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Jamie Lawrence

Wagestream

Insights Director

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“In essence, comms should be short, sharp and succinct.”

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This is an interview between Jamie Lawrence, Editor of HRZone, and Chris Hopkins, MD of employee communications agency Caburn Hope. We talk about the evolution of communications, what employees expect, and whether new generations in the workplace are changing the way innovative companies ‘do’ communication.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: The best way to do comms obviously depends on the situation, topic to be communicated etc. But after 20 years’ experience what do you think are the golden ‘rules’ that tend to characterise the good communication in every situation?

Chris Hopkins, MD, Caburn Hope: Believe it or not, the main employee communication principles are largely the same as the marketing world.

Firstly, it’s imperative that you understand your audience and have complete clarity in terms of the message. Keep it simple and always talk to your people as individuals.

In essence, comms should be short, sharp and succinct. Identify your objective before you begin the project and always refer to it for consistency. The purpose will steer what tactics and messages are needed to execute your strategy effectively.

Be creative, be bold and be brave.

Your people want insightful and impactful communication journeys that relate to them and on an emotive level.

Finally – and most importantly – don’t forget your call-to-action (CTA). It’s no good making a point and then leaving the rest to guesswork! People need to know what to do next. This will ultimately be the measurement of your success, so use it. 

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Is ‘good’ communication changing e.g. in response to Generation Y needs, in terms of language/medium?

Chris Hopkins, MD, Caburn Hope: Without a doubt, the landscape is changing quite rapidly – and on a global scale too.

Technology has naturally brought us closer together but not without its challenges! By and large, tech influences how people engage with each other both in their personal lives and in their professions.

The advent of social media, high-speed broadband and widespread smartphone adoption at the turn of the century, has impacted how we communicate on all levels. For example, Millennials – the cohort that are disputably born between 1982 to 1993 – are very willing to share and view videos using social media. Useful to know when you consider by 2025 Millennials will constitute 75% of the global workforce.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Organisational comms are often criticised for being ‘stiff’ and ‘corporate.’ But the opposite is also often criticised e.g. too colloquial, trying to be ‘down with the kids.’ What’s the right balance and how do organisations achieve it?

Chris Hopkins, MD, Caburn Hope: Fundamentally, there is no one size fits all approach to employee comms nor should there be. To get the right balance, evaluate the subject matter in question, review the brand and its values, analyse the objectives and how it needs to be communicating to your people.

It must be genuine, natural and open – and reflect your Employer Value Proposition (EVP).

Like houses, a solid foundation must start from the ground up. So do your research, identify your people’s needs and use analytics to help inform communication journeys before drawing up any creative. Remember it’s an omni-channel, Internet of Things world out there.

Data is not only your friend but your guide to contextualising analytics, measuring performance and making it personal.    

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Is good, honest, transparent communication enough to engage employees in the long-term?

Chris Hopkins, MD, Caburn Hope: It’s a good place to start.

But it needs to be relevant, reflect the brand, its values and needs of the individual. Openness and honesty as a brand style for the long-term is good as it will naturally form part of the future workplace culture. However, it needs to be consistently nurtured as nothing changes overnight.

It’s a long-haul journey that requires data-driven insight to understand transactional processes and emotions that will generate the right behaviours, needs and message. Remember every comms strategy should draw back to your EVP.

Messaging should be tailored to each stage of the employee lifecycle for maximum emotional relevance. Only then, will you start to influence behaviours towards key strategic goals. Personalisation isn’t just for marketing you know!

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Where are companies innovating when it comes to communication?

Chris Hopkins, MD, Caburn Hope: I would say that how companies are using data and insight to understand their people, their needs and future wellbeing is one of the most exciting changes happening in our industry right now.

There are many ways to interpret and contextualise insights to help improve communication journeys too.

One comms trend that is really making waves is the use of gamification.

Leveraging capabilities and insights into an interactive experience not only inspires, but excites and engages people. This consequently improves productivity, performance and economic efficiency.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Organisations don’t often understand where communications should come from. For example, a lot of people now say comms should come from MDs or CEOs instead of HR for a variety of reasons, including that this shows increased buy-in from the business and also that HR can have a reputation for disseminating compliance-related material only. What advice would you give to organisations trying to optimise where their comms come from?

Chris Hopkins, MD, Caburn Hope: Ideally, anything relating to vision and strategy should come from MDs or CEOs for a consistent and sustained leadership effort.

Nevertheless, not everyone is a natural born communicator!

Many leaders often lack the clarity, time and skills required to communicate effectively.

Therefore, it’s up to the ‘people department’ to ensure they have the right tools in place so leadership are informed and have the confidence to shape the culture of the business.

Ultimately, both need comms to serve each other and resonate with their workforce on a personal level. 

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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Thank you.