Why HR’s communication is failing

Why HR’s communication is failing

Why HR’s communication is failing Ever get the sense that what you tell employees simply goes in one ear and out the other?

The reason why might actually be a flaw in your communication – one which neuroscience can help overcome.

Dr David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Group and an expert in “brain-based leadership”, says HR professionals can benefit a lot from understanding the science behind how humans think and act, and the kinds of communication that work best.

“The more accurately an HR professional understands, for example, what motivates people, the better they can be at all parts of the profession, from hiring to training to incentivizing to promoting people,” he says.

In his keynote address at the HR Leaders Summit in Toronto this November, Rock will share insights from decades of study by neuroscientists into human behaviour – including decision-making, collaboration and leadership – and how HR can use that information to its advantage.

Rock will speak on the science of communication, and how quality conversations are the new performance management, giving industry insiders a greater understanding of why their message doesn’t always get through to workers or leaders in their organization.

“About half the time when we listen to someone else, we misread their intent or some aspect of the communication, and either we’re in a bad mood and we misinterpret someone’s idea as more negative than they mean, or someone is anxious about something else and they don’t take time to communicate clearly, or people actively withhold information,” Rock says.

One key concept is simple: one person has an image in their mind – an idea, client or message – and they’re trying to create the same image in someone else’s mind, Rock says.

“They’re literally trying to help another person see what they see. Just with that simple insight – that you’re trying to activate the visual cortex in another person – you can start communicating much more effectively, and you now understand one of the key mechanisms in information transfer.”

However, the message often gets muddled.

Issues arise when there’s a “sense of threat” to one person in the conversation – due to stress, emotions, and other triggers.

“They make a lot of errors in processing information, in both sending and receiving information … If you need to have an important but difficult conversation with someone, you actually need to reduce the threat overall, or people just won’t process what you’re saying.

“This is a really important principle: if you want someone else to see what you’re seeing, then you need to make them feel as safe as possible. Most organizations ignore this principle when they design frameworks for managers to interact with their teams.”

Neuroscience expertise can also be applied to leadership and performance management, and Rock plans to share his insights – including new research on why feedback is failing – with attendees at the HR Leaders summit.

The HR Leaders Summit takes place in Toronto on November 13 and 14.


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Knowledge-sharing “should never be awkward”
The one thing missing from employee reviews


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