Workplace Communication Quotes: Lessons from Today’s Top HR and Internal Comms Leaders

Resources > Lessons from Leaders

Internal comms and HR pros share what they’re learning as they create the workplace of the future

By Rachel Kaplowitz, CEO of Honey

Today’s employee engagement leaders are working tirelessly to create the workplaces of tomorrow. They’re empowering managers and their teams, improving communication and collaboration, championing change — and inspiring the rest of the world to see things in a different way.

It is hard work. When you must convince those around you to think differently, to tweak how they do things, you’re going to meet resistance. To make a dent in colossal issues like diversity and inclusion or to build a passionate culture at an organization, you must hold a clear vision and a deep belief that what you’re doing really matters. This is what keeps us going at Honey, and we know it does for many of you, too.

That’s why we turned to some of the best people ops minds in the industry. We picked their brains for lessons they’ve learned, how they think communication will evolve, their advice on building a strong culture in the workplace, and more. Now we’re sharing with you a collection of their workplace communication quotes. Have a read, then download them and post them on the wall. Pass them along to colleagues, your boss, your best friend. Or just keep them in your desk drawer for when you need a reminder that you’re not alone in this important work. Here’s what they had to say.

Don’t lose sight of why you’re in this role — especially when it gets hard.

Even the best organizations have struggles. But remember why you’re in this role. Your words and encouragement create an important effect that your company needs.

Catherine Scallen, Head of People Ops at Jilt & SkyVerge: "Building a strong culture always requires the same two things: time and space. I've learned that my role is to create a structure that allows for time and space so the team can get to know each other as people. This means giving people reasonable workloads, letting them set their own hours, and making sure any system/process we use is as frictionless as possible. When people aren't drained from battling rigid schedules, overwhelming workloads, and outdated systems — they're far more inclined to spend time getting to know one another through video chats, random conversations in Slack, and in person at our annual retreat."

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Joey Konkel, Global Internal Communications & Employee Engagement Manager at Essence: “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my career is something my boss said to me a while back when I tripped up on some work-related initiatives. He said, ‘It’s the manner in which we recover that tells us more about who we are than anything else.’ It sticks with me forever.”

Be who you are (and don’t apologize for it).

Why do we try to cover up who we really are when we’re at work? Our co-workers are all human, too. Sharing the things that you’re really passionate about can lead to amazing opportunities. And you can pave the way for others to be themselves, too.

Sara Whitman, Chief People Officer at Hot Paper Lantern: “The best way to create a positive workplace culture is to cultivate empathy and compassion. We’re all humans. The sooner we can accept that truth, and the flaws of ourselves and others, the easier, more positive, and dare I say – fun – our work lives will be.”

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Isa Notermans, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Spotify: “In order to be inclusive and allow for every last team member to feel a sense of belonging, we have to allow our colleagues to feel it’s safe to uncover who they really are, and we all have to understand the part we ourselves play. Real change doesn’t come through big gestures from leaders; it comes from many small changes through the entire organization.”

Embrace technology’s growing role in workplace communication.

There’s no escaping the evolving role of technology in communication at work. But you must take care to choose the right tools.

Leah Ward, Chief of Staff at Teampay: “Employees want to collaborate in real time, bouncing ideas around and getting feedback quickly. Going back and forth over email can be frustrating and often slows teams down. As a result, we've already seen widespread adoption of real-time communication software, which enables productivity and agility. With an increasing number of software platforms, employees often struggle to find what they need and figure out where their workflows should live. In the future, we must reduce friction with solutions that meet employees where they are in a workflow, in their preferred mode of working. When we embed workflows within communication tools, we actually collaborate in real time, not just communicate.” [Do you have a Honey graphic with callout to insert here?]

But use technology to enhance human connection — not to remove it.

When you deal in people, yes, things can get messy. But there’s no escaping the value of real conversations, even as technology continues to streamline our communication at work.

