A key principle of effective HR communication is this: The more you understand the people you're trying to reach—who they are and what they need—the better you can communicate in a way that captures attention and encourages action. Your first step in knowing your audience should be to analyze employee demographics, characteristics such as age, gender and tenure that influence attitudes and behavior. Doing so helps you avoid a common communication mistake: assuming every employee is just like you.

Here are four key demographics and examples of how to use them to communicate:

  You, a communicator or HR professional   Your average employee   Implication
Geography
Why it matters: Where a person lives and works influences how he or she experiences communication.
You're in company headquarters in a large city. Most employees don't work at headquarters, but at small offices, with eight to 10 people, located throughout North America. Managers are key to communicating every HR issue, since employees are likely to ask their managers questions.
 
Length of service
Why it matters: A stable employee population has a long memory, which can be both a positive (strong heritage) and a negative (lasting memory of something negative from years ago).
You've been with the company 12 years. The average employee has three years of service. Key issues need to be re-introduced on a regular basis, since institutional memory is low. Assume today is someone's first day.
 
Age
Why it matters: Generational differences influence the way employees think, behave and prefer to receive information.
You are in your mid-40s. The average employee is 28. Millennials have high expectations about communication: They expect it to be fast, easy to digest and candid.
 
Salary
Why it matters: This is especially important when communicating about any financially based plan, such as savings plans, retirement plans or stock-purchase plans.
You make $120,000/year. Most employees earn less than $55,000 a year, many are paid by the hour. Tailor communication to avoid "have" vs. "have not" perceptions; use examples that employees can relate to.

 

 

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