentiment to ensure communication channels live up to their potential.

3) Concise and clear messaging is key

The combination of in-office and remote employees working together introduces a stronger need to communicate differently. People want to stay connected, yet they have many priorities at work and at home. But when every message is said to be immediate and important, none are, and necessary information gets drowned out by the noise.

For HR teams, building practical communication strategies starts with a unified voice. By prioritising what's important right now – perhaps policies around return-to-work or evolving employee benefits – HR leaders can develop a "lean and mean" approach to communication that delivers human-focused information without increasing complexity.

Simplicity is the other side of this coin. It's important to have clear, concise messaging that gives employees the information they need to feel confident in current working conditions and prepare themselves for the future.

Yvonne Teo is vice president of HR (Asia Pacific) for technology firm ADP

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