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HR Meets PR: Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Employee Experience

HR Meets PR

In the era of social media and instant information dissemination, the once-private realm of Human Resources (HR) has become increasingly public. From employees being laid off to live firings on TikTok garnering millions of views, companies like Zoom, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs ordering a return to the office, to workers sharing their onboarding experiences with the world, HR is now operating in a glass box.


Employee Activism: A Powerful Force in Public Perception


One of the notable shifts in recent times is the rise of employees as activists. They are no longer confined to raising their voices within the organizational channels; instead, they are more comfortable sharing sensitive information publicly. This change has far-reaching consequences for HR professionals who must now grapple with managing public perception as a core part of their responsibilities.


Impact on Public Opinion: Discontent with internal policies is now shared more openly, often making headlines without considering the internal context or communication to employees. Take the protests at Google, where workers not only raised concerns about layoffs but also protested against union busting and nearly canceled drag shows. These incidents, regardless of the internal context, significantly shape public opinion.


Collaboration between HR and PR: As moral and social issues increasingly demand organizational responses, HR needs to collaborate closely with marketing to develop a robust PR strategy. This strategy becomes essential for influencing and controlling the narrative in the public domain, where employees themselves are acting as activists and sharing information that was once considered strictly internal.


HR's Emerging Role in Public Relations: A Paradigm Shift


Traditionally, the court of public opinion was battled between PR and marketing departments. However, with the increasing public visibility of HR-related matters, the responsibility is shifting towards HR professionals. It's no longer just about managing internal policies but actively monitoring and shaping employer brand perceptions online.


Proactive Monitoring: Being prepared entails actively monitoring employer brand perceptions online and having preemptive responses for potential PR issues. This shift in responsibility offers an opportunity for companies to strengthen their employer brand through authentic employee testimonials, glimpses of company culture, and showcasing innovative HR initiatives.


Aligning Messaging with Values: Crafting a successful PR approach in HR means aligning messaging with core company values. The message should resonate with employees, fostering a sense of belonging across both internal and external communication channels. This alignment becomes crucial in a landscape where every communication has the potential to become public.


Transparent HR Policies: A Strategic Asset in the New Landscape


Transparent and fair HR policies are poised to become a strategic asset in this new landscape. Companies are now required to go beyond merely aligning with regulatory requirements. They must actively manage public expectations, communicate clearly, and deliver on their employee promise.


Social Media Policies: Internal policies, particularly those related to social media, play a pivotal role. Despite 86% of Canadian employers being willing to fire an employee based on an inappropriate post, only 21% have a professional social media etiquette policy. Including this policy in employee onboarding helps set expectations upfront.


HR Action: Delivering on the Employee Promise


In this changing landscape, transparent and fair HR policies are not just about meeting regulatory requirements. They are about actively managing public expectations, communicating clearly, and ultimately delivering on the employee promise.


Open Communication and Conflict Resolution: Building a culture where disagreements can be expressed and swiftly resolved inside the organization is essential. This proactive approach helps prevent issues from escalating and becoming public disputes.


Drafting Internal Communications: HR professionals must also approach internal communications with the understanding that they could become public. This necessitates a thoughtful approach, especially in sensitive matters such as layoff notices.


Training HR Teams in PR Tactics: A Crucial Investment


Investing in training HR teams in PR tactics is more important than ever. Such structured guidance equips HR professionals not only to handle potential PR crises but also to manage the company's image more proactively.


Preparation for PR Crises: HR professionals who are unable to bridge the gap between internal culture and public perception risk becoming the news for all the wrong reasons. Training in PR tactics prepares them to navigate crises and manage the company's image effectively.


Conclusion: The Integral Role of HR in Shaping Public Perception


In conclusion, HR's role is evolving from a predominantly internal focus to a critical player in shaping public perception. The consequences of failing to bridge the gap between internal culture and public image are significant. As employees become more vocal and issues are aired publicly, HR professionals must adapt by proactively managing public perception, aligning messaging with company values, and investing in the necessary training.


The future demands a strategic approach from HR – one that not only meets regulatory requirements but actively contributes to building a positive employer brand. In the dynamic intersection of HR and PR, success lies in fostering open communication, managing conflicts internally, and being prepared to handle external challenges with finesse.

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