March 1 Responses

Respondents noted that communicating across a large organization isn’t easy—different people follow different channels, and sheer volume makes it easy to tune things out. All the more reason to emphasize research, planning, and assessment, treating communication the way you would any other business need. Read on for a summary of respondents’ suggestions:

1. Understand audience needs and preferences

“Before we can figure out how best to communicate with our constituents, we need to understand what they need from us—what value they expect, how we are perceived, and how faculty and staff want to engage.”

  • Ask for ideas and feedback: Survey colleagues (formally or informally) to get their take on what works best (and what’s not working).
  • Build relationships: View communications research as a chance to build engagement and investment.

2. Establish a communication plan

“I believe the best strategy is to develop a carefully drawn communication plan that includes a general list of topics that need to be communicated, target audiences, and who is responsible.”

  • Embrace as essential: Consider communication the way you do strategy and continuity of operations—a basic need that merits planning.
  • Use to guide strategy: Let the plan drive tools and methods. Be prepared to change course based on results.
  • Be proactive: Anticipate issues and break the cycle of reactive communications.

3. Tailor messages for effectiveness

“Communication strategies will vary based on the type of message. A compliance notification, announcement of a leadership change, and information about a potluck are all important for different reasons and warrant different approaches.”

  • Establish key messages: Identify what’s most important and determine how you make it relevant for different audiences.
  • Match messages and tactics: Evaluate which channels to use and what tone to adopt.
  • Set priorities and manage volume: Schedule communications to avoid overload.

4. Use face-to-face opportunities

“I think we do a pretty good job of putting things out there. The bigger challenge is getting people to read messages or attend meetings.”

  • Keep it personal: Use meetings, presentations, and casual conversations alongside mass communications.
  • Establish accountability: Emphasize that communication is a two-way responsibility. Set expectations for meeting attendance, etc.
  • Maintain an open door: Help ensure HR professionals and leaders are available and prepared to address questions and concerns.

5. Create and use online communities

“One organization I worked in maintained an effective intranet that was timely, wide reaching, and part of the culture.”

  • Gauge what’s right for your team: Meet people where they already are, or select new tools that fit daily routines and workplace culture.
  • Launch social media groups: Consider established platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook.
  • Use collaboration tools: Evaluate UI-supported tools (Office 365, SharePoint, etc.) that facilitate work within teams.
  • Start with HR pros: Pilot intranets, blogs, wikis, forums, etc., among the HR community.

6. Experiment with new methods

“Some sort of quick chat function with the main HR offices would be great—kind of like when you’re shopping online and can ask customer service reps questions.”

  • Optimize emails: Pare back text and add visuals to stand out from the crowd.
  • Try short videos: Use as alternatives or adjuncts to text.
  • Look to messaging/chat applications: Microsoft Lync/Skype offer UI-supported options.

7. Listen and evaluate

“Although not always the most accurate and reliable way to disseminate information, the grapevine can be a useful litmus test for how messages are being interpreted (and misinterpreted).”

  • Keep your ear to the ground: Pay attention to how messages are received and discussed.
  • Adjust approaches accordingly: Use informal feedback to shape plans and strategies.