The official decree came down that the weekend had changed.
The business community was very excited by this because they had not been able to not align their interests with the rest of the world. This meant that they were having a hard time competing against the rest of the world, especially since the mandated weekend severely reduced their competitive hours across several continents.
The weekend here in Saudi Arabia had been designated as Thursday-Friday [with Friday being the religious day, the same as our Sunday in the U.S.]. The new weekend is now Friday-Saturday.
Since this was introduced mid-week, and we all got a three (3) day weekend to make the adjustment. In crafting the announcement of this for our workforce, I framed my message with extra time for family, rest and relaxation, and most of all, how everyone should their enjoy extra day off and go do something fun. I built a memo around this announcement that spelled out the new law, why it was being changed, and more importantly, what it meant to them.
A week or so later, I was stopped as I walked across our campus by one of our employees who mentioned that they look forward to all our HR memos and company announcements now. When I asked why, he said that in the past, all the employees got was a management line or two and that was it. No fluff, just the facts. As a result, nobody paid any attention after a while.
Communication is the first step in engagement
Internal communication is a valuable tool within organizations. Do your employee’s eyes roll when there is an announcement from HR?
More importantly, is the announcement read and understood? In a lot of offices, no thought is given to the effects of these documents. I have seen this duty passed off to entry level employees or someone that “writes well.”
It is the dialogue that is paramount in communications. Yes, it is a simple as that.
Internal communications can’t be a monologue, and unfortunately, that is how all-too-many HR announcements are perceived. They kind of get reduced to “just the facts, ma’am” and nothing more, when they should be a conversation between the organization and the employees.
One of my frameworks in writing any internal document is to think from the employee’s perspective about “why is this important to me?” From that starting point, the communication takes on an entirely different direction.
The best way to communicate with your workforce
The so called top-down form of communication that we are used to where it all comes down from “on high” is a one way process. The most effective model is peer-to-peer, which is what happens when it comes from the vantage point of having a conversation. It also offers the organization an opportunity to use it as a touch point to sell the organization/employee dynamic.
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I remember reading a study a while back that summarized that “effectively communicating with employees” is a useful and powerful tool towards greater engagement. The connecting point was that if you did this, the employee would want to come to work and contribute to the success of the company.
In this environment, with the thawing of the job market, smart employers realize that employees are free to move to another job with increasing ease. With that in mind, it is in an organization’s best interest to use every opportunity as a way to create this dual conversation to inform and influence with the aim of engaging at every opportunity.
If your PR person had to send a market announcement, they would not just sit down and knock it out. They know the intended audience and they would write to the audience. To be effective in HR, I have always worked from “why should they care?”
The elements of an effective message
Internal communications should take into consideration certain elements to assure that their messages have a very good change of not only being noticed, but actually achieve their communication goal:
- Speak in the language of the recipient. Are you speaking French to an American audience? If you do not take your audience into consideration that is exactly what you are doing — talking in a language that is incomprehensible to your audience
- Take it one at a time. Choose one topic and do not muddle the message, using a laser focus on that one topic
- Approach with a one-to-one ratio. Does it feel like a personal conversation that you are having? Think of a peer-to-peer approach as opposed to a top-down dictate.
- What is the desired outcome? Make sure you have a desired outcome that is specific and measurable.
- Hit it while it is hot. You can’t wait. Do not put it off until next week if it has been announced through other channels or has been picked up by your company “grapevine.” Remember, the new water cooler is social media.
- And? Why should they care? Did you make the connection?
You may have other steps within your framework, but internal communication is a tool that is often overlooked in our tool kit. When the opportunity presents itself, just dust off the writing skills and make the connection.
You will know you connected when that employee walks up to you and says, “thanks, I enjoyed your email.”