Should HR be Responsible for Internal Communications? 4 Tips to Find Out

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Should HR be Responsible for Internal Communications? 4 Tips to Find Out

Human resources often walks a fine line of sharing responsibilities between other departments like communications and operations. HR is responsible for human management across the organization, and that naturally overlaps with aspects of communication, team building, and finance.

Internal communication might seem like a communications team problem. And on a surface level, it is. It also contributes to employee engagement and performance.

One McKinsey study shows that organizations improving communication actually improve engagement by 20-25%. That’s critical considering Gallup shows that 70% of employees are not engaged at work.

Essentially, HR needs to be engaged in internal communications. However, the extent to which that responsibility should fall on HR depends on several other key factors.

Is internal communications in crisis?

For many organizations, organized internal communications doesn’t exist. In fact, one study by the Internal Association of Business Communications shows that 34% of organizations don’t even measure internal communications. Those that do show abysmal engagement rates, with many having email open rates as low as 17%.

If your organization’s internal communications are in this state, someone needs to step in and solve it. Some instances where internal communications might need correcting include:

  • Lack of cohesive strategy across all departments and branches
  • No company-wide strategy
  • No company-wide distribution
  • Lack of cohesive message or branding
  • Lack of alignment with goals and business strategy
  • Poor engagement or lack of engagement

While assessing this data requires a review of internal messaging operations across the organization, that data is likely easy to come by. You may even already have it if you’re reading this article. At the end of the day, internal communications should positively contribute to employee engagement, productivity, and happiness. If it’s not, it needs to be changed.

Are the right people responsible for internal communications?

Internal communications should normally fall on the communications team. Many large organizations even have custom Internal Communications teams. Therefore, if there is a communications team in place that can take on extra work, that team is likely a much better fit to do the actual work than HR.

Here, you should consider:

  • Is a communications team in place to take on internal communications work?
  • Does it have the capacity to take on that work?
  • Would it make sense to hire new people or build a team to take on internal communications?

This is important because while much of internal communications should be aligned with HR, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from HR.

For example, the communications team can send out periodic updates regarding company events, positive developments, etc.

The team would want to heavily align with HR for events such as mergers, downsizing, performance review, salary changes, etc. However, some messaging doesn’t need HR input at all.

Solutions for your internal communications

Most organizations eventually have four distinct options for internal communications:

HR

Here, HR takes on the full burden of internal communications. An HR person is responsible for creating strategy, building campaigns, writing content, and distributing it. Most small organizations with limited communications departments choose this solution.

However, it does mean ensuring that HR staff are able to write and use graphical media in a professional way. The largest risk is that you might send out low-quality content to employees, which might reduce engagement despite the messaging being correct. Internal communications might also detract from more value-added work. 

Marketing

Some organizations shift internal communications completely to the marketing team because communications are often seen as a marketing function. However, marketing needs to focus on your external audience, not internal.

Marketing with HR alignment

In this setup, HR personnel are responsible for building strategy, setting goals, and aligning content with its own efforts. Marketing does the actual writing and distribution of the content. This means that most organizations get the best of both worlds, without unduly overburdening either team.

Most also want to align this with top management to create truly cohesive messaging. A good internal communications strategy also means that marketing has a rough idea of when and why things are happening.

This means they can better plan less-essential communication around that, so that, for example, they don’t send an unnecessary email on the same day as an important update.

Cross-functional team

Some larger companies opt to build cross-functional teams for internal communication. This might include one or two people from HR plus a few people from marketing, product, and sales who can ensure updates from their departments.

This solution is only ideal for larger organizations. However, it means that all internal messaging is handled by the same people in a dedicated environment. It allows for the most consistency across messaging while still benefiting from input from HR on strategy and alignment.

What happens if HR takes on internal communications?

If internal communications are eventually delegated to HR, it’s important to set guidelines and processes to maintain quality and consistency.

  • Build a strategy aligned with business strategy and goals
  • Test and select communication tools that meet your needs and budget
  • Implement tracking tools to test engagement, open rate, click-through rate (for email), etc.
  • Carefully consider channels and how many can be maintained. It’s nice to be able to push data to as many channels as possible, but if employees are already managing other work, it might be too much.
  • Set a process for review to ensure consistent quality. If possible, have someone from communications do a final edit on content
  • Reward employee engagement to encourage better communication across the organization
  • Make feedback and two-way communication part of the process
  • Avoid sending too much messaging. If employees are getting too many messages, they’ll stop opening them
  • Focus on transparency and maintaining trust
  • Set a specific style guide and format for each type of communication, so that email, social media, videos, etc., all look relatively the same

Building an internal communication strategy means aligning communication with organizational goals and objectives. That might include communicating key business data at specific parts of the year, reminding people that performance review is coming up, introducing new hires, or congratulating everyone on a great year.

Internal communication is about passing on information, inspiring and motivating employees, and asking for action. HR teams are best equipped to know this information, which means that building strategy should almost always fall on HR.

Internal communication is ideally a cross-department or cross-team endeavor, with input and strategy from HR and content from marketing. If not, you can still use good processes and strategies to create quality internal communications for your organization.


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