HR Communications

Many clients tell us it’s difficult to get employees to pay attention to their HR communications. It’s not that employees don’t care about their benefits and other HR issues, because they do. But employees are busy, and the HR department is competing with a million other messages that may be delivered in more attention-getting or engaging formats.

Simplify and humanize

From recruiting to recognition, change management to performance management, wellness to open enrollment, Tribe takes a human approach. We help employees make sense of the legalese and HR jargon by communicating in a conversational voice. (For 5 tips to increase readership of HR materials, see this Best Practices one-pager.)

We also work to simplify communications, so that employees can more easily glean the information they need. We recognize that employees are juggling a lot of priorities, and they need HR to make their lives easier, not more complicated. So when employees have decisions to make or actions to take, we communicate those clearly and help guide them in getting things done.

When we’re communicating HR issues, we keep in mind that we’re talking to many different types of individuals, of different life stages, backgrounds and needs, and that the resources they need may change as they move through their career and life stage.

How HR communications have changed

The last few years have changed where and how people work, and human resources departments have had to respond to that. Hybrid and remote work environments have accelerated the need for online tools and digital resources that make it easy for employees to find HR information. Annual enrollment information sessions are more apt to be online now than in person. And in many cases, managers have needed training on how to coach and mentor their team without being in the same physical location.

We’ve also seen a strong interest in ways to build and maintain culture remotely, and on how to onboard new hires without in-person orientations, while still helping them build the human connections and work relationships they’ll need to succeed.

Addressing the HR needs of the whole person

More and more, we’re helping clients present their HR offerings as a full spectrum of resources to support employees in living their best lives. We’re seeing more clients recognize the needs of the whole person, with an expanded definition of wellness that includes mental health, mindfulness and financial wellness. There’s a new emphasis on giving employees the tools, resources and support they need to bring their best selves to work.

We’re also working with some clients to organize their entire suite of benefits by employee need, rather than which group in the HR org chart handles that specific program. For instance, PTO, jury duty and parental leave may each be addressed in different areas of HR, but to employees, they’re all about time off.

For Baptist Health, for example, we created a new skin on their existing benefits site that grouped offerings into four groups: Career, Total Rewards, Body and Soul, and Community.

The value of authenticity and honesty of communication

An important element of humanizing HR communications is approaching potentially negative issues without sugar coating or trying to put a spin on them. In Tribe’s change management research, employees have told us they especially want honesty when their company is communicating bad news.

The Weather Channel once asked for Tribe’s help when they unknowingly scheduled three major HR initiatives on the same week. They were worried about overwhelming employees with the launch of a new online HR site, performance reviews and open enrollment, all needing employees’ attention simultaneously.

Tribe’s counsel was to own up to it and just admit it was a lot at once. Our strategic brief, in a nutshell, was something like “There’s a *&#@ storm of HR stuff coming your way.” For a brand that’s all about extreme weather, the communications pretty much wrote themselves.

Human resources communication for non-desk workers

One of Tribe’s specialties is finding ways to reach all those unwired employees in manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and other industries where people are moving targets rather than sitting in front of computers. Part of our process is to go visit the factories, the steel plants, the construction sites, the restaurants, hotels or the hospitals where these people are working. We want to know the physical realities of their jobs. Are they doing a lot of walking? Are they driving? Where do they enter the building? Do they take the stairs? Where do they spend their break time? What areas are employee-only?

This enables us to come up with unexpected touch points for communications. For instance, we’ve placed messaging on giant magnets for walk-in freezers and sinks in restaurant kitchens, shuttle bus shelter posters in hospital parking lots, and paper floor mats and rear-view mirror hangers for truck drivers.

We now have more technology than ever to reach this audience, but we sometimes find that low-tech solutions are more visible and attention-getting for employees.

Putting a human face on DE&I

For most of our clients, DE&I is much more than an isolated program. It’s intrinsic to every step of the employee life cycle — from recruiting and hiring, to ERG groups and mentoring, to training and performance management, and hopefully, to creating a more diverse team at the very top level of leadership.

Our approach to diversity in HR communications is to help employees build human connections to the wide diversity of their organizations. Everyone has a story, and we showcase those employee stories in publications, videos and on the intranet.

For instance, in Ensono’s monthly publication, one employee told the story of growing up LGBT in a big Catholic family and eventually meeting her wife. Another described growing up Black in Arkansas where he excelled in high school academics and sports. Yet he opened his locker one day to find a Ku Klux Klan robe that classmates had planted there. Employees reading these stories responded with empathy, compassion and support — and felt a new connection to these two individuals and the diversity they represent.

Calendarization of communications

To avoid situations where you’re hitting employees with a firehose of information all at once, we recommend calendarizing communications across the year. Creating a calendarized editorial plan allows you to spread communications out at a comfortable pace and enables you to make sure you cover all the messaging you need to include over the course of the year.

We also recommend working with your internal communications department to identify overlap and avoid scheduling a big internal initiative, like launching a new intranet or announcing evolved values and vision, at the same time as some major HR push. (For more on working together with your internal comms folks, see this article.)

How can Tribe help in HR’s communications issues

We see the same HR issues over and over, across companies and industries. And although the culture of each company is unique, we’ve probably adressed a challenge that’s similar to yours before. Our work with past clients can provide a shortcut to reaching a solution for you.

We also bring both smart strategy and great creative work to the table — because HR messages deserve that level of expertise. It’s our belief that a company’s most important audience is the employee audience. They’re the ones who deliver on your company’s brand promise — or not. 

Tribe is a full-service agency, so we can take you from strategy and planning through creative development and production. Our channel experience extends from intranets to video and from digital signage to posters. The following is a laundry list of some of the HR communications we typically handle:

Recruiting and career sites

Employer brands and EVPs

Change management

Employee engagement

Training and development

Recognition programs

Vision and values

Benefits/Total Rewards

Interested in discussing your HR communications? We’d be happy to talk. Please contact Steve Baskin, President and Chief Strategy Officer, at (404) 256-5858 or [email protected]