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Aligning Communications and HR to Inform, Inspire, and Engage

There’s no question that employee engagement is not only good to have, but good for business. Engaged employees are not only committed to the organization’s vision and mission, but they contribute to real results, like profitability, productivity, and better customer service, among many other metrics of success.

So, who’s responsible for making sure employees are engaged?

The truth is, while engagement may start from the top and trickle down, everyone and every function in an organization is responsible. Although, having worked in a variety of roles throughout my career, including both communications and HR, it’s fair to say that these two functions play a particularly important role in driving engagement organization-wide. That’s because both HR and communications have a unique vantage point for understanding how different parts of an organization work together, and often have a seat at the table when major decisions are made. They also serve as the face and voice of the organization to employees, so they have an important platform to set the tone and model the behaviors that promote engagement.

However, to be effective, these two functions can’t work in a vacuum. I recently attended the Advanced Learning Institute’s conference on HR and Communications, where several professionals from across industries shared their thoughts on how these two functions can effectively align to foster engagement during critical situations.

All functions play a role in engagement

When you’re implementing a change. When organizations decide to implement a significant change, HR and communications have the shared responsibility of managing the workforce aspects of the change, as well as conveying a unified, positive, and transparent message to the organization. For example, during a large corporate restructuring, it’s critical to engage employees in the process from the beginning, especially if you want to retain them and maintain business continuity. HR needs to take the lead on implementing a talent management process to identify the skills necessary for carrying out the new company strategy, and develop employees to grow into the new roles that might result from it. This doesn’t even account for the other important HR responsibilities such as managing compensation, benefits, and the numerous other details that come into play when you’re restructuring an organization.

At the same time, communications teams need to be aligned with the talent process so that they can message it positively and effectively to the organization. They need to provide facts and information, transparently, so that employees feel a part of the change and understand how the organization is supporting them, so that they can make informed decisions.

When you need to turn the business around. When company performance is slumping, HR and communications can be critical to establishing a clear path forward for recovery. If you don’t already have one, HR can develop a goal-setting and performance management process to roll out company-wide. By having clearly defined goals, employees and leadership will be better aligned around a shared mission and strategy, understand how their unique roles support the organization’s priorities, and establish a culture of accountability for meeting their goals.

The right messages can play a significant role in supporting the conversation about accountability. Communications teams have the opportunity to define the current environment that the organization is operating in, identify the challenges, and translate HR’s policies and programs into relatable stories and experiences, without losing sight of the company’s culture and employees’ interests.

When you’re shifting a culture. New generations of employees are entering the workforce across industries, and they have their own expectations about how they want to work and be supported by their organization. As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so HR and communications have an opportunity to engage employees from the very first interaction. From the language in a job posting, through the interview and onboarding process, and in conveying policies and programs, communications and HR should leverage their role as the face and voice of the organization to ensure that every employee-facing message and experience is driving engagement.

While these are just a few examples, there are numerous situations where communications and HR can effectively work together to inform, inspire, and engage employees. That’s not to say that these are the only groups who play a role. Ultimately, every interaction is an opportunity to engage, and that’s something we all own.

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