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COMMUNICATION HATS: WHAT IS IT THAT DRIVES THE WAY PEOPLE COMMUNICATE?

A company (or, for that matter a large public or non-profit organization) is a collection of small towns within a bigger city. It has territories (office locations), governing officials (leadership teams), Laws (processes and procedures), citizens (law and non-law-abiding employees), and businessmen (investors and shareholders).

As internal communicators we are the glue that holds all these facets – aka hats that we all wear- within our organizations. When planning our campaigns, we need to think of which hats are we addressing at any time and what do we need them to do, know, feel as a result?

Let’s look at each of these hats and how we can see them as the key to engaging with those who “wear” them productively.

The Investor Hat

Investors are rational minded individuals who occasionally tend to make irrational decisions based on emotions and personalities of the person selling his/her idea. They have an undeniable attention to detail and like to know the whole picture and nothing but the whole picture of how the company is currently doing, where and what role would they as investors play in bringing this vision to life.

Employees tend to think like “investors” when they own shares or company share-based pension rights. To speak to employees who have their “Investor” hat on, your messages could be around the following:

  1. Business growth – How the business is scaling up and how this growth will have an impact on their roles; how they can play a specific role in moving the company in the agreed direction
  2. Data – Clear facts, numbers and priorities that showcase the benefits of specific actions or initiatives to the business. For example, if you are launching a large marketing campaign, say how much you are investing in the campaign and what this means from a sales point of view.

The Customer Hat

Employees may wear the “customer hat” either as people or to purchase or consume company products, or when they are expected to positively accept decisions the company is making.

To speak to employees who have their “Customer” hat on, your messages could be around these:

  1. Personalization – How the message will personally affect them and add value to their workload and life. Personalization is key for a customer
  2. Idea generalization – Asking for help to develop a product or a service. Customers have more ideas than you do. 
  3. Reward –  Demonstrating a clear reward for their work or their agreement. Humans love rewards as part of their competitive edge and survival

The Tribe Member Hat

Employees have a deep need to feel that they belong to a group, and this motivates them to connect with others who share values, stage of life, or some other core identity attribute. We trust the people in our tribe, aka team/business unit/ethnic group.

To speak to employees who have their “Tribe Member” hat on, your messages could be around these:

  1. Belonging –  As humans we need to relate to others through shared interests, lifestyles, and habits to have a strong sense of loyalty and commitment.
  2. Respected leaders –Tribes need leaders whom they respect and follow, these leaders will influence how they feel about the organisation and what role they play within it. In other wards it will instill pride within employees.
  3. Greater Good – This concept could be defined as an individual whose actions results in “the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals”. This is not going to  be achieved easily so it could be reduced to being aware of how the employees’  actions will affect others around them or the society as a whole

The Citizen Hat

Employees go above and beyond their daily tasks to become effective citizens of their organizations. As citizens, employees are curious, have more impersonal contentiousness, and are willing to forbear minor inconveniences without appeal or protest. For example, they offer lifts to their colleagues; they make sure their colleagues are okay if they are ill etc. These behaviours are not formally rewarded but they contribute to a high level of motivation and a sense of belonging with a team.

To speak to employees who have their “citizens” hat on, your messages could be around the following:

  1. Self Help – Helping them become better individuals who will have an impact on society and lead a fruitful life.
  2. Involvement – Involving them in governance and organizational changes that could affect their work will encourage them to support the decisions made.
  3. Celebrating success – Celebrate their good citizenship actions and behaviours and highlight them!

The Subordinate Hat

Subordinates want to feel valued and tested; they want to be trusted and given the freedom to explore, grow and learn on the job. Get this right and the organization will grow steadily and rapidly.

To speak to employees who have their “Subordinate” hat on, your messages could be around:

  1. Authority: reinforcing both the substance of a decision and the rightful power of the person or organization in making the decision
  2. Rationale: conveying both the logic of a decision and that other options were appropriately considered

The above are only some of the ways in which we can address each “Hat.” So next time when designing your campaigns and message banks think hard about which “Hat” you are addressing or keen to engage with because a “happy hat” will result in a happy company and a happy company will have a far more impact on society and economy than its competitors.

Gihan A.M. Hyde is the award winning CEO & Founder of Communique, a corporate communication social enterprise start-up specializing in clarifying and amplifying a company’s Purpose, its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and building communication departments for start-ups and Scale-Ups within the FinTech world.