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HR as Internal Marketers:
Engage Employees with Comms

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Hacking HR Team

Posted on March 22, 2024

Most people don’t read every HR bulletin. Constantly bombarded with emails and messages from various departments, even critical news about benefits and policy changes might be briefly scanned or ignored. Despite employees reaching out about the same thing clarified via email two weeks ago, this could be a missed opportunity. What if those bulletins could cut through the noise, engaging and informing employees instead of adding stress?

Because you are already invested in shaping the employee experience, plus a marketing mindset offers the tools to maximize that investment. Impact on engagement, retention, and company-wide alignment when your communications become a trusted resource instead of one of the hundred unread emails in their inbox.

What if every announcement and policy update is crafted to resonate deeply with employees, with the same care and attention to detail as a customer-facing marketing campaign? Let’s see how.

9 Strategies for Creating Employee Communications That Engage and Inspire

HR updates are often seen as a one-way street—bulletins, announcements, policy updates, and essential but often generic information. Nonetheless, a proper marketing mindset understands that communication is a dynamic exchange. So, to get them engaged, it's not enough simply to disseminate information; it is crucial to deeply understand your audience, their values, and how to communicate effectively with them in a relatable way.

These nine strategies guide converting ordinary HR communications into impactful internal campaigns. Consider them as instruments for creating messages that educate employees, promote the company's vision and values, and cultivate a feeling of common goal and togetherness.

1. Know Your Audience Inside and Out

It might be tempting to think about job titles or departments. But understanding your audience means digging deeper. What are the pain points different teams face? What communication styles do they prefer (humorous, to-the-point, etc.)? What are their unspoken concerns? This insight lets you tailor personally relevant messages, not just mass-distributed ones.

2. Develop a Compelling Narrative

Every company has a story – its founding, mission, and goals. So, you should weave individual announcements into this bigger picture. For instance, remind employees how a new benefits package contributes to that mission or how a policy change helps the company reach its targets, fostering a shared purpose.

3. Leverage Multiple Communication Channels

Email overload is real! Consider a short video for significant announcements, informal chats for quick updates, or even dedicated 'office hours' where employees can drop in with questions. Variety keeps things fresh and ensures you reach everyone, not those comfortable with the same email format.

4. Prioritize Clarity and Simplicity

HR terminology ("employee of record" and "accrual policy") can seem like a foreign language to frontline employees. Translate it into plain English (or your local language), focusing on what it means for them. The goal is immediate understanding, not showcasing HR expertise.

5. Infuse Creativity and Visual Appeal

Simple infographics can distill complex information (benefits comparisons, enrollment timelines) far better than a text block. Even basic design (clear headings, readable fonts) significantly affects whether people absorb the content.

6. Encourage Two-Way Communication

It's not enough to offer ways to provide feedback; you must make it feel worthwhile. Share what input has led to change, showing employees it's not a black hole. Also, proactive check-ins (especially during major changes) signal that. You want to hear concerns.

7. Collaborate with Cross-Functional Teams

Does your marketing team have a resident graphic design whiz? A social media guru who knows how to make content go viral? Partnering and cross-training gives HR access to expertise and ensures your messaging aligns with the company's external brand.

8. Measure and Analyze Impact

Open rates are just the start. Surveys on specific announcements, informal 'did you know?' quizzes, and even tracking HR helpdesk tickets post-communication can reveal what's landing and what isn't. This lets you refine your approach over time.

9. Celebrate Successes and Milestones

Share stories of how a new policy made life easier for a working parent or how that clear announcement boosted efficiency. This makes it about people, not the rules. It also combats the perception that HR is only there for bad news.

It may seem like extra work, but keep in mind- the time you invest in crafting thoughtful communications saves time and frustration later when employees grasp things the first time and feel like valued participants in the company.

6 Essential Skills for HR Professionals in Employee Communications

Mastering employee communications may require you to develop a whole new skillset—one that blends the analytical mind of a marketer with the deep understanding of human motivation that makes your HR role indispensable. And this unique combination will transform how your company communicates internally.

These six essential skills empower HR professionals to craft messages that aren't just seen but resonate. They'll help you understand your audience, build trust through compelling narratives, leverage data for strategic insights, and ensure your work aligns with the company's broader goals. Let's break down each skill in more detail:

Now, let's take a look at each of the six skills with insight-driven explanations:

1. Translate the 'Why'

Marketing is about selling not just a product but the need it fills. Apply this to your communication by highlighting how a new training initiative drives better customer service or a PTO policy change supports work/life balance. This builds buy-in.

2. Humans are Wired for Stories

Storytelling is key. Case studies, employee spotlights, and even tracing the history of a policy change are more memorable than facts alone. Because a good story makes the abstract relatable and can cultivate a sense of shared purpose.

