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Welcome to episode 27 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

In today’s episode, we get tactical about how to actually write HR communications that deliver value and impact. Using a super easy system to ensure each message you write is read by your employees and creates more positive experiences and engagement. It’s easy to start right now by ensuring these five things are included every time.

First, you want to be sure you review the Storytelling for HR® framework in episode 6—this will keep you on-track when it comes to the best approach in communicating your message. After that, the HR Like a Marketer (HRLAM) thread, will ensure that each communication you create, will be valuable to your employees.


HR Like a Marketer

The five steps of the HRLAM thread is:

Change: What does your employee need to “overcome”? What is the mindset shift you are asking them to make?

Connection: What does your employee care about? What’s in it for them? Why is it important for them to know what you’re trying to tell them?

Barrier: What is standing in their way or delaying them from taking action right now? What knowledge do they need?

Conquer: What does success look like when they’ve reached the other side of the barrier? If they cared about what you’re telling them (change + connection components), they will get this result if they take action.

CTA (Call to Action): What is the one action you want your employee to take after reading/interacting with your communication?

Listen in to learn more!

In This Episode

  • How to instantly improve your HR or leadership communications, using the simple HR Like a Marketer thread before you hit send.
  • Tactical elements to include for each message (so you’re never wondering what to put in that email and know exactly what to take out).


Each HR communication (regardless of channel) should include the HRLAM elements to gain back your inbox credibility. #HR Click To Tweet

Melissa Anzman (00:00):
For the communication writing itself, let's pull that thread. This is the tactical implementation of this strategy. So each communication will have five different parts. The HR LAM thread is comprised of change, connection, barrier, conquer and CTA. I'm Melissa Anzman. HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide. And I struggled to move the needle, even after trying everything under the sun, fast-forward past many failed tactics and lessons learned, and you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals, and employees. By focusing on the employee experience, I created the Rethink HR Podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact.

Melissa Anzman (01:10):
If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, who's looking to stop spinning your wheels, doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results, or you want to have a career. You love your in the right place. Let's get started five years ago. I decided to make it my mission to take everything that I've learned in my dual role history of HR and employee communications, and really packaged it up in an easy to learn way for HR professionals to become amazing communicators, communicate with impact, communicate for conversions actions, activities, and so on without having to invest a ton of time, extra learning, a big consulting firm and all the things. And I will say it did fall a little flat. I'm not really sure why, perhaps it just hasn't caught on yet, but I did want to address how you can be in HR or as a leader, a great communicator without all of the hard work, heavy lifting of going to school for it.

Melissa Anzman (02:23):
And it's a process that I call HR Like a Marketer. Now we're going to talk about that name in a moment, but the whole point here is HR can do so much more, be so much more impactful in what it is that we do. So that wake, that we leave in our absence, the lives that we touch, the people that we help, the programs that we deliver can have such a bigger impact if we approach it in a slightly different way. So I've always throughout my career, been focused on how to help employees understand what they need to do and why they need to do it, especially when it comes to HR activities. Yes, I am a one of those annoying people who want to understand why and make sure it makes sense before we go down the road. And I knew that as an employee, if I didn't get my answer to why, and I was left asking, and I was in the know that our employees were definitely not going to take action without understanding a little bit more.

Melissa Anzman (03:27):
And as I've spoken around, um, the North America, so Canada and the U S I found that reaching employees feeling like they, HR leaders, employees, themselves are being heard right, is an ongoing problem. It's a problem. So big that most of us just don't really know where to start. We say, we're not great communicators. And we just ended here. And that leaves a huge gap between what HR wants to do and how we can actually achieve it. If we want to increase employee engagement, we start focusing on serving our employee population to see where things are. Then we hope that leaders can implement or address the, what the results showed we needed. And yet we can't even do that. And don't worry, I won't fall down my usual employee engagement survey versus employee experience rabbit hole here, but you know what I'm talking about instead, like we go about it the wrong way.

Melissa Anzman (04:31):
We want our employees to become healthcare consumers. So we focus on offering new medical plans and benefits that help employees save money, invest wisely. And then we sit back and hope employees are going to figure out what a great investment the company is made for them. And then they're going to be able to know exactly what the right plan is for them to enroll in. Essentially what we do in HR in particular is focused on the outcome. We want without understanding the core of how people get there. We know how to create employee engagement surveys, how to share results, how to suggest the best next steps, how to create comprehensive benefits packages. But that's where we stop. When it comes to sharing the, what, the, how, and the why we either rely on what I call the lazy way, what we did last year the rinse and repeat method, or we slap a communication together, haphazardly, none of you've ever done that.

