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The Conversation Technique you Need to Know in HR

If you are working in Human Resources (HR), it is likely that you will encounter problems to solve. 

You may hear things like...

  • “I want to report workplace bullying.”
  • “I’m not happy with how my supervisor treats me.”
  • “One of my team members is behaving poorly.”
  • “I need to take time off but don’t have enough leave.”
  • “One of my colleagues makes racist comments.”
When you encounter problems like this, how do you respond? 

Whatever your response, you want it to add value right? Not knowing how to respond, spending too long discussing the problem or not explaining your recommendation well enough can happen. 

What about when you communicate a problem to your supervisor or team?

  • Do you communicate this information accurately? 
  • Does your supervisor and team receive the relevant facts of the problem?
  • Do you feel equipped to solve it? 
Imagine your supervisor asks you a question regarding a problem that you are dealing with and you cannot answer. For example, “What are the specific incidents the person being bullied has faced?”.

“Why did I not find that out when I spoke to the person with the problem?”, you say to yourself, wishing that time machines were a thing!

If you are reading this blog, go you! You will avoid awkward situations, lots of frustration and time machines will not be required. You will:

  • Add value
  • Be calm and collected
  • Effectively solve problems
  • Communicate clearly.
Sounds desirable, right?

Your HR buddies will be asking you what your secret is (and this blog has the goods!).

Have you ever wondered why doctors or medical emergency staff sound so professional, concise and effective in how they communicate?

Well, it could be because they are utilising their secret weapon, the SBAR technique. This technique originated from the US Navy and was adapted to be used in healthcare (ACT Academy, n.d.). It means business.

The SBAR technique:

  • Is a simple and memorable framework for any conversation, specifically requiring immediate attention and action (Institute for Healthcare Improvement, n.d.). 
  • Enables information to be collected with a valuable level of detail (ACT Academy, n.d.). 
  • Enables a structured form of communication that results in information being transferred accurately between individuals (ACT Academy, n.d.). 
Simply, it helps you listen and communicate like a pro. 

SBAR is an acronym for: 

(S) Situation: ‘A concise statement of the problem.’ 
(B) Background: ‘Pertinent and brief information related to the situation.’
(A) Assessment: ‘Analysis and considerations of options — what you found/think.’
(R) Recommendation: