Ask the Expert: Patricia & Sonia - HR and Internal Communication

Discover the key to fostering strong company cultures as Patricia Ehrbar and Sonia Soutter discuss the vital connection between internal communication and HR in an this insightful interview.

July 31, 2023
Sophia Brandt
Customer Success Manager

Introducing: The two founders of Kraftplus GmbH, Sonia Soutter and Patricia Ehrbar. As sparring partners, the two accompany companies in transformation, cultural development and team building. Sonia Soutter, owner of the personnel agency Werbekraft GmbH, is an experienced HR specialist as well as a systemic coach and mediator with extensive experience in HR management and leadership. She has been advising agencies and SMEs in HR consulting and development for many years. Patricia Ehrbar, communication expert with a focus on change communication and internal communication. In addition to her licentiate in media and communication sciences, she has several years of experience in leadership and cultural development.

Both founders unite central aspects that belong together under the brand Kraftplus GmbH: In this edition of Ask the Expert, they shed light on the crucial relationship between internal communications and HR in promoting a strong corporate culture.

Sonia and Patricia, how do you relate to internal communication and HR?

As external sparring partners, we support SMEs in transformation, culture development and team building. Always with the goal of revitalizing corporate culture and retaining talent for the long term. In doing so, we focus on people and their experiences with the employer and adjust especially where unimagined potential lies: In the interaction between the areas of internal communication and HR. Team building, team development and positive employee experiences cannot succeed without internal communication, just as commitment and productivity are also based on this interaction between the areas.

What role do internal communication and HR play in culture development? Why is collaboration important?

The collaboration between the areas of (internal) communications and HR in companies is central to the implementation of a successful corporate culture and to getting employees excited about their own company in the longterm and attracting potential talent. If the two areas work closely together, i.e. with joint planning that is not only oriented to strategic focal points and central issues of the company and also includes the entire employee journey, unimagined potential can be exploited. Experiences can be created that ultimately impact engagement, employee satisfaction and productivity.

The focus on experiences in the work environment is more important than ever: fluent collaboration between the areas across the employee life cycle lays the foundation for ensuring that experiences with the employer are in harmony with the company's purpose, goals, values, and so on. But transformation and change also succeed more easily. Of course, IT also plays an important role here when it comes to collaboration, communication and automation. This is exactly why we always include all department heads in our work for an as-is analysis with regard to collaboration. Because if the interaction between the individual areas is successful, fertile ground can be created for a culture that involves employees, cultivates appreciation and empathy, and shapes sustainable corporate success.

Your target group is SMEs: What is your experience of how this collaboration works in companies?

In our work, we often find that HR development and internal communication do not even exist as individual (responsibility) areas in SMEs up to a certain size. And if they do exist internally, that these areas do not yet work together fluently. Through both of our many years of experience, which we were also able to experience as responsible in each of these areas, for us more than understandable: Day-to-day business, important strategic decisions, meetings with external parties - strengthening internal collaboration is often put on the back burner. Because there is no other way. Or the HR department is completely occupied with HR administration, and internal communication is handled on the sidelines by assistants or secretaries. As external sparring partners, it is easier for us to press the pause button and remember what everyone knows: that beyond any departmental boundaries, the most central and valuable asset is one's own employees. And that it is of central importance to engage, encourage, develop and build them up. This requires a shared employee strategy, a common thread that runs through the activities of the individual divisions and leads into storytelling. This means that recruiting, HR and communications already work closely together and the thread continues through onboarding, Welcome Day, etc. If this process is designed jointly, there is great potential for generating lasting enthusiasm among employees for the company - and it doesn't take much. Because every interaction with the (potential) employer reflects corporate strategy, culture and appreciation.

What does it mean for employees if the divisions do not work together internally?

(Potential) employees quickly become aware of how collaboration across departments works internally. This can be seen, for example, in the flow of information. This may be because no uniform channel is defined for internal information, no procedure is defined for knowledge transfer, or internal responsibilities with regard to internal communication are unclear. Furthermore, this can also manifest itself in the internal positioning of the executive board or management, which is coherent or inadequate in the context of the company. The whole area of talent management and team development is also affected if the areas do not work together. This can lead to employees not feeling supported and taken seriously. In transformation and change, the interaction is also central in order to proactively involve employees and enable feedback channels.

What do you think about the potential of AI in HR and internal communications?

AI has the potential to revolutionize internal communications and HR in companies. For example, AI can help communicate information faster and in a more targeted manner, whether through increased personalization of messages, automation and streamlining of repetitive tasks and HR processes. This can not only relieve employees, but also create free space and resources for strategic and social aspects, creativity, and the promotion of emotional and relational components incorporate culture. It is precisely this potential that we would like to exploit: In our work in SMEs, we therefore analyze tasks, competencies and responsibilities to determine where there is potential to use AI.

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