It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, where you are located in the world, or the type of employees who work for you, communication is at the core of everything we do to achieve our HR and business objectives.
Without communication, or more specifically, without effective communication, we risk and impact employee trust, engagement and the actions they take (or don’t take). By doing it effectively, doing it right, employees move up the communications ladder, which in my book titled ‘Effective HR Communication’, I explain as the following give rungs:
Awareness - Become aware of the message - notice it
Understanding - Gain knowledge and understand the message - get it
Acceptance - Accept the intent of the message - believe in it
Commitment - Commit emotionally or behaviorally to the message - agree to it
Action: Take action requested/required - do it
So how do you get it right, how do you communicate effectively in order to move your employees up the communications ladder? Well a lot has to do with how you communicate, but in this blog I’d like to start at the beginning and focus on what you do to set your communications up for success.
Here are three tips for setting your communications up for success. It’s worth noting that they are probably things that you already know are important, but too often when it comes to communications we ignore or overlook them.
1. Begin with a goal(s) - There’s a quote by American baseball player Yogi Berra that says “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.” This concept of picturing the end when you begin is absolutely critical when communicating with your people, as it does the following three things:
It helps you gain agreement from the start as to what you are trying to achieve.
It helps you resolve any issues you may face as you’re developing and delivering your communications as it gives you the focus and structure you need to make decisions and take action.
It defines what success looks like by helping you know what you want to happen (and not happen) as a result of your communications.
So begin by developing your communication goals or objectives. For example, are you communicating to raise awareness on a new policy so that it can be adhered to, are you communicating to have your employees take an action that benefits them and/or the company? Spell these out from the start.
2. Know your people - If you ever want your employees to jump onto your communications ladder, you first need to know them. What does your communication need to do (and not do) so that it will appeal to them, meet their needs, and be delivered in a way that will help them begin their communications journey?
I’ve learned the hard way that you can and should never assume that you know what’s going to work for them, for trust me, you’ll often get it wrong. Listen to them, look at what’s worked and not worked before, and come up with a strategy and approach that is right for them.
Keep in mind that If you’re going to interrupt your employee’s day with your communications, you need to make it worthwhile and relevant for them. You need to deliver the WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
Remember that your audience is ‘cold’, so currently not engaged with your communications and the topic. Ask yourself, what can I do to ‘defrost’ them and make them take notice AND take action?
3. Develop a plan - If you’re like me, you love jumping in, rolling up your sleeves and doing the work. Great, but before we do this, especially when it comes to communications, it’s important to plan for the following six reasons:
It forces you to think things through from the start.
It helps you work out who will be doing what.
It helps you think through what will happen when.
It helps you manage costs, if any, throughout the process.
It helps you be flexible as things change.
It helps you meet your goals.
So begin by taking the time to map out your plan by determining what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, and how you’ll do it. And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a complicated spreadsheet, although I do love spreadsheets, it can be as simple and straightforward as you make it. The key is to do something!
In ending, let me challenge and encourage you to take these three steps and actions BEFORE you start communicating to your people. It may mean that you need to take a bit more time, but it will be worth it in the end as it will set your communications up for success, and ultimately help your people move up the communications ladder. All the best!