Lost in translation

This morning I received an email from someone I’ve never met asking for my help. Nothing new in that I hear you say. In fact I’m assuming I’ve never met them because there was no name attached to it. It came anonymously from an Australian recruitment company (who shall also remain nameless) and contained an advert telling me that they were “voted” number 1 in their class in the 2012 SEEK SARA awards and would very much like to repeat the feat in 2013 thank you very much. All I needed to do was click on a button and vote for them.

Why would I vote for them? I have no idea. My company hasn’t done any work with them in the last 12 months and I have no relationships with any of their consultants. And more importantly, they didn’t bother to tell me. All they are interested in telling me is that with my support “we can win again in 2013.”

I get two or three similar emails each year imploring me to vote for X recruiter in the SEEK awards. All this tells me is that the SEEK awards are a crock of you know what and nothing more than a popularity contest. Although this particular company were voted number one in their category last year, I have no idea why or what makes them different. So no, I won’t be voting for them thank you very much.

And this got me thinking. The subject of this week’s #NZLead discussion is all about employee communications and what they say about HR. This is a great topic!

I’ve often cringed in my career at some of the internal communications that have come from HR teams I have worked in that failed to engage the audience and/or failed to explain why something was happening and why this was a good thing for the company. All too often, we just focus on the end result i.e. “we are fabulous, vote for us” without ever thinking about what the audience need to know to get them into a position to want to vote. Or please adhere to our sexy new policy, or use our new performance management/learning/HRIS/applicant tracking system or fill in that dreaded survey.

As HR professionals, we really need to be better at internal communications and explaining why we are doing what we are doing and the business benefits. It’s like that old rule, if you can’t explain the benefit to the business in HR, you shouldn’t be doing it.

I’ve been critical recently of our very own HRINZ but am heartened to see they appear to be making a real effort to listen to their members and communicate and engage with people in different ways. They have taken feedback on board and are also focusing on the importance of the message and the context of it.

But back to our recruitment company. If I had been drafting an email like that to people I don’t know, it would have explained what the criteria are for being best in class and how my company meets those criteria. I would have explained in simple terms why I think my company is worth their vote, how we strive to be different and the quality of what we do. I would have thought long and hard about how we could personalise the experience for the audience and who exactly I wanted to target before I clicked “send all” to the client database. Or spray and pray I like to call it.

And if I couldn’t explain that in an email, I would be asking hard questions about why the hell we were even entered in the awards!

6 thoughts on “Lost in translation

  1. Rachel Walker says:


    Thank you for the recognition that HRINZ is working to respond to members needs and that it is appreciated. Watch this space!

  2. Huma Faruqui says:

    Hi Richard. First of all thank you for recognising HRINZ’s efforts to communicate and engage with it’s members. I recently joined the HRINZ Board and am really committed to engaging with members in more meaningful and powerful way, taking some of the lessons I have learned in my day job here at Z Energy and applying them in the HRINZ context. I received the exact same email you did and had very similar thoughts to you. From my work here at Z I am really clear that there is a difference between engaging and communicating with people and its the engaging that really matters.

  3. hrmannz says:

    Thanks Huma. It was good to read about all the new board members in the latest magazine and what they want to achieve/contribute. It was also good to get a better context of the HRINZ strategy. With the pace and volume of communications we receive these days and the way social media is shaping things, I personally have no patience for spam-like comms that don’t make an effort to explain or engage the reader. It’s a sad indictment on that company and does the recruitment profession no favours.

  4. Ains says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Many of those awards are a sham. In my team at Coke we introduced an HR Change Communicatioms role. It has been terrific to have an expert coaching our HR team in effective messaging and comms planning to ensure initiatives whether brand or change related land well and with the business front of mind.

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