3. Numbers Tell the Truth

Track open rates and people's actions after reading. Did sign-ups increase? Do helpdesk tickets drop? This tells you what's effective and demonstrates the ROI of good communication to leadership.

4. Read Between the Lines

Understanding employees' unvoiced anxieties, frustrations, and hopes helps you proactively address them in messaging (even if indirectly). This makes HR feel like a true advocate, not just another department.

5. Strength in Networks

You often know the 'on-the-ground' reality leadership may not. So, partnering ensures your communications reflect that. Like tapping into other teams' expertise (ex., snappy social media posts from Marketing) increases the quality of what you put out.

6. The World (and Your Workforce) Changes

Yesterday's viral internal video format may cause eye-rolls tomorrow. So, stay curious about what's working in the broader world of communication, and don't be afraid to experiment. This keeps your messaging fresh, mirroring the dynamic nature of today's workplace.

An Infographic titled '6 essential skills for hr communications' with text boxes explaining each skills and a multicolor four band decorative image on the background.

4 Actions to Elevate Your Employee Communication Skills

A successful marketing campaign has a clear target audience and focused goals and utilizes various tactics for maximum impact. Now, apply that approach to your internal HR communications. These straightforward actions will help you refine your current processes, leverage insights, and improve how employees receive your messages.

1. Conduct a Thorough Audit:  Don't just list channels you use; dig into why you use them and if they're effective. For example, if no one opens newsletter X, is the content irrelevant or buried on Tuesdays when inboxes are flooded?

2. Craft a Clear Strategy: What do you want communications to achieve (boost benefits usage, clarify new policies, etc.)? It prevents sending messages just to have sent them. For example, the goal of reducing confusion around leave policies leads to a targeted campaign, not just more emails.

3. Tap Into Existing Resources: Partnering with your training team can turn safety procedures into a short, engaging video series. Sharing success stories with Marketing gives you a polished way to highlight wins.

4. Prioritize Consistent Feedback: Simple polls (even a thumbs up/down emoji reaction) after major announcements reveal if the message landed. Consider an anonymous 'suggestion box' (physical or digital) for ongoing input.

Action Plan

Implementing a marketing mindset for employee communications requires a shift in HR operations. This action plan outlines the key milestones to achieve that transformation:

Phase 1: Build Your Foundation

  • Data-Informed Insights: Before changing anything, gather baseline data via surveys, analytics, etc. This establishes benchmarks for improvement.

  • Strategic Alignment: Meet with leadership to ensure your communication goals align with the company's mission. (For example, High turnover is a problem HR comms alone can't solve, but precise information on development paths can be one piece of the puzzle.)

  • Resource Mapping: Inventory existing materials, internal expertise, budget, etc. This prevents reinventing the wheel and lets you spot where investment has the biggest ROI.

Phase 2: Iterative Implementation

  • Communication 'Sprints': Pick ONE area to focus on (policy updates, onboarding, etc.). Run a time-limited project: test new formats, track results, and refine.

  • The Feedback Loop: Make getting employee input routine, not just a crisis reaction. The method (surveys, etc.) matters less than consistency.

  • Cross-Functional Partnerships: Commit to one joint project with another team. (Ex: Turn that dry safety manual into a video series with Operations). This forces collaboration and lets you 'test drive' each other's skills.

Phase 3: Expansion & Advocacy

  • Showcase the Wins: Quantify results when possible ("X% increase in benefits usage," not just vague "good feedback"). This makes your case for future initiatives.

  • Empower the Network: Train managers on basic communication principles (clarity, empathy), making them an extension of your efforts, not just a bottleneck.

  • Stay Informed, Stay Inspired: Dedicate even a tiny amount of time to researching communication trends. This will keep your approach evolving.

Key Insights

  1. Marketing Mindset for HR Success: HR's power lies in translating complex information and policies into messages that resonate with employees on a personal level. By adopting marketing's focus on audience understanding and strategic goals, HR communications become a tool for shaping the entire employee experience.

  2. Know Your Audience, Know Your Impact: Effective communication isn't a guessing game. Thorough research into employee needs, pain points, and preferences allows HR to tailor messages that don't just inform but truly connect. It builds trust and a sense that HR understands what matters to employees.

  3. Collaboration Drives Communication: Partnering with teams like Marketing and IT unlocks untapped resources and expertise, ensuring polished, engaging, and aligned communications with the company brand. This collaborative approach amplifies HR's impact.

  4. Data-Driven Communication Wins: Tracking metrics, seeking employee feedback, and analyzing the results are essential. The data reveals what resonates and falls flat, empowering you to continuously.

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