By Gloria Lombardi

“For me the primary driver of internal communications – and I’ll say this in an executive capacity – is the leadership commitment to make it work.”

Jay Kuhns is VP of Operations and Healthcare Strategy at Kinetix, an Atlanta-based recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firm operating primarily in North America. The firm also provides large organisations with HR research and consultancy. At the heart of what they do and how they operate is communication, especially “contemporary social media and digital tools.”

Leadership commitment

Talking with the employees of the various organisations he serves, Kuhns found that one of the main challenges today is making the different communication tools available work effectively together. Not least because it seems that staff have their own preferences in the way they like to be communicated with.

Kuhns believes that “it starts with leadership figuring out with their people – not deciding for them – what channels make more sense to use at any time.

“Employees have different expectations. As a leader, it is my responsibility to be attuned with their needs and ensure the most effective communications are in place.”

Communication is a shared responsibility

Kuhns is hardly alone in his thinking. Many employee engagement studies have chronicled plenty of data and examples on the key role of leadership communications and the growing focus on the importance of followership.

As Kuhns explains staff have to do their bit too. “Communication is a shared responsibility. Often there is a default criticism that the company does not communicate well with the workforce, but it’s more complicated than that. While leadership have to be engaging and ensure to understand their people, at the same time teams need to have the personal accountability to receive the information.”

He suggests making internal communications a priority. “State clearly in the job description of managers that being accountable for internal communications is part of their performance. It is required.”

Ultimately, it comes down to focusing on the right talent. “If your people cannot collaborate with their peers, it may be time to have a re-think about who should stay and who should leave. You need employees suitable to your culture to drive the business forward.”

Leadership communications in…

“We need to be sensitive to the fact that there are modern ways of communicating.”

As a leader Kuhns has completely redesigned the way he does business. “I experiment with and embrace the digital tools that have the potential to transform how we work and interact with each other.”

He likes to use Lync to message instantaneously with his team members. “It is very convenient and a good way to stay connected in real-time with front-line colleagues.” He also appreciates tools like Skype and Facetime, which offer “the tremendous value of face-to-face time without being in the same place. There are situations when seeing each other – despite working from different locations – becomes extremely important.”

He is currently contemplating the idea to implement an enterprise social network (ESN). “At present at Kinetix we are seeing massive growth. In the near future we will certainly have many more remote and dispersed workers. The challenge while growing is to maintain our unique start-up culture as well as our established sense of connectedness that we worked so hard to achieve. Adopting a tool like Yammer could be very helpful.”

… and out

But, in an increasingly connected and transparent world leaders are expected to be seen both internally and externally. Kuhns believes that social media is opening up the opportunity not only to tell the company story to the outside world, but also to reinforce the relationships with his staff.

“I like taking funny pictures of myself with my teams and posting them on Instagram. People may think that it is a waste of time. This is not how I view it. For me it is an opportunity to show that I care about my organisation and my colleagues. I talk about the amazing workplace I am working in.”

It is also a genuine way to demonstrate that leaders are humans too. “I like showing that I am real. I need to be serious when serious work needs to be done. Equally, I need to be able to laugh at myself. I’d rather be approachable and even goofy rather than be seen as intimidating.”

People in Kuhns’ position may not perceive this as a benefit, “but it is. For me, it is another way to connect with my teams beyond the official corporate information that is shared.”


There are other external channels that Kuhns uses to reinforce internal communications. “I have developed my own leadership blog called ‘No Excuses HR‘. This is the place where I share my knowledge and thoughts on HR, leadership and recruiting. But, I also use it to talk about Kinetix and promote the culture we have.”

That way, No Excuses HR has become another way for him to show that he is taking his job personally. “I believe so much in the company that I want to write about it on my blog.”

And, this approach works. His team members like following him, commenting and interacting with him through this channel. The same applies to other social networks where Kuhns is very active such as Twitter, Facebook, Swarm and LinkedIn.

“It doesn’t need to be just corporate channels that connect a leader with employees. Since I use social media all the time, my people know exactly what I am doing, where I am working from, and which clients I am meeting with.”

Indeed, the connection he keeps with his people is totally different from the more traditional communications. “But again, it depends on leadership’s style.” Also, the company needs to be really coordinated in how it communicates in and out. “There is a huge benefit in adopting those channels if the team is united.”

Social media for recruitment

It is fair to say that Kuhns’ passion for social media doesn’t come out of the blue. Indeed, for the recruitment industry it has become a primary business communications tool, something impossible to dismiss. LinkedIn for example has become an essential HR tool. “It has not the same level of drama of other social networks, which makes many professionals – even the most critical of social media – feel comfortable in investing their time on it. Hence, it is a great medium for researching and connecting with candidates, particularly the passive ones.”

However, Kuhns recognizes that “generating good content comes first. Then you use social channels to distribute that content. Just being active on social media doesn’t mean being productive.”

This philosophy is shared across Kinetix where the team responsible for communications uses a multifaceted approach. “We create video interviews, podcasts, articles and case studies about organisational life, employee engagement, work-related surveys and research, posts on work skills and individual expertise. Then we go out and share on digital tools to build a relationship with our audience – applicants, employees and corporations from all industries and locations.”

Indeed, Kuhns’ best practice lessons may be of help to other leaders who want to reap the representational benefits that come with effectively engaging stakeholders in the digital world.