Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function… in Employee Communications?

conjuction

When I first started as an HR communication consultant, it took hand-to-hand combat with clients to strong-arm them into using contractions or starting a sentence with the conjunction “And.” Thankfully, most HR folk are beyond this stage
and recognize that using “aren’t” instead of “are not” won’t bring understanding to a screeching halt or give employees another opportunity to slag them off, thinking they’re grammar dolts.

But broadly speaking (See? A conjunction…), employee communications are still relatively nice and easy. You launch a new employee program and a communication campaign to go with it, and then it’s never heard from again. Or there’s the email or video replete with buzzwords, stiff and formal in tone and delivering what you want your employees to know. And let’s not forget the newsletters, brochures, and static intranet sites. You and I both know most are heading straight for the recycling basket.

If you’re churning out this sort of communications and wonder why they’re getting no traction… here it is. Your employees, if they could have it their way, would take communication from you nice and rough.

Pull your mind out of the gutter (I’ll wait) and envision nice and rough employee communications.
You’ll recognize them by their lighthearted or sensational leads and images. They’re the social systems that let employees share their work and ideas. The benefits communications that are commentable and ratable so employees can get
clarification, provide their unique perspective, and find the information that’s
most useful. The employee-generated videos thatpoke fun of the company culture and the employee value proposition that requires a“servant’s heart”—an uncommon description for an expected employee contribution—and comes off more
credible because of it.

Communications needn’t be irreverent to be nice and rough. They just have to be communications that don’t shout CORPORATE from the first image to the last punctuation mark but instead allow employees to chat, problem-solve, and support one another’s personal and professional improvement.

FOT Background Check

Fran Melmed likes to write everything in lower case letters over on her other blog, free-range communication, because she finds it more aesthetically pleasing... but we took away that freedom from her on FOT because the consistency of capitilization on this blog is more aesthetically pleasing to the editor. Her blog is an offshoot of context communication consulting llc, which Fran founded to help organizations communicate better on workforce issues... imagine that. Organizations not doing a good job communicating around workforce issues...

6 Comments

  1. Charlie Judy says:

    another validation that we sometimes try to over-engineer what comes from our corner of the world. i like this notion that employees would just as soon get the quick and dirty (yet pithy)…and I’ve always said that you have a sentence or two to grab (or lose) an employee’s attention – whether it be written, verbal, or visual. thx for the healthy reminder!

    Reply
  2. Chris H says:

    Please, whatever you do, just avoid using the Comic Sans typeface to signify informality in HR communications.

    Reply
  3. fran melmed says:

    hey charlie, too true. corp comms are up against a lot when it comes to grabbing attention. peer-to-peer quick & dirty and witty, humorous comms — both are underused.
    chris, dang. what if i just throw in LOTS of caps, exclamation points and emoticons??!!!!! :) :0 ;/
    f

    Reply
  4. Jason Vitug says:

    I think creativity and marketing is essential in HR communication. Employees are hit with so many different messages and what seems to resonate are statements that jar the memory. I think there needs to be a balance of formality, legality etc but we need to be better at capturing the attention of the employees and getting to read and understand the messages coming from HR. These messages are primarily more important then the messages they actively listen to. I mean it’s about their pay, benefits and health! But, why don’t employees listen? Maybe it is time to figure out a different “rougher” way to communicate that resonates.

    Reply
  5. sesli says:

    I think creativity and marketing is essential in HR communicatfion. Employees are hit with so many different messages and what seems to resonate are statements that jar the memory. I think there needs to be a balance of formality, legality etc but we need to be better at capturing the attention of the employees and getting to read and understand the messages coming from HR. These messages are primarily more important then the messages they actively listen to. I mean it’s about their pay, benefits and health! But, why don’t employees listen? Maybe it is time to figure out a different “rougher” way to communicate that resonates.

    Reply
  6. fran melmed says:

    sesli, thanks for your comments. HR communication definitely needs to come into the 21st century. by that, i mean both in the way they write (drop the corporate speak) and in the way they deliver (hello, social media!).
    f

    Reply

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