Use This Comms Cheat Sheet to Get the Right Message Out

Before you send an employee communication (of any type), take time to consider a few details. We all know that communicating change takes a “let’s plan this out carefully” approach. But, we say even the smallest announcement that seems innocuous should get some think-it-through time. And there’s a cheat sheet to help you create an employee communication plan.

When Good News Backfires — an Example

A large manufacturing company was excited to announce they would be offering an extra five days of paid time off, to offset a new three-day elimination period for short-term disability. To leadership, this seemed like news employees would welcome.

To long-time employees who had maxed out their annual PTO (and who discovered they would not get additional days), this was betrayal. The backlash was so fierce, the new policies were rescinded. And HR took the blame.

If they had used the cheat sheet, they would have identified the audience of employees who had worked for the company more than 20 years (about 400 people). With the right messaging and proper lead-time for questions, perhaps the policies would have been better received.

What’s in an Employee Communication Plan?

First, a strategic, longer-term communications plan (say, for the full year) involves more than a two-page cheat sheet. This sheet would come into play within that longer-term plan, when you’re creating a specific communication.

You’ll find details in the downloadable cheat sheet, but here’s the gist of what you’ll need to think about (and put down in writing):

  • Objective(s). What do you hope to achieve with this communication? Make your goals meaningful and measurable — action verbs and numbers.
  • Audience(s). What groups of employees need to take action or pay attention? The cheat sheet has examples of audiences to consider.
  • Influencers/Messengers. Who can help get the attention of your audience? Who do you need on your side?
  • Key Messages. Keep it to three messages, and you may need to tweak it for each audience.
  • Channels. How will you get the message out (and please…not only via email). The cheat sheet lists options you may not always think about.
  • Timing. When should you tell your audience? You may need a phased approach.

Of course, when it comes to creating HR communications, we have a lot to say outside of planning them. We wrote an e-book on how to write purposeful communications — how to be inclusive, what type of language to use, how to reach various employee groups, and more.

Download the “Communicate with Purpose” e-book for a fuller picture of how HR can better communicate with employees.

Download the communications planning cheat sheet