Employee Communications: It’s Not Enough to Update People

Laurie Ruettimann Communication, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR, Laurie Ruettimann, RACI

Are you a human resources professional who toils over plan documents, cafeteria posters, email campaigns—and even schedules tweets—with the hope that employees will feel empowered, consulted and informed?

I have bad news for you: no one likes to hear important news through a laptop or a mobile device.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s good news or bad news. Your HR communication strategy—where you “update” people using a weird mix of social networks and electronic mail—is synonymous with an inconsiderate process that provides information to your workforce just before it’s dumped on the wire.

You say, “Wait, I shouldn’t update my workforce? I shouldn’t send out emails when we know stuff? Isn’t knowledge power? Isn’t all information good information?”

I think one of the biggest HR myths of the 21st century is that an informed workforce is an engaged workforce. That’s just not true. Communication is more than just timing. It’s not about volume, either. Quality and intentionality matter. While you want your employees to to know what’s happening in your company, most human resources departments are employing a communication strategy that is one step above a faceless, soulless PR campaign.

I can hear you asking, “Okay, Laurie, how do you communicate important information to a wide audience while conveying sensitivity and authenticity?”

For starters, stop trying to convey sensitivity and authenticity. Be it. Do it. Feel it. Work is all about relationships. Ask yourself how you want to hear information from family and friends.

  • Do you want a surprise email from your Mom telling you that she is getting remarried?
  • Do you want to see a Facebook update telling you that your grandmother died?
  • Who wants a DM telling us that a close cousin has been hospitalized with appendicitis?

On the RACI matrix of life—where people are designated as responsible, accountable, consulted and informed on projects—you want to hit the sweet spot where your workforce feels that they have been consulted and informed. They don’t need to be in the bedroom when your CEO puts on his tie in the morning; however, you can’t push out SMS messages and pseudo-personalized bulk email updates and expect your employees to feel grateful just to be in the know.

So when you have something to share, share it. And maybe think about soliciting input before you share it. Try to find nodes of influencers in your company who represent the two-way flow of information. Ask them what they think. Have them help you formulate a personal and meaningful communication strategy.

I just think important information deserves a conversation. If you can’t speak it, you probably shouldn’t tweet it.