Working as a communication consultant at Davis & Company, I am often reminded of when I was a personal trainer. You’re probably thinking, “Dave, you’re crazy! Fitness and communication have nothing in common.” While I can understand why you might think that, I promise I am not crazy (at least not yet).

When I was a trainer, my clients came to me for help to reach their fitness goals. Most told me that they tried several different approaches, but nothing worked.

When I dug deeper to figure out what went wrong, I often found the problem was the same: my clients went right to exercising, without taking time to think about their goals or which exercises would work best. For example, you don’t want to focus on squats if your goal is to tone your arms.

Our clients often make a similar mistake when communicating HR information to employees—diving right into creating communication without having a plan. The problem is that not every internal communication tactic will work to effectively get your message across.

For example, you don’t want to send an email when sharing detailed information about benefits—employees will just become frustrated. So, how can you effectively communicate HR information to employees? Follow these five steps:

Step 1: Evaluate the current state
To help my personal training clients reach their goals, I first assessed their current body composition. This gave me a starting point, so I could create an approach and accurately measure progress along the way.

The same goes for HR communication. Before you share information with employees, you need to evaluate the current state of HR communication to learn what is working. This information will also give you baseline data to use later on.

A quick survey is a great way to get the answers you need. Some questions you can ask are:

  • How well do you understand the current benefits program?
  • What benefits are valuable to you?
  • How do you prefer to receive HR communication?
  • Is there anything we could do to improve HR communication?

Step 2: Develop objectives
After assessing my fitness clients, I developed realistic objectives to help them achieve desired results. For example, I wanted my clients to:

  • Understand the time requirements needed
  • Believe in the process
  • Participate in high-intensity training

Similarly, when communicating HR topics, create objectives to help you stay on track. Think about your desired outcomes and what you want employees to know, believe and do as a result of your communication. For example, you might want employees to:

  • Know the changes to the company health care plan
  • Believe the company profit sharing program will help them save for retirement
  • Complete enrollment forms on time

Step 3: Create a plan
Once goals were set, I created a workout plan to keep my clients on track and ensure they did everything needed to achieve desired results. Each plan consisted of:

  • Tailored workouts to fit my clients’ preferences
  • Exercises to address their target areas
  • Specific instructions on workout frequency and rest days

When communicating HR topics, you’ll also need a plan to manage your efforts and ensure employees receive the information they need. When creating your plan, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience and what do they need from HR communication?
  • What strategies will support your big picture goal?
  • When and how often will you need to communicate?

You’ll also need to decide which internal communication channel to use. Here are some scenarios to help you decide:

You want to: Use this tool Why it works
Help employees choose the health care plan that’s right for them Printed brochure For employees to choose wisely, they need time to weigh their options. A brochure provides tables that compare features of different plans, example profiles and an easy way to share information with a spouse or partner.
Answer employees’ questions about a complicated topic, such as a new prescription drug plan Social media An online chat with a benefits expert provides real-time answers from a professional.
Get manufacturing employees to participate in voluntary benefits Electronic displays Since manufacturing employees are rarely sitting at a computer, utilize workplace communication to get them involved.
Help new employees learn about an important initiative Online learning module Learning modules allow you to have a little fun with what is often dry material. Create a memorable character that employees can relate to and they will be more likely to remember it.

Step 4: Identify communication trainers
As my fitness clients advanced to more complex workout programs, I scheduled time with them to review proper form for new exercises. This meeting provided an opportunity to answer questions and address concerns that my clients had.

Similarly, with more complicated HR information (like benefits), employees will have many questions and concerns. So it’s best to identify individuals who can act as communication “personal trainers,” to ensure employees’ questions are answered.

Hold a face-to-face meeting with your communication trainers to review information in detail. This way they have the knowledge needed to communicate with employees. You can also provide tools—like frequently asked questions—for communication trainers to reference.

Step 5: Put in the work
This was the stage when my clients had to do their part. While I couldn’t force them to perform the training program, I included “action” words in my instructions like:

  • Perform
  • Complete
  • Make sure to…

The same concept can be applied when communicating HR topics. You can’t force your employees to complete forms on time or enroll in voluntary benefits. However, you can use action-oriented phrases in your communication to spark some movement. Try phrases like:

  • Act now
  • Don’t forget
  • Don’t miss out
  • Here’s how to…

Now that you know these five steps to successfully communicating HR topics, I am confident I’ve proven to you that I’m not crazy and that fitness and communication have some things in common.

Take my advice and apply these steps the next time you need to communicate HR information. I promise it will make everything easier on you and most importantly, on employees!

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