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How Strategic Internal Communication Elevates HR Transformation

By Michelle Gouldsberry
November 17, 2023
9 minute read

Businesses need to constantly change to survive in a rapidly changing work environment. Yet only 35% of companies succeed at digital transformation, often because people don’t understand what’s changing or why they need to adjust. Effective strategic internal communication is your key to a successful transformation.

Find out what strategic internal communication is, how it supports HR transformation, and how to develop an internal comms strategy that helps stakeholders adapt to change.

What is strategic internal communication during HR transformation?

Strategic internal communication is a deliberate and planned communication approach that aligns with and supports larger business goals. This type of communication includes sharing information, but it also looks to drive specific outcomes and support broader initiatives. 

Strategic internal communication influences transformation efforts by creating a shared vision, aligning stakeholders, and getting everyone on board with the changes. With improved stakeholder understanding and buy-in, change management projects are more likely to succeed.

In the context of HR transformation, strategic internal communication refers to content and messaging efforts aimed at internal stakeholders regarding an HR transformation project’s goals, processes, and benefits. Your strategic internal comms plan falls under your larger HRM plan, which lists all human resource management goals, objectives, and strategies.

Effective communication is essential for change management, including HR transformation. When you communicate strategically, you give all stakeholders a clear understanding of the transformation’s purpose and objectives.

5 benefits of strong internal communication in HR transformation

HR transformation aims to create a more agile, data-driven, and employee-centric HR function that supports the organization’s growth and success. However, for employees to buy in to change efforts, you need to intentionally explain how they’ll benefit.

Effective communication supports change management by providing employees with the information they need to adapt to new processes, systems, and roles.

Better goal alignment

Effective communication aligns the workforce with HR transformation goals and objectives, creating a shared understanding of and commitment to the changes.

Strategic internal communication allows you to engage business leaders, your HR team, and employees at all levels. An internal communication plan provides stakeholders with clear and consistent messaging about the transformation’s purpose, objectives, and expected outcomes. Moreover, stakeholders realize how the change benefits them and how they can contribute.

Increased employee engagement

Clear and transparent communication keeps employees engaged and informed throughout the change process, increasing their sense of involvement and ownership. Engage employees by keeping them updated and sharing success stories. When employees know what’s going on and why, they can better support strategic HR efforts.

Higher levels of trust

Communicate clearly and consistently to build trust. Let stakeholders know the purpose and benefits of the transformation. Address any questions they may have during the process. 

Lower resistance to change

Strategic internal communication explains why the HR transformation is necessary and why it’s a benefit to employees and stakeholders. This encourages employees and stakeholders to accept the change.

Higher employee satisfaction

Strategic internal communication shouldn’t just be about giving orders and explaining changes. Make sure to praise employee contributions and successes throughout the transformation process. 

9 steps for developing an effective internal communication strategy

Effective internal communication gets the right messaging to the right stakeholders to drive interest, engagement, and ownership of HR transformation efforts. Find out how to create a plan for your organization and what internal communication tools can help.

Set clear goals and outcomes

Identify the desired outcomes. For example, you might want to ensure employees understand the planned HR changes and have higher buy-in and lower resistance. Byproducts of a successful communication effort might include higher employee engagement and trust in leadership.

After identifying desired outcomes, create specific and measurable goals. For example, instead of setting a vague goal like “improve employee understanding,” set a specific goal like “increase employee awareness and understanding of the HR transformation by 80% within the first quarter.”

As you set these goals, align them with the HR transformation objectives. If the HR change project aims to improve employee performance management processes, for instance, your communication goals should include communicating the process changes and expected benefits.

Set a timeline for your communication goals, with milestones along the way. This makes tracking progress manageable while keeping communications aligned with the HR transformation timeline. For example, milestones might include the comms campaign launch, an initial town hall meeting, and transitioning to ongoing email updates as the transformation unfolds.

Identify key messages

Outline the key elements of the HR transformation, including its purpose, goals, and intended changes. With this outline, you can identify the most important messages to communicate to stakeholders. 

Consider how the HR transformation will affect each stakeholder group. People might be worried about changes to their roles, responsibilities, processes, and overall work experience. When you understand stakeholder concerns, you can tailor messaging that addresses those worries.

Even as you tailor messaging, make sure all stakeholders receive the most critical transformation-related information. Focus on the “what,” “why,” and “how” of the transformation. For example, explain the big-picture reasons for the transformation. Share the timeline, illustrate the benefits, and explain what stakeholders should do.

Segment your audience

Before you can tailor messaging, you need to identify stakeholder groups. These can include managers, front-line workers, support staff, remote workers, or any other distinct group. Additionally, consider who will be most affected by the HR transformation.

Analyze the characteristics and needs of each group. Consider factors such as their roles, responsibilities, level of involvement in the transformation, location, and communication preferences. This analysis will help you understand their needs so you can deliver the best possible messaging.

Based on the analysis, determine communication goals for each stakeholder group. Do you want to increase their understanding of the transformation, address concerns, or increase their involvement in the change process? Whatever the goals, tailor your messages to address their needs, concerns, and roles in the HR transformation.

Set a cadence

Timing and cadence are crucial elements of strategic internal communication. Consider the pace of the transformation, the amount of change, and how often employee groups really need updates. A consistent cadence that avoids overcommunication is ideal.

Develop a timeline that outlines when and how you’ll communicate with stakeholders throughout the HR transformation. You might align messaging with the overall HR transformation timeline, key milestones, and significant changes, for example. 

As you go along, evaluate the effectiveness of your communications. You might adjust the cadence, channels, or messaging itself

Choose the right communication channels

Consider which communication channels are best for each employee group based on their demographics, job roles, and work environment. Deskless workers, for instance, might prefer smartphone push notifications rather than emails or intranet posts. The most effective communication from leaders meets employees where they are.

