How HR can Partner with Internal Communications
The ways HR and Internal Communications (IC) can improve its partnership with internal communications are through the use of analytics, incentivizing effective collaboration between both teams, creating shared KPIs and goals, improving the employee information gathering processes, and through open and effective communication.
The Need For Better Partnership Between HR and Internal Communications
In organizations where Human Resources (HR) and Internal Communications (IC) are separate departments, the need to create a strategic partnership between the two teams cannot be overemphasized. The IC department is responsible for effective communications among the employees in an organization. The IC team ensures that the company's mission and overall brand message and direction is effectively communicated to the employees in the organization. It is more like internal branding for the company and IC tends to view its employees as brand ambassadors for the company.
HR, on the other hand, is concerned with recruiting and ensuring the well-being and growth of employees. They are constantly in touch with employees and their major aim is to ensure employee success. It follows that they often understand the individual needs of employees in the company better and if IC is to be successful, they need to collaborate and form an effective partnership with the HR team to enable them to communicate the brand values effectively to employees. It is essential that HR and IC are on the same page when it comes to messaging, tactics, and branding. The question is how can this be done effectively?
Open and Effective Communication
The root of most problems in an organization is poor communication. HR and the IC team can achieve better results when they openly communicate their needs and concerns. Most of IC goals deal with HR-owned processes and initiatives. And no one is better poised to communicate business speak in a language an employee will understand than HR, because HR hears all the grievances employees have. If the internal communication is a high-level business communication that doesn't address employee grievances, employees may feel disillusioned, believing that management is not listening to them. This is one of the reasons studies have found that less than 30% of employees believe in the brand that employs them, which can be considered to be a critical failure of IC. Open communication between HR and IC will enable IC to understand employee sentiments and when HR understands what IC is trying to communicate, they can help refine the message in a human voice that reflects the yearnings of the employees.
key performance indicators for both teams
To form a strategic partnership, it is important that both HR and IC teams have shared goals that are clearly defined. A good partnership can only ensue when both teams understand each other's perspective and needs and then create common goals that address each other's concerns. Here, open and clear communication discussed above is also key. Once the goals are created, both teams then have to decide on the key performance indicators that can be measured so they can tell if they are making actual progress towards the shared goals. It is essential that the goals are measurable. Some organizations such as Coca Cola have developed effective surveys that help them measure whether employees understand the company's vision and strategies, and how the employee's work is connected to it. The IC is generally in charge of such surveys in most organizations, but educating employees and helping them understand their role in the organization as well as listening to them to understand their challenge is the job of the HR. Hence, both departments need to collaborate when setting KPIs and deciding on the ways to measure those KPIs for a better partnership.
Performance Related Incentives
One way to ensure that HR and IC have a better partnership is incentivizing effective collaboration by both teams. Performance-related pay incentives or recognition is an example of such an incentive that can be used to motivate both the IC and HR to collaborate and work effectively. This can be tied to achieving the KPIs discussed above. When both teams are further incentivized to work together and achieve mutually dependent goals, both teams will be motivated to collaborate more, share data, and listen to inputs from both sides. It also means that they will be better motivated to solve challenges and refine their processes when they fall short of their KPIs or when unforeseen challenges arise.
EFFECTIVE INFORMATION GATHERING IS KEY
Gathering the right information is essential to the success of HR and IC partnership. Without the right information on the needs and state of the company's employee, HR and IC can't function effectively. Experts opine that HR and IC should be focused on incorporating "a deeply empathetic internal communications information-gathering system. Internal content, perhaps more than any other form of communications, must be focused enough to impact every individual in the organization, yet broad enough to have overall, mission-strategic significance." The role of the HR in gathering information about each employee at an individual level is crucial in this respect and will allow the IC team to formulate internal communication that can impact each individual employee. It follows that the IC team has to consistently demand feedback from the HR, communicate their concerns, and ask questions to clarify any ambiguity.
This also involves gathering information through surveys and ensuring that the HR and IC team go through the results of the surveys to extract the most pertinent information together. IC and HR team may see different things from the same survey/data and often both perspectives are likely to tell the full story better than just a single perspective.
Another benefit of both IC and HR looking at surveys/data together is that it allows for a more deeper analysis of the data generated, allowing for comprehensive solutions, rather than temporary bandaging. The process needs to be well-thought-out and geared towards employee success and improving employee experience. For instance, Aflac created an employee success center and regularly conducts surveys to understand its employees' needs and yearnings. Since 2014, "nearly 600 Aflac employees have been surveyed in over 1,000 development sessions. Thirty-five percent of those employees have been promoted or moved on to jobs that better suit their skill sets." This shows that when properly done, there are tangible benefits for employees, which is the essence of an effective partnership between HR and IC.
Employing Modern Technology and Analytics
Another way to better the partnership between HR and IC is to employ modern technology. McKinsey argues that embedding data analytics into daily HR functions and processes can help improve the process. According to McKinsey, companies are already employing "HR analytics to address attrition, allowing managers to predict which employees are most likely to leave and highlighting turnover problems in a region or country before the problem surfaces. By making the development and delivery of insights systematic, HR will start to drive strategic talent value in a more consistent way, rather than episodically and piecemeal as at present."
Using analytics to asses data from employee surveys and actions can also provide insights faster, which will enable HR to relay such information quicker to IC where necessary. Analytics will also help ensure that feedback from HR and IC is more consistent as a key problem in the partnership between HR and IC is mixed feedback. A shared technology platform will also ensure that IC can see most of what HR is seeing and experiencing in real-time, enabling them to better adapt their message to match the sentiments and tone at any specific time.