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Tips For Communicating Effectively with Your Staff

Tips for Communicating Effectively with Your Staff

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When you communicate with staff about your hospital’s commitment to professional wellbeing, you keep everyone informed and build trust.1 Your communication efforts will be more effective if you keep in mind these best practices:1

Plan your communication

  • Clarify your goal.
    Before you start writing, identify what you want to accomplish. What do you want the people who receive your messages to do or feel as a result?
    Do you want them to provide input on your professional wellbeing efforts? Should they feel reassured that change is coming? Or, do you want them to be comfortable in seeking mental health support when they need it?
  • Identify your audience.
    Sometimes you may be communicating with a very specific group of people, such as emergency room nurses or department administrators. In other cases, you may want to reach the entire staff at the same time.
    Specifying who you’re addressing means that you can speak in a way that resonates with them, avoid unfamiliar jargon, and make your points relevant to their needs. However, if your messages are intended for the entire workforce, write with that broader audience in mind.

Write your message

  • Keep it short.
    Just like you, your staff is busy and appreciates straightforward communication that is to the point, with clear takeaway messages. Develop materials for quick scanning and understanding.
    This means keeping communication short and to the point. For example, in emails, sentences should ideally have fewer than 20 words, and paragraphs should be kept to 3 to 5 sentences.1 Avoid including every detail but provide a way for them to learn more if they’d like. When possible, lead with the most important points at the beginning. Consider using bullet points.
  • Use clear language.
    The easier you can make it for your staff to read what you write, the more effective you will be in getting your points across. No need for fancy language. Shorter words and sentences mean faster processing, even for highly-educated people.
  • Use active, rather than passive voice.
    Make it clear who performed the action. For example, instead of: “Credentialing applications were revised to remove questions that were intrusive.”
    Say: “Hospital leadership revised the credentialing applications to remove intrusive questions.”
  • Speak directly to your audience.
    Make your communication feel more personal by addressing your audience as if they were in front of you. Speak directly to your audience and avoid abstract directives about “staff” or “people” in the third person when possible. Speaking as the collective “we” can also be effective, especially to create a communal mindset of shared responsibility.

Reflect and revise

Healthcare Professionals looking at paper communications

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  • Make your message valuable.
    If you want people to take action as a result of your communication, answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Why should they be interested in what you’re saying or asking them to do? Of course, it may be part of their job. But if you can increase their personal or professional interest, they’ll be more likely to take part.
  • Reduce the resistance to your message.
    Think about what might prevent your audience from paying attention to or acting on your messages. If you expect them to have specific concerns about the message, you can proactively address their potential objections, barriers, or likely questions.


  • Use design to aid understanding.
    Use font size and color to direct people’s eyes to the most important information in visual materials like signs, posters, and screensavers.
    Images can help grab attention and should support the key message. As much as possible, minimize large blocks of text, and format the layout for reading ease.

Share your message

  • Use the right channels at the right time.
    Use the communication channels (e.g., newsletters, signs/posters, department meetings) that will reach your audience where they spend time and are engaged. Consider the times and places where they will be most receptive and able to take action if appropriate to your goal.
    Frontline healthcare staff sometimes work multiple long shifts and may not have time to go through or focus on their email. While email is easy, different forms of communication may be more effective.
    Spread your message in multiple ways for the biggest impact. Your audience will likely need to see the message several times, in different formats, for it to sink in.
  • Facilitate a two-way flow of communication.
    Create systems and channels in your organization that enable a conversation with your staff rather than sharing a general broadcast. When they can ask questions, provide input, and share their experiences with hospital leadership, your workforce will feel included and valued – and ultimately help you make better-informed decisions.
  • Identify key messengers and peer leaders.
    Consider who your audience respects and considers leaders in their department or professional area. If possible, include messaging directly from them, or endorsed by them, to increase your message’s credibility. Social influence can also come from showing that many other people, especially co-workers or peers at other hospitals, are getting on board.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [2018]. Health communication playbook: Resources to help you create effective materials. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.