Rachel Hirsch, Head of People Operations at CareDox: “When rolling something new out, bring your team along on a journey with you. Feedback and participation create buy-in and ultimately lead to compliance. Get out of the office. Grab a coffee or a walk one on one and take a break from the day to day to really see how someone is doing and to start to problem-solve hairy issues together.”

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Q Kuhns, Internal and Executive Communications at Stripe: “The keys will be interconnectivity and trust. Businesses getting started today expect to be global by default, and employees expect the same of company operations—it’s no surprise to see the evolution and proliferation of tools designed to shrink gaps between regions and different parts of the organization. The boundary between the internal and the external world is also growing increasingly permeable. Workplace communications flourish on a strong foundation of trust. What will a high-trust ecosystem look like in this increasingly interconnected world?”

Give feedback in a way that helps the other person.

Giving feedback can be scary. Managers often hide the criticism in compliments. Try, instead, to focus on the person in front of you and why it’s important for them to understand the feedback.

Adam Grant, Author and Advisor: “Giving a compliment sandwich might make the giver feel good, but it doesn’t help the receiver.” Kim Scott, Author of Radical Candor: “The purpose of praise is to help people know what to do more of, not just to make them feel good. Make sure your praise is kind, clear, specific, and sincere.”

Build a strong workplace culture with trust at the core.

Managers build strong, positive cultures at work by communicating trust in their team.

Emma Leeds Guidarelli, Interim Director of People at The Muse: “Workplace culture is not unlimited PTO, snacks, free lunches, or even fun company-wide and team events. A positive workplace culture is built when leaders have full trust in their team and allow them full autonomy over their work. A trusting work environment manifests itself in employees working on their own terms (perhaps with flexibility), in teams that can trust and rely on one another, and in employees who have achievable goals that they work hard to meet.”

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Maria Santacaterina, Sr. Recruiter & People Ops at productboard: “Companies exist in an ambiguous environment where you can't always see a clear path forward. Clarity is what will strengthen and move your culture towards a place of honesty, trust and transparency. As a leader, you must build avenues within your organization to allow your employees the freedom and space to ask for clarity from leadership and peers without reprimand.”

Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix: “Here’s what you want in your first 100 employees: the best talent you can afford, who work hard and believe. The belief part can actually outdo the other two. It’s more than passion. Passion is such an interpretive statement. People need to believe.”

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Let your employees contribute meaningfully.

Tap into your employees’ perspectives. Collaborate with them to move your business forward.

Haley Bryant, Vice President of Operations at Animalz: “Your best employees want to contribute meaningfully to the success of your company. Meaning isn’t created by doing a bunch of stuff that they’re told to do; it’s created through clearly explaining what is important and why and then inviting them to collaborate. If you think you are the smartest person in the room, you will fail because you won’t give people the opportunity to share their perspectives. Sharing and then refining their perspective requires conscious thought that helps them develop in the process. Collaboration creates a better end product and more purposeful work - their ideas matter and will help move the company forward. Culture is created through discussing why and growing through it, widening and adjusting your why as you learn.”

These workplace communication quotes show us one thing we all need — each other.

We rely on others in our organizations as we go about our day-to-day work. That’s how we get things done. But in the larger picture of people ops, we need each other, too. Whether we’re working to build culture at a startup or leading diversity and inclusion initiatives at a global company, we are all looking to create change for the better. What if we were to lean on each other, learn from our struggles, and rejoice in our wins together? We’ve packaged up these workplace communication quotes into a downloadable PDF that you can keep on hand. Get the PDF here. And then, go ahead and connect with a few of the inspiring folks mentioned above. I bet they would love to hear from you.

What is Honey?

Honey is a social intranet built especially for organizations that want to stay connected and help their people feel valued at work. We intentionally and thoughtfully slow down the rapid-fire pace of everyday communication, so each person can easily separate the things that actually matter from the chaotic, overwhelming noise. Talk to Honey today about how your company intranet can help you improve your workplace communication and build a culture of trust.