Human Resources often uses its own jargon and can be a “language” of its own, especially in a sophisticated office with an entire HR department rather than just one person. As such, it is important to make sure any HR communication is as clear and specific as possible to reduce the chance of misunderstandings, especially in light of the recent pandemic. Here are two simple tactics HR can use to improve communications.

1. Use Plain Language.

When communicating with employees – especially in mass communications – try to phrase your message in plain English as much as possible. Employees may ignore long emails with long, run-on sentences in the passive voice. Of course, sometimes you may have to use legal terms of art, but otherwise, keeping it simple and short is best.

2. Be Specific.

Say what you mean. As a rule, HR employees have to be careful with their words but sometimes are visibly hesitant to share details even when there is no reason for secrecy. This leads either to employees ignoring generic messages or to them trying to find the “hidden meaning” behind the message. If HR is sending a message to everyone in the company, employees will assume someone has done something wrong. If HR’s message is too vague, employees may start to worry that they are part of the problem – even if they are not.

Example of HR Communication:

As an example, compare this sterile, nondescript email:

To All Employees: It has recently come to the attention of management that certain employees have been utilizing company technology for unauthorized purposes, including conducting non-company business. Personal use of business equipment is prohibited under Section 12.4 of the Employee Handbook.

To this example:

Company Smartphones for Business Use Only. We’ve learned that some employees use their work-issued cell phones to play app-based games, stream videos, and upload photos to personal social media. This personal use is prohibited because it uses up large amounts of data and can even lead to company liability.”

If employees read the first example, they will probably start making assumptions. Those assumptions may be entirely off the mark. One may wonder who got caught gambling, or worse, on the company computer. Another may worry that they’re about to be disciplined for occasional texts to their spouse that they’re running late at the office.

The second example is much more likely to stop the problematic behavior. And while you may not have to give a reason, it helps. If employees understand that these seemingly-small transgressions can add up to costly consequences for the company, they’ll be more likely to stop.

Contact Hackler Flynn and Associates for assistance with employee handbooks and any other employment law matters.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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