Fixing employee communications with a KISS

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The HR function, like all others, can be prone to overcomplicating things – making mountains out of molehills and falling into the all-too-human trap of needless complexity.
Naomi Mourra, head of HR, Australia & New Zealand for BBC Worldwide, sat down with HRD and talked about how HR could better communicate with staff be remembering to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
“I think we’re guilty of staring into things for too long,” she said. “We feel like it’s an important job that we do and we want to be able to express that in some way. We want people to recognise that what we do is important and we feel slightly defensive about people’s attitude towards us.”
This can stem from HR often perceived as being detached when it comes to communication.
“Some HR teams suffer from being overly quiet, almost to the point that people aren’t engaged. They believe anything coming from HR is not for them,” she said.
Instead, HR should try and bring forward the fact that the function is important to every single employee in an organisation.
“We’re talking about them, so what we do really matters to most people,” she explained. “However, we can bore them, we can be too dry, we can be a joke – but we have an opportunity to be very different.”
Mourra has taken this approach to heart in her current role – injecting humour and a lighter touch into her actions, especially in corporate communications.
For instance, she has tried to shift perceptions around performance appraisals at BBC Worldwide.
“Usually, appraisal time was communicated the same way each year – an email from the CEO, followed by something from the HRD with more specific instructions.”
“But the emails I send now are very irreverent and cheeky. For example, one might say, ‘It’s that time of year. I get it, you don’t love it.’ It’s acknowledging how people are feeling but also trying to heighten what the good things are and not losing sight of that.”
One area in which HR has to be careful is not to dumb things down too much, Mourra noted. Self-awareness and keeping things light is essential, she added.
“The way we counterbalance the dumbing down is amping up the humour. So even if we’re dumbing it down, acknowledge that – ‘Ok, we’re dumbing it down but that’s ok. It’s meant to be funny’.”
She gave an example of a recent ‘communication pack’ about bonuses which used gelato and beer in basic graphs. For instance, OTE packages were described in terms of pints of beer earned.
“People were sitting there with smiles on their faces. It’s very effective to be able to visualise something simply. We do try and modify our comms to be just a little more creative – and it doesn’t have to be expensive.”
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