Communication is changing HR.
Think about how you’ve communicated with your colleagues and friends over the last few days. The chances are, it’ll have been a mixture of text messaging, social media interactions, email and face-to-face contact (although, arguably, the latter is becoming rather rare, with reports suggesting that smartphone addiction is on the rise).
The mobile revolution has clearly taken hold and with it has brought about an entirely new expectation about the ability to communicate within the workplace. The methods by which we reach out to one another are now vastly different from what we were used to a few years ago and are driven by technology. The effect this has had on HR is profound, if not always immediately obvious.
We can all be contacted no matter where we are; email, text messages and group chats are never more than a finger press away and, while there are undoubtedly downsides relating to ever-present connectivity, it can be fantastically liberating, too.
Let’s consider the forms of communication we regularly call upon in modern-day life:
- Email. While easily abused and – conversely – one of the oldest forms of digital communication available to us, email remains an entirely relevant way by which to keep in touch.
- Instant messaging. Services such as WhatsApp are now just as at home in the office as they are a permanent fixture within social circles.
- Social media. Facebook’s decision to launch a new business-centric platform called ’Workplace’, is a testament to how powerful a form of communication social media is in the modern age.
- In-app communication. Increasingly, business software includes integrated communication methods, enabling teams to discuss projects, sales leads and support queries in-line with their daily tasks.
- Video conferencing. Advances in technology have made video conferencing via services like Skype and FaceTime available to all.
There are plenty more communication methods we can call upon today, but the above represent the most prevalent in business and those which continue to benefit HR most significantly.
The role HR plays in business is a significant one and, thankfully, this vital facet of the workplace now features prominently within the strategic thinking of most organisations. This has consequently increased the reliance on modern forms of communication that help disparate departments and individual employees remain connected.
With that in mind, we think there are five key reasons modern communication is essential for HR.
1. User experience
Swap the word ‘user’ above for ‘employee’, and we hit upon the first and perhaps most important benefit of modern communication in HR.
Any method of communication that encourages emotional engagement demands further exploration. Most importantly, if people enjoy using something, they’re likely to consider doing so. It’s why the forms of communication listed above are so popular – they’re a joy to use.
Internal communication within an organisation used to be driven by board room expectation and the choice of IT infrastructure. Now, it’s driven almost entirely by user experience, and employees are likely to be far more engaged as a result.
2. The mobile generation
As previously noted, smartphones are now an intrinsic part of most people’s lives and if the option to use such devices within the workplace in order to communicate with colleagues is lacking or non-existent, business leaders will have a hard time fostering a collaborative working environment.
Almost without exception, modern communication methods leverage mobile technology. Many will even take a mobile-first approach, such as the convenience offered by the platform.
Think about it; every employee has their smartphone by their side constantly, therefore if they need to ask a question, deliver feedback or report an identified risk within the organisation, what better way to do it than to reach for their touchscreen companion?
3. Actionable data
Without wishing to get all ‘big brother’, it’s also important to note that modern communication platforms should enable businesses to capture vital data on employee preference and behaviour. As far as HR is concerned, the prospect of gaining real-time insight into the frustrations and needs of the staff base is akin to the holy grail of employee management.
Any internal communication strategy that is introduced needs to be supported by actionable data. What do employees need more or less of? What are their needs, wants and desires? In which formats do they prefer to receive company information?
People are far more inclined to open up when communicating via digital channels, and the data gained as a result of fewer inhibitions and a collective desire to speak from the heart is invaluable.
4. The personal brand
The thought of building a ‘personal brand’ would have been laughable several years ago, but the introduction of social media has turned us all into mini businesses.
It’s a natural process in the digital age that takes place almost entirely unintentionally, but the configuration of online profiles, digital personas and even personal strap lines all contribute to the personal brand. It’s addictive (if rather self-indulgent) and is the primary reason social media is so popular.
Personal branding can extend to the workplace, too. Personalisation in modern communication enables employees to build a sense of purpose within the organisation and helps raise morale overall.
5. A bigger sense of purpose
With the millennial generation flooding into the workplace, new communication channels that enable employees to connect to a bigger sense of purpose are vital.
Consider Twitter and Facebook – they both encourage people to express themselves unabated and contribute to discussions on topics that transcend continents. Scale that down to interdepartmental discussion within the four walls of a business, and it’s easy to see how barriers can be broken down and a more collaborative workforce fostered.
For every member of staff to feel emotionally connected to the company and able to have a direct impact on its success, they need to be able to speak freely, reach out for help and offer their own guidance when the opportunity arises. The forms of communication we noted at the start of this post enable such a culture to proliferate without the need for significant infrastructure changes.
The future for HR is bright if it embraces modern communication. The businesses that welcome it with open arms will benefit from a coherent workforce that feels valued and able to express itself in forms that are comfortable, familiar and addictive.
Most importantly, people are used to using such platforms. They’re second nature, which means next to no training requirements and the ability to bring new staff on board and into the arms of the organisation quickly.
Business is all about communication, so why not take advantage of the most relevant in the modern age?