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When I was speaking at the Work Life Congress last October, I kept hearing the same thing over and over from every single HR professional I talked to during our round tables… we want to be better communicators, but we don’t know where to start. It was stated with more frustration coupled with the very real time and budget constraints that have been barriers in the past.

How can you use what you already have and create more effective HR communications? How can you revamp last year’s rollout emails, to something more effective without increasing your budget or investing a lot more time?

It can be an overwhelming proposition. Where do you start? How should you focus your efforts? Will what you change have better or (gasp) worse results than last year? Why should I be the one even doing this? And so on…

Even with all of the inherent barriers, you can absolutely create more effective HR communications (yes, I know – we’re probably talking emails for now), by implementing these seven tips.

#1: One Call to Action (CTA)

If you only revamp one thing, make sure it’s this! You can read about this extensively here, but this step is the most important change you can make, even if you don’t change anything else. Review your message to see how many places you’re trying to send your audience, and how many actions you want them to take. When we provide many options, it becomes an overload of information and your employees will end up in decision analysis – feeling overwhelmed with all of the actions they need to take or places they need to go, and end up doing nothing.

Ask your employees to do one thing in each message – just one thing.

Ask your employees to do only ONE thing in your #HR emails. Click To Tweet

#2: Update your Subject Line

Subject lines are there to provide a preview of what’s inside… but it can also be used to create intrigue and a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). Use this to your advantage. Your subject lines now are likely boring, with a headline that is as exciting as watching paint dry. Ex: Performance Reviews Due by Mar. 31.

Why not use the preview and intrigue to your advantage instead? Ask an interesting question (How can your performance review advance your career?) Or (Do you know what could hold up your merit increase?). Begin a conversation (Your boss said…). Be funny and lose the stuffiness – above all else. If you can make your employees be interested in learning what’s inside the email, they will OPEN it and take action.

#3:  Change the Voice and POV

While changing the point of view of how the message is written, isn’t the quickest change – it will have a big impact. Currently, your stuffy email is likely written with a lot of “AP” and/or “HR speak.” In other words, your message contains a lot of directive and authoritative language. It’s delivered from a corporate perspective without any conversation or connection to the employees reading the message. In plain language, you’re just telling them what to do (or worse, “big brother” is telling them).

Instead, update your message to be written more inclusively and conversationally. You want the reader (your employee), to feel like they are being spoken to, specifically. Change your voice as much as possible to be like “a regular email” you send or a conversation you’d have on the phone. It would be much more engaging and less like a press release.

#4: All About THEM

Similar to changing the voice and POV, updating the perspective of your message is critical (and fairly easy!). Instead of sharing the details you want them to know about, talk about what they want to know about. Remember, they are coming from a different department and perspective – they don’t actually care about what HR is doing or what you want to tell them. Your employees want to know one thing, and one thing only: why does this matter to me?

What matters to your employees? NOT what matters to #HR. Click To Tweet

Tell them why they should care about your “message” early and often – if they know why it matters to them, then they will care about it.

#5: Share the Consequence

This is very closely related to having the message being all about them, but if there is a consequence for them to take action/not take action, state it clearly (not threateningly). Consequences later on shouldn’t be a surprise. And a great side effect of sharing consequences (in addition of having more people taking the desired action), is you will build HR’s email credibility and transparency factor. Your employees will feel like they finally know the other side of the coin.

#6: “Above the Fold” Thinking

I know being “above the fold,” isn’t something that HR people think about… ever. And it’s a somewhat dated idea. BUT, it’s an important concept to write more effective emails. Being above the fold is an old newspaper term, making sure that all of the important or breaking news was visible on the front page above the folded portion of the paper. When applying this approach to your HR emails, make sure that the most important information is as early on in your email as possible – as people are more likely to read the beginning… instead of the end.

We tend to build up to the point or important nuggets and then place them in the last line or two. Don’t do that. Even if it looks weird and you can’t work in the point in the first paragraph, create a statement of importance instead. Make sure that the one CTA or important nugget is up front and bolded – “above the fold.”

Make sure the one CTA or important nugget is up front & “above the fold.” #HR Click To Tweet

#7: Edit Content for Length

The truth is, people have a short attention span – especially in emails. Edit your content for length and remove the duplicative information, unless it’s stressing your main point. Be succinct – I know that’s what you’re trying for, but keep editing! Don’t be fluffy or walk around what you’re trying to say, or repeat yourself – strip away the extra layers and say exactly what you mean.

The shorter your message, the more likely it is your employees will read the entire thing.