Why We Should Humanise HR

HR Department

by Stephanie Brady, Executive Coach, Team Coach, HR Consultant and owner of StephBe

I’d like to bet if you are reading this article, you began your career in HR because you had a desire to make a difference in the lives of employees.
Flash forwards a few years and you read an article on Glassdoor bemoaning how HR in your company don’t care and don’t listen to employees.

We can’t stop employees taking out their frustrations on the internet, but we can take back some of the control on how the function is perceived in the organisation. One way to achieve this is by making your HR Team Human again.

Think welcome packs that really say welcome. Onboarding content that truly shows your company’s values, not just a list of words. Videos and graphics to accompany training programmes to show how they can make a difference to the employee’s life. A HR Team that employees trust.

There are two ways to scale the impact and reputation of HR.
1) With communication tweaks and mindset changes.
2) With an entire rebranding strategy covering, amongst other things: Leadership values; policy review; feedback and focus groups to test how all HR initiatives are understood and perceived; personalisation of benefit packages, training and development plans; D+I review; Celebration and reward strategies; a full communication review and plan etc.

Due to space, I’ll elaborate on point one. Point two is a thesis!

Step 1, Collaborate:
Create a team consisting of HR, Graphic Design, Marketing and Communications. This team will need access to all the initiatives, benefits, and content that HR have created and tried to communicate in the past. Access to any employee survey results, exit interview information pertaining to the reputation of HR and any internet feedback would be useful.

Using this content an authentic narrative about the department and its aims is created. The overarching narrative becomes a cohesive anchor.  Content and communications can be released which are placed within this narrative.

Authenticity is one of the most important factors in Humanising the HR Team. Your narrative must be true and along the lines of:
– Past: The journey to date and achievements so far.
– Present: Who we are and what we stand for.
– Future: What we want to achieve for the business.

Step 2, Imagery is everything
Visuals tell a more compelling story which our brains can interpret faster than the written word. Attention spans are getting shorter. Get visual and use engaging graphics that demonstrate what you do – telling the story quickly, simply, and emotionally.
Your graphic designer can help you. Using the narrative, they can design a range of icons, images etc for you to use on a variety of content. If you are a small company you can either make a small investment into freelancers or a lot can be achieved with creative tools like Canva.

Step 3, Put faces to the team:
The human factor is our competitive edge. I like to create “Human Org Charts”. These are visual representations of the HR Org chart. Using uniform, professional photos, with warm and engaging expressions. The team need to look approachable. Under each picture have a short bio. For example: “This is Steph. You can contact her for all payroll and benefits topics.”

Another way to put faces to the team is to have HR Clinics. You throw open the doors of the HR Team on set days of the year and invite questions, development chats etc. Brand it and promote it as part of the narrative.

The behaviours of the team must match the narrative. One rogue voice in the team will dilute the overall effect.

Step 4, Tone of voice
Human communication builds emotional connections. Creating a consistent, warm tone of voice for all HR Comms is an essential step in Humanising the HR Team.  Play with warmth and style until it feels authentic. This can be done effectively even with difficult communications like redundancies.

“Attention all employees: As we approach the end of the year, we want to remind everyone that all accrued holidays must be utilised before the year’s end. Any unused holidays will unfortunately be forfeited.”

“Dear Team, As the year draws to a close, we’d like to gently remind everyone of the importance of taking time off to rejuvenate and connect with family and friends. Hence, we encourage you to utilise your accrued holidays before the year’s end when unfortunately, they will expire. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication throughout the year.”

Look for interested employees who are willing to be a test group for the content you will be creating. They should feel empowered to give feedback on clarity of communication and authenticity of tone.

Step 5, Communication channels
Over communicate rather than under. Use all channels available and put the same communication out on each. Don’t fear video. A short, authentic communication on an iPhone or zoom recorded video can be effective. In one company, I created a concept called “Quick Comms” where any available Executive Team members would come together a create a 5 – 10-minute video focusing on one or two key messages each week. It was quick, casual, and very well received.

Step 6, Repeat, repeat, repeat
Don’t be offended, but no one remembers any HR content that they don’t need at the time of release. I was very proud of a fertility policy I had created and launched. Some time later an employee came to me unsure how to cope with impending treatment. Even though she had signed the policy on joining the company she had no recollection of it. If it had been communicated regularly, it could have saved her a lot of stress.

Consider a HR Communication strategy that regularly repeats policies, benefits, initiatives, and strategies at set points throughout the year.

Finally, authenticity is the only way to engage employees with the greater purpose of HR. If it looks and feels like a branding exercise it won’t land as intended. The combined values and purpose of each member of the HR Team is a powerful place to start and keep coming back to as you go on this journey.

About the author

Stephanie Brady is a HR Expert with a background in IT, Retail and Aviation industry since 2003. Experienced in the different stages of a company from growing a start-up to market leaders. Stephanie has honed her skills through hands-on experience in executive coaching and HR consulting. She has been asked to speak at many events and companies, often being asked back repeatedly. For example – Trinity College Business School, Bunzl Ltd, Laya Healthcare, Talint Leaders Connect and Disrupt HR.

Stephanie has won awards on behalf of her employers for Employer Branding and Creating the Best Workplace, also achieving a place on The Great Place to Work List a number of times.

Stephanie adopts a personalised approach to coaching and consulting, tailoring strategies to meet the unique needs and goals of each client. By combining proven methodologies with innovative techniques, she empowers individuals and organisations to overcome challenges, maximize performance, and drive sustainable growth.