Melissa Anzman (05:38):
Or you let someone else, create a plan or message or a campaign without really knowing us. And that could be an external partner. That could be a different group internally, but essentially we're not holding true two hour role in the communication plan in the storytelling for HR framework, if you haven't yet learned more about that, be sure to listen into the rethink HR podcast episode number six, where I talk about the framework and the role that HR needs to play. So quick overview, the hero is our employee. The guide is HR and the villain are the things we can control. And so when we give up our guide role, we're losing that connection to our hero. So let me get back to what I'm talking about here, which is we let the most important part of our HR program. Success stop short over and over again, leaving us, scratching our heads as to why engagement, improve, or why people still are enrolling in that new high deductible healthcare plan.

Melissa Anzman (06:59):
That's so much better, or they're still reaching out and asking questions that, you know, you've answered and feel quite obvious to you communicating to your employees in a strategic and thoughtful way is the only way to create a connection with them. With connection comes engagement. We're building the relationship. They're adding positive experiences with engagement comes as positive actions and outcomes. And instead of focusing solely on the HR activity, it's necessary to focus on how you are telling your employees about the HR activity. Think of our friends in marketing. They spend a lot of time considering who their perfect buyer is. They create avatars, they find their niche, they target their market. They hang out where their people are. They create a story and continuously reinforce their brand and brand promise. Why aren't we doing that to, for HR or for our leaders? The easy answer is it's hard and it feels well outside of most of our wheelhouses or areas of expertise.

Melissa Anzman (08:10):
It is an actual skill and you have a full time plus job without, without that on top of it, you have your own responsibilities, your own delivers and so on. And that's why I created a simple, easy process. That's repeatable for you to instantly app level your communications, because I know how critical communications are if they're done well. And right, and I know that you don't have time to do extra stuff. And so instead, I want you to use this process to gain back all of the communication credibility that your HR department or senior leadership team has lost and create better communications. And that my friends is where HR like a marketer comes in. And my simple process is called wait for it, HRLAM. Now, listen, I understand that perhaps why this didn't catch on is that the name is not so great. So I'm open for suggestions, but my HRLAM thread is HR like a marketer threat.

Melissa Anzman (09:24):
Now this process is used when you're writing the actual communications that you want to share with employees, the channel of delivery, whether that's email or snail mail or newsletter, or a text message or a yam jam, or what have you isn't important for right now, this is that pen to paper, content creation that you need to do to support your employee experience programs, to great success. And for each communication that you write, you're going to begin by outlining what success looks like for the campaign, which is your project, the message that one unique communication and the action items, what steps employees need to take to complete the action. So before you do anything, you're going to high level, those three things. Now this is a really quick inventory to keep you tied to the purpose of the activity and the communication, because remember, we're always going to keep our employee experience framework at the top of each project.

Melissa Anzman (10:32):
So we're constantly tying back to what's important for our company, trying to reach our goals and ensure that we're delivering on our employee experience framework. So for the communication writing itself, let's pull that thread. This is the tactical implementation of this strategy. So each communication will have five different parts. The HR lamb thread is comprised of change, connection, barrier, conquer, and CTA. Now, every time he writes something, I want you to walk through these five steps to ensure that your message is effective after practicing this process. If you times you are going to find yourself being nerdy like me, welcome to the club and analyzing your emails, your texts, dear friends, and really looking at every type of communication through the HR Lam lens. So let me break down what each component is for you. You start with the change. So for each message you want to outline, what does your employee need to overcome?

Melissa Anzman (11:48):
What is the mindset shift that you're asking them to make employees are coming to table at this certain point in time with their own knowledge base and experience, and in order to be successful in that project or activity, what shift in perspective needs to happen? Now there's always going to be these five components. So yes, there's always going to be a change. And you may be saying, I'm just trying to provide an update here. There's no change will. The change then is the before and after of the update, what is that important thing that those employees need to get to overcome, to shift in order to move forward? So we're going to do change after we talk change, we need to understand the connection and connection really sounds like, what does the employee want you to communicate? And what do they care about? What's in it for them sound familiar.

