Updated: Jun 20
Our employees make judgments within seconds of seeing or hearing it. In fact, according to one study, it only takes a tenth of a second to form an impression.
And it’s this impression that drives our employees to decide if they will or won’t engage with what we’ve communicated to them. Will they read or listen to it, and will they take the action that is required of them? And it’s not just in the first few words, but throughout it, as employees make a string of judgements over and over again.
To help your communications get noticed and to form a positive impression, let me share with you six tips from my book titled “Effective HR Communication: A Framework for Communicating HR Programmes with IMPACT”:
1. Think of your employees as consumers
A consumer is someone who makes a decision as to whether or not to purchase a product or service. Question, isn’t this what employees are? Aren’t they the ones who are ‘purchasing’ what we have to say and what we are asking them to do?
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, creating content to motivate your employees to complete the ‘purchase’.
2. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes
It’s absolutely key to create your content from your employee’s perspective, putting yourself in their ‘shoes’. Consider what they know (and don’t know) already, what they need to know, and how they would best like to receive this information.
Keep in mind that your workforce wears many ‘shoes’ due to their diversity, so take the time to fully understand what they want and need. Use this to shape your content, and test it throughout the process to ensure you get the right ‘fit’.
3. Prioritize messages
Let’s face it, communicating HR concepts and programs can often be difficult, especially in an engaging and concise way. And for this reason, we often find that our employees drop off, often not getting to the end of our content. For this reason we need to prioritize our messages, ranking them in order of importance.
Start out with the most important message, the ‘if they read nothing else’ part of your content. And, create it in a way that assumes your employees will not make it to the next parts of your message, which I often break out into the second and third parts of the message.
One way to do this is with the subject or strap line, or what I like to think of as the hook that gets your employees to click or read on. Too often we rush into creating this, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s actually where we need to spend quality time, getting it right from the start.
4. Use storytelling
People react well to stories, as it makes the content more approachable and brings the concepts to life. It also makes it more memorable, which is certainly a common objective of communication with our employees.
A study done by two Stanford professors, Gordon Bower and Michael Clark, set out to test the memorability of words embedded in stories versus that of a random list of words. Students were asked to memorise and recall 10 sets of unrelated words. The control group remembered the words in whatever order occurred to them. For the story component, the students constructed stories that contained all the words. When asked to recall these words, the students who constructed stories were able to remember six to seven times as many compared with the random set.
5. Create breathing space
The concept of breathing space is about creating enough space between your words so that employees have enough space and time to breathe. This is important from an HR communications perspective as you want to give your employees the time to absorb what you have presented to them.
You can do this by breaking up content, e.g. headers, sub-headers, mixing up the format of the content, and creating white space into your design.
The importance of this was brought to life recently in the following review posted about one of my books:
“Due to my dyslexic super power, I often get lost or bored and revert to the audio version. Over the years it's damaged my confidence in picking up a book as the joy could not be found in reading. Your book is so simple to understand, I think it's the line spacing, clear language, boxes and visuals. It was honestly a pleasure!”
6. Be genuine
Last, but certainly not least, is to create content that is genuine. If we sound like a corporate machine, putting no personality into our content, we won’t sound genuine and we won’t engage with and gain the trust of our employees.
You can do this by telling the truth, even when it’s bad news, speaking from the heart, avoiding jargon, and being believable.
“People hear you on the level you speak to them from. Speak from the heart, and they will hear with theirs.” Marianne Williamson, US Teacher
I hope you’ve found these six tips helpful, and can use them going forward to help your communications be noticed by your employees.
Please contact me if you'd like to discuss how you can create more engaging content, or how to drive employee engagement at your company.