The world of HR has certainly evolved into a more all-encompassing people resource. Professionals are now quite heavily involved in guiding wider business strategies and advising the board on the talent implications of future plans. In essence, the role of HR is now more widely recognised as the strategic business function it truly is.
However, with this adapting role comes a new set of responsibilities, perhaps one of the greatest of which is the need for better communication with a number of audiences. Professionals must now engage with a variety of candidate pools to pipeline new talent, develop a relevant and easy to access employer brand and regularly communicate with existing employees, sometimes across international borders.
HR teams are also now heavily involved in educating staff on any new incentives and legislation which will affect them. A great example of this is the on-going pensions auto-enrolment. As more organisations across the UK introduce pensions schemes under the mandate of legislation, HR professionals face educating the workforce as to exactly what this means for them. This includes taking what could be considered a relatively complex process and encapsulating it in not only a comprehensible manner, but also an engaging one. Considering that recent research from the National Employment Savings Trust (Nest) has suggested that many employees don’t trust the pensions industry and perhaps don’t ‘get’ auto-enrolment, this is certainly a daunting task
The result of this evolving role is an increasing pressure on HR teams. Individuals are having to pull on a whole new set of skills in order to meet this growing demand to communicate with talent. It could even be argued that HR teams are having to become more like their PR and communications colleagues. So how can professionals ensure they are best prepared to meet this new demand?
Use the resources available
Perhaps the first point of call should be those experts in the business whose role is to communicate with external and internal audiences. Many organisations – if not all – have some form of communications, PR or marketing team that can provide advice and guidance. Consider how you could perhaps collaborate with these experts to better meet the wider business objectives. For example, working closely with an internal communications team will not only help to develop your own skills, but also ensure all employee management activity is pushing in the same direction with little or no duplication of efforts.
On perhaps a more basic level, speak to the PR or communications team to develop your own knowledge of how best to communicate with audiences. You’ll find they have a wealth of expertise which can be hugely beneficial when looking at adapting your communications skills.
Shift to more communicative writing
HR professionals tend to have strong skills when writing reports and whitepapers on people issues, but these often involve a more formal type of writing that is unlikely to connect with the audiences under discussion here. Instead, employees and candidates will be looking for a more communicative style of writing in any interaction – from newsletters and case studies to blogs and emails. In essence these audiences will be looking to HR teams to strip out the jargon and ‘sell’ the new incentive, employee scheme or even the EVP (employee value proposition) to them.
In fact, as the business editor of one of the UK’s top broadsheets suggested recently, anyone serious about really communicating in a report, email or memo should bin the jargon and start writing like the classic American writer, Raymond Chandler. The simplistic writing style of Chandler made his works a hit due to the ease of which each book could be read and digested.
Broaden your horizons
Building on the point above, exploring wider reading will help to develop your communications skills. Reading books from the likes of Chandler – and even George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language – can be beneficial in self-education. Looking further afield, reading blogs, communications magazines or websites and even reviewing the careers pages of potential competitors will also be valuable. By widening your scope of reading you’ll be better placed to develop your communications skills and meet the growing pressure that HR teams now face.
Whether or not you agree that HR needs to be more like PR as the title of this piece suggests, it is quite simply the case that the profession now needs to develop more informal communications skills. If the points above are implemented, individuals may be better placed to truly engage with both the workforce and potential employees alike.