Evaluate the accessibility and reach of different communication channels within your organization. Consider factors such as available technology, internet access, and the level of engagement with existing communication channels. Choose channels that are widely accessible and popular among employees.

Keep in mind that different types of messages require different channels. Complex messages with visual aids might be best delivered by a tailor-made internal communications video or in person. Automated reminders can ‌be sent by email or text. Consider the message when choosing how to deliver it.

Tell your story through different types of content

Stories are the most engaging form of content, especially when talking about change.

Tell stories that illustrate your key messages and themes. These stories can be testimonials — how the HR transformation has affected employees or managers. They can also be illustrative — success stories from other organizations that preview what to expect with the HR transformation. Look for stories that are relatable, authentic, and demonstrate positive outcomes.

In addition to text-based stories, incorporate visuals, audio, and other multimedia elements to bring stories to life and make them more memorable. Visuals can help employees connect emotionally with content, helping them feel the impact of HR transformation.

Not all stories need to come from HR. When you foster a company culture of storytelling, employees will share their own stories and experiences. Empower employees to share their stories and become transformation advocates. Make sure they have a place to tell these stories, such as on your intranet, during team meetings, or through chat platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. 

Some of these stories can boost your employer brand, providing benefits long after the transformation ends. By sharing these stories on your careers site or social media (with their consent), you can build up your external brand and attract top talent.

Train managers as change ambassadors

Managers are integral to successful internal communication. You need their buy-in so they can serve as change ambassadors rather than roadblocks.

Make sure managers understand the HR transformation’s purpose, goals, and expected outcomes. Give them talking points and other materials that improve their understanding and help them communicate it to their teams. These communications can be informal or formal, including training sessions, workshops, or online modules that cover key messaging and frequently asked questions. Give managers pre-made communication materials whenever possible, including presentations, email templates for email marketing campaigns, or internal links, so they communicate consistently and accurately.

Emphasize the importance of transparency and authenticity. Managers can support HR transformation efforts even while acknowledging the challenges and uncertainties that may arise. Encourage them to share personal stories that humanize the transformation and encourage team members to stay strong.

Recognize managers for their role as change ambassadors through your rewards and recognition programs. This will motivate managers to continue their advocacy and inspire others to follow suit.

Encourage feedback from stakeholders

To improve internal communication, you need employee feedback. Emphasize the importance of two-way communication and make it easy for employees to share ideas and concerns.

In turn, respond to this feedback quickly. Explain how their input will shape the HR transformation and the strategic communication around it. If you do make changes based on feedback, tell employees. Help them see how their input delivered an impact.

Offer multiple ways for stakeholders to provide feedback, including anonymously. Feedback channels include surveys, suggestion boxes, dedicated business email addresses, feedback forms, and focus groups. Make sure that each feedback channel is easily accessible and user-friendly.

Track and assess change management

You won’t know whether your strategic communication plan succeeds unless you track and assess results. Metrics you might track include:

  • Employee surveys: Surveys can measure the workforce’s understanding of the HR transformation and how they feel about it. Ask questions about the quality of communication, perceived impact, and overall perception of the change.
  • Communication channel analytics: Track how people engage with content, whether that’s emails, intranet posts, or other content delivery methods. These metrics can suggest which channels are most used and how you can improve communication going forward. Your marketing colleagues can help with this effort.
  • Feedback and suggestion analysis: Analyze stakeholder feedback to identify common themes, concerns, or areas of improvement. Look for patterns in the feedback that suggest whether your plan effectively addresses stakeholder needs and concerns.
  • Employee participation: Measure employee participation in HR change-related activities, including training sessions, workshops, or town hall meetings. When employees engage with HR transformation, they’re likely to take ownership of their role.
  • Employee sentiment analysis: Use sentiment analysis tools to analyze employee sentiment expressed in surveys or feedback. This can provide insights into the workforce’s perception of and emotional response to HR transformation.

Each metric should have a baseline and target to help you figure out whether your communication plan succeeded. Base benchmarks on industry standards, previous internal comms initiatives, or other relevant goals.

Continuously track and analyze these HR metrics. This can be done through regular reporting methods or with data analytics tools. Look for trends, patterns, or changes that indicate whether your communication efforts were effective. Use these findings to adjust your communication plan as needed.

How Betterworks supports effective communication during HR transformation

Performance management tools like Betterworks help HR leaders improve internal communication, particularly during HR change projects. These tools provide a hub for recording and communicating transformation goals, progress, and impact to all stakeholders.

Goal-setting software can help you set goals, align them with larger HR change goals, and communicate these objectives to employees. Complementary software tools also foster ongoing feedback and coaching conversations, allowing managers to provide guidance and support to employees throughout the HR transformation. 

Data is crucial for tracking and assessing change management progress — and the right tools can help. Betterworks Advanced Analytics, provides deep insights into employee performance and progress by bringing together and cross-correlating rich data from the Betterwrks modules. By analyzing this data, you can identify areas for improvement, track performance trends, and make informed decisions to drive HR transformation success.

The module also offers customizable dashboards and reports, providing real-time visibility into the impact of change. This data empowers HR leaders to effectively communicate progress and outcomes to senior management and other stakeholders.

By using a performance management tool like Betterworks, you can optimize your internal communication efforts, drive employee engagement, and achieve successful outcomes with any HR change project.

Drive your business and HR strategy forward 

Clear, consistent, and intentional communication supports HR transformation processes and your organization’s strategic goals. By implementing a strategic internal communication plan and using performance management technology, you can align your workforce, drive engagement, and achieve the desired outcomes of your strategic HR plan.

Want to learn more? Discover what strategic HR planning is and why it matters.

How to Be a Strategic HR Leader