News consumption has evolved from a 13-pager served with your breakfast, into a snack! Finger-food, for a generation that is constantly glancing and tapping at slick communication devices, with deft, frisky fingers. It stands to reason. News is perishable. Time is short; retention is short. The optical outranks the cerebral! A four-second glance must do it all. Sift through the clutter, catch the attention and deliver the message, straight to the brain!
Last year, a Mobiles Republic survey of their readers’ news-reading habits revealed some interesting insights:
- People are checking news more frequently and for shorter intervals of time: 75 per cent of their readers with smartphones and 70 per cent of those who owned tablets, checked news more than once a day.
- Aggregators vs branded news: Their use of aggregators jumped 33 per cent over the previous year. However, usage from branded news suppliers – eg. newspapers – dropped by 20 percentage points over the same period.
- Social media as source of news: Their use of Facebook and Twitter for news has gone up 7 per cent over last year.
This was a US-Europe survey. But would the Indian scenario be any different? Consider the India facts: 886 million active mobile subscribers and 243 million internet users. Of the internet users, 70 per cent access the net via mobile phones and tablets, according to the Social, Digital and Mobile in India 2014 report by We Are Social.sg. India would behave the same way!
The question is: Can Human Resources (HR) take a clue from here? Simplistically put, HR communications are usually drab! The legal guys insist on including the legalese – complete with comas herein and full-stops thereinafter! For HR, communication is less of a competency and more of a check-box item. The result: a long, dry directive. Even for good news!
The only reason people deign to read such stuff is because there is no choice. HR missives were/are corporate law! So hold your nose, wrinkle up your face and gulp it down – like bitter medicine!
However, contemporary social, economic, cultural and corporate trends are changing all that we considered ‘traditional’. Communication is less about messaging and more about conversations. Conversations that are delivered right up to the reader’s eyeball! That’s how news is being delivered today.
Can HR harness the trends in regular news consumption for the delivery of their own stories? Here are 5 ways:
The HR App: These days people are less happy but more ‘Appy’. There’s one for pretty much everything! Apps are a great platform for conversations with people. Messages, stories, full-blown communications, even snap polls can happen at the tap of a radio button. Why not an App for HR communications?
HR Nibblets: Are your communications short and crisp? Or are they long drawn-out missives crammed with disclaimers and legalese? Do they happen only a few times a year? Keep the legalese for the files – deliver the crux. Up-front, in frequent, bite-sized nibblets – or snacks. Here’s the benchmark: 140 characters! If Twitter can do it…
HR the Aggregator: HR is in the best position to aggregate news. With a role that spreads from talent attraction, across the spectrum of engagement, there should be no dearth of stories to tell! Whether it is announcing a new policy, or reiterating an existing one. To increase the uptake of a benefit, or poll the utility of another. An HR unit that claims it does not have much to talk about, either operates from an ivory tower – or a cemetery!
Social Intranets: For communication to be effective, it has to reach places the intended audience haunts: Communities, groups, which are in the always-connected-always-on mode. Social Intranets replicate places where people go for news, outside the workplace. They have the ability to transform a one-way ‘message board’ into a buzzing conversation hotspot! Social Intranets help HR communications land where people’s eyeballs are? And everything stays behind the firewall!
Get some learning: We all believe that our communication skills are terrific. But like an axe, skills need sharpening – that’s why we have L&D, right? Courses in brief-communication techniques, or crisp business writing, are widely available – and free. A host of MOOCs from the world’s best educators offer some good ones. And asking your marketing person for help won’t reduce your izzat either.
There’s no reason why HR communications cannot be as slick as the ones the marketing team uses to attract, engage and retain customers. After all isn’t that what HR is tasked with doing for people? Some personal efforts, some help from friends can transform boring missives into conversations that are focused, interest-grabbing, crisp and finger-lickin’ good!