Melissa Anzman (12:47):
My friends in order to create a connection in our communications, we have to clearly share why they care about what we're saying. So for example, if you're telling employees, your employee engagement survey is open, include in that message, how the results are going to be used. Who's going to take action on the input. And when and so on, in other words, why it's worth their effort, we need to be sure that we include the, why do I care as part of the connection? The next step is barrier. So what's standing in your employee's way, or what's keeping them from succeeding with your request right now, what knowledge do they need? So I want you to think back to an analogy. I talk about a lot, which is the bridge analogy. Real simple, gonna give you a short rundown here, which is your employees are on one side of the bridge, your leadership team, or successes on the other side of the bridge, what can we do to help them start making steps across a bridge to reach the other side?

Melissa Anzman (13:58):
And the same idea applies here. What is currently preventing your employees from completing action? The thing you need them to do, and what do they need to know to hit submit? And actually, you know, AKA walk across the bridge. Now this can be a thing. It can be a mindset. It could be a we've done it differently in the past. It could be, they don't know where to go. They don't know it's open. They're not sure how to do it. So the barrier can be big or it can be small, but there's definitely something that's preventing employees from already being done of what you've asked. And it could just be, we haven't asked of it yet. They're not aware that they need to take this action, but that is a barrier. The next one, the next step number four is conquer. So once they've overcome that barrier, what does success look like?

Melissa Anzman (14:58):
If I cared about what you are telling me, I am going to get this specific result and outcome. So share the other side of the coin with them. Nothing feels as good as success. So share that future vision with your employees. Granted most work-related success outcomes. Aren't crazy outlandish, but they are meaningful. And who says you can't have a little bit more fun with this. So for example, if you're communicating about annual enrollment and your benefit offerings, I want you to try and share how comforted an employee will feel once they enroll or a story about how benefits have helped a colleague's family member. We're telling them the other side of what we're offering them. Here's what life can look like after you conquer that barrier. And then finally, every single message. Yes. Every single message needs to include a CTA, which is a call to action.

Melissa Anzman (16:01):
So what one action do you want your employee to take after reading or interacting with your message? So it is back to that one thing, philosophy, it is really important. And why, well, considering emails that you've gotten, if you've gotten an email for benefit enrollment that had, you know, it was two pages long that had 10 different links and steps for you to take action to complete your enrollment. What are you going to do? You're going to start out confident. You're going to click that first link, which takes you to some weird website where you have to complete some random information. And then you have a meeting that pops up and your progress in the emails last, and I'll hope is lost because do you go back to your inbox and additional nine times between your other work and meetings and what have you, or do you pick up the phone and call your benefits, help desk?

Melissa Anzman (16:55):
I know it's when your employees are doing don't think like HR think like your employees there. When we have too many actions to take too much to follow up on, we get frozen in the overwhelm and we're not sure how to move forward is spatially when it's an action item or outcome that we care deeply about. So I want you to use only one call to action, go here, do this. If there is another step, communicate it after that's done or create a landing page or a microsite where you can send employees and they can self select the step they're at the point here is you do not communicate until all five of these things are accounted for within your communication. You want to make sure that each message has a change, a connection, a barrier, a conquer, and a call to action. And it doesn't have to be a long message.

Melissa Anzman (17:56):
These five things don't mean that you have at least five paragraphs to get there. These are things for you to understand and include as you craft the actual words for your message. So I have a nifty little thing to help you do this, a little workbook that you can absolutely get for free. Just go to bettHR.com/hrlam. So that's B E T T H R.com/HRLAM. And with that, you'll be able to have a template to walk you through examples of what each step is. Have it in front of you all like a little checklist. So as you write each communication, or as you're reviewing communications for your programs that are about to go out, make sure that these five components are included. And once you have that, you're going to have an effective communication because we're not just talking like HR people, we're actually communicating like marketers, which means your message is going to be more effective and go a lot further to your employees.

Melissa Anzman (19:11):
This podcast is brought to you by better microsites with your HR budgets being cut and you being on the hunt for ways to do more with less. Why not consider a total rewards or benefits microsite to not only increase your employee experience, but also deliver increased value at half the cost. We all know that your off the shelf benefit administration website is extremely user unfriendly, lacking customization, easy to find information, a crazy firewall, and a missing search function. All at an extremely high cost, better microsites are a hundred percent designed based on what your employees need to know your branding and your information, improving the speed in which your employees can find that critical benefit information while seeing honestly connecting with your enrollment vendor. And it's ready quick. We need just about six weeks to get you up and rolling just in time for annual enrollment, learn more about better microsites at better.com/microsites. That's BETTHR.com/microsites. Thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the rethink HR podcast. For more information, including show notes and resources, please go to RethinkHRPodcast.com/27.

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