Guest blog: HR Communications for the Christmas Season

Employer News Editor & HR Writer Lisa Baker shares her thoughts on HR Communications over the Christmas Season.

I can almost hear the sighs – another ‘how to manage staff at Christmas’ post... don’t worry, as an HR Magazine Editor who’s read her fair share of them, I’m going to assume that every HR Manager knows far more than me about the policies employers need in place at Christmas. 

For me, it’s how HR communicate Christmas policies that is important - and that’s something that communications experts like PRinHR can help with.

The quiet PR from employees

When standing in the lunch queue for my sandwich, overhearing employee conversations, I think it’s fair to say some companies definitely need to work on their communications.

Staff have no problem communicating with each other.  Listening to workers chatting in our local sandwich bar is quite revealing:

“Sue was so drunk at the works do, the bar threw her out. She was sick everywhere, the venue wasn’t very happy but I don’t think any of the other managers said anything to her. If that was us, we’d be fired.  We all know she’s the favourite at (employer name).”

 “I’m still waiting to hear if (naming employer) need us to work over Christmas. It’s disgusting they haven’t told us yet.”

It’s hard to silence staff no matter what gagging policies you put in place – but who knows who will overhear these negative experiences in the lunch queue…. competitors, senior management, journalists? 

Happy employees = better PR

Overheard whispers can be bad for your PR – but what if the same stories were conveyed differently?

“One of our bosses was really drunk, she’ll have to see HR today – (company name) don’t tolerate that kind of behaviour from anyone.”

“Our HR are great, they let me know about holiday straight away. I’ve only got to work the one day over the shutdown – we’re all taking a turn.” 

Here, the situations are similar, only the staff perception is very different - and perceptions of an employer are formed by how effectively HR communicates with employees. 

Whether outlining the behaviour expected at a Christmas party or sharing annual leave policies, getting staff to feel positive about their employer is often as simple as communicating with employees in a way that earns their trust.

How to communicate Christmas HR policies

Communication is two way, so before you write a long memo about your HR Christmas policies, and the sanctions that will apply to the drunk and disorderly at this year’s Christmas party, take a minute to really think about what matters to employees. Communicate with empathy for the things that matter to them, and you will find they respond positively. 

Certain things matter to the majority of employees.  Annual leave matters.  Fairness matters.  Wages matter – and for many, Christmas matters.  When communicating on issues that matter, HR communications need to be timely, clear and demonstrably fair.

HR - the Employee’s Champion in the Boardroom

HR can take the lead by being the employee’s champion in the boardroom. Encourage leaders to sort out Christmas working and annual leave policies as early as possible – then communicate the arrangements clearly to staff as soon as you can, so they have sufficient notice to plan their Christmas.

It’s also important to be fair when making annual leave decisions. If a dispute or leave clash arises, be prepared to listen to both sides before communicating your decision. 

Remind Line Managers to look for non-verbal clues and vulnerable employees

It’s also important to listen to what’s NOT being said at this time of year, because silence can speak volumes.  Christmas is not a happy time for everyone, especially those suffering from depression or who have recently suffered a significant bereavement or separation. 

As the head of trusted communications, HR can take the lead and remind line managers to keep an eye out for vulnerable employees who may need extra support over the Christmas season.

Make HR benefits communication work for you

If your benefits package includes mental health support or telephone counselling (check the small print), then communicate this as an important benefit, not a chore.  An advice line can be open when you are closed.

Don’t just hand out a small-print leaflet from your benefits provider, listing all the benefits and add-ons. They often sit unread, allowing services that you pay for to go unused. 

Discuss these add-on benefits with line managers, encouraging them to signpost staff to appropriate services, and make the package work for you.

Consider HR Communications Training

No matter how busy HR are at this time of year, effective communication skills are key to keeping morale high - and training from PRinHR has helped many HR Managers achieve exactly that. 

PRinHR are now taking bookings for their HR communications workshops in January - if you’d like to improve your communication skills, I am happy to recommend them.

About the author

Lisa Baker is the Founder and Editor of Employer News, and the former founder of HR News. Lisa is also the owner of Need to See IT Publishing.

Kay Phelps