23 January 2013

What’s The Best Way To Connect With Employees?

By Elizabeth Borton

This question was posed to me last week by an HR pro at a large employer. He was referring to the many communication vehicle options available through today’s technology.

My answer…? There isn’t a single “best way.’” All communication vehicles are useful because they reach audiences in different ways. Personally, I feel the more ways you can deliver a consistent message, the better.

But let’s take this answer a step further. Rather than focusing on the delivery method, let’s focus on the message to make the connection.

Research has shown that people make decisions based on emotions then justify them with facts. So if you don’t make an emotional connection, you’re not going to connect. This point was discussed last week in the Employee Engagement and Communication LinkedIn group, in a post entitled “The Human Side of Internal Communication.” Lots of great comments were posted including the following by Rob Drasin, “In broad terms, before you have a higher level reaction to a communication, you have an emotional reaction, and that reaction impacts your positive/negative response and informs your behavior.” He continued, “We live in a media-driven world and employees (i.e. consumers) are exposed to large amounts of information and automatically filter information out that does not gain and hold their attention.”

So how do you connect with employees?

Well, as the many respondents pointed out, you need to present information in the way employees have learned to consume it.

  • Think short, bite-size bits delivered through multiple channels.
  • Speak their language and present information from the employees’ points of view… not the company’s.
  • Answer questions simply and clearly. How does it impact them? What decision(s) do they need to make? What do they need to do?
  • And lastly… maybe most importantly, make the effort to speak with employees, not to employees. After all, conversations have a more positive impact than traditional lectures or top-down edicts.

Maya Mathias summed it up well in the discussion board when she wrote, “technology per se won’t solve your communication challenges.” She then quoted a well-known communicator’s take on the issue, “The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”
– Edward R. Murrow