Most of us will have experienced that point in our professional lives when the office seems ripe with gossip. Is the company laying off staff? Have we been bought by our rival? Are we moving our office location? Is the CEO about to be fired? And so forth.
Water cooler chat is a fact of life. Often it’s just low level benign buzz but on certain occasions – especially during periods of economic uncertainty – it can flare up into something much more problematic. Left unaddressed it can lead to trust and relationships breaking down, morale dropping and the company culture suffering. The cause of these ‘rumour events’ can usually be traced to a failure of internal communications.
That’s just one example of where poor internal comms can lead to real business damage. But the problem is that, if you consider just how targeted, personalised, and innovative external communications has become you can begin to see how a lot of internal comms has fallen behind. Many organisations rely on blanket emails, groups on platforms like Slack, all hands calls or outdated intranets to convey information.
While these channels are by no means ineffective, too few companies use them in a coordinated and tailored way. The best marketing reaches customers at the right time, with the right message on the right channel in the most engaging fashion. These principles should apply to communicating with employees – especially in the era of hybrid or fully remote working models.
I don’t doubt many HR professionals will take issue with the concept of better personalisation of internal comms to raise engagement and improve morale. The question will be how to achieve this goal. Leveraging new techniques requires getting the basics right and this generally starts with infrastructure and training.
Use martech infrastructure
Modern marketing is increasingly being enabled by a revolution in how a company’s tech stack works. We are moving away from a world of big monolithic software providers that essentially fulfil all a company’s tech stack needs to composable architecture. In a nutshell this involves combining API-first microservices on the cloud using headless technology. That jargon translates to giving businesses the ability to create tech stacks, applications and services that are specifically designed to their needs. It vastly reduces costs, speeds up development and is incredibly flexible.
Now, before your eyes glaze over, I’ll get straight to the heart of which this is important for HR professionals. Composable architecture has led to an explosion in very specialised platforms for marketers. Crucially, many of these have been designed with accessibility in mind. You do not need to be a tech whiz to use them effectively. In a lot of organisations innovation and efficiency is hindered by marketers having to rely on developers (who have their own day jobs) to execute their plans. I’m sure most HR professionals have experienced similar scenarios. The era of composable architecture removes these hurdles – employees are now more empowered by technology to do their jobs.
Become multidisciplinary HR experts
Applying this technology to HR departments will enable professionals to take greater control of their internal comms and create the complex communication campaigns that are now the hallmark of customer engagement. Of course getting the right tech in to do this is only the first step. This is why we should look at another major trend in marketing: the creation of ‘multidisciplinary teams’. Before your eyes glaze over again, I’ll briefly explain. Data analysis now fuels marketing (as it will increasingly underpin HR). Leveraging this data requires a host of different skills sitting within marketing. The role of marketers is also bleeding over to areas such as customer service and vice versa. In short, effective marketing requires a lot of different talents that are usually found in separate teams coming together in one group and each of these practitioners having some working knowledge and expertise in each respective field – ‘multidisciplinary’.
Much has been written about the need for HR professionals to gain confidence and expertise in handling data. The same can apply to marketing skills. By acquiring some of these communication skills, and upskilling on martech platforms (which, as mentioned, are much more accessible), an HR department can control internal communications and run much more engaging campaigns with employees. The added virtue of not requiring marketing or IT departments to execute these communications is speed and flexibility. Many damaging internal comms problems occur because of information vacuums while major decisions or unexpected events are taking place. With an HR department fully able to create and execute (end-to-end) multifaceted internal comms campaigns it removes the danger of bottlenecks or information leaking prematurely.
The general trend across the business world is towards professionals becoming much more adept at using multiple technology platforms and developing skills in new areas – data knowledge being a prime example. Thankfully, at the same time, a lot of apps and platforms are being designed with non ‘power users’ in mind. This means job roles can evolve in new and exciting ways and different departments can take on new functions. For HR experts, there’s a clear opportunity for them to develop their marketing skills and really enhance how businesses engage and communicate with their employees. __
By Lydia Kothmeier, VP of Operations at enterprise CMS Storyblok.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.