HR chiefs need to become better marketers

Just what it is about internal announcements? Whether it be for reasons of HR protocol, corporate blandness or sheer laziness on behalf of the author, they tend to be hopelessly formulaic.

When you receive an email with an employee’s name in the subject line, you know what’s coming next: “Dave Bloggs has decided that he wishes to pursue his career externally and will be leaving the business at the end of next month. We wish to put on record our thanks to Dave for his contribution during his time with our company and wish him every success with his future plans.”

Dave is a pawn in this cut-and-paste announcement culture. He may have done a damn fine job or he may be the worst employee of the decade. If it is the latter he has got off lightly and if it is the former he deserves a better send off. Who knows? Who cares?

Well actually, I think it is rather important that companies send clearer signals to their employees that poor performance will not be tolerated and excellent performance will be celebrated. Our friends in HR recently undertook a staff morale survey. Or a ’temperature check’ as they like to call it on planet HR.

As it turned out, morale was pretty good on the 1-5 score sheet, but the most useful part of the exercise was where some respondents had scribbled a few further notes in response to the question how else might the company improve morale.

The number one response was that employees were pissed off when the company did not deal with under-performing staff. In general, the troops understand the overall economic pressures and have responded well to the business asking them to work harder than ever before, but the straw that breaks the camel’s back is their employer’s passive tolerance of people who do not pull their weight.

I am no expert in HR, but I know enough about communication to know that sometimes brutal honesty is what people want to hear. Clearly there are professional and legal lines that have to be carefully navigated, but I worry that bland, template-driven corporate communications that insist on saying very little and almost always avoid the elephant in the room will do little to build employee engagement and trust. Sometimes you just have to tell it as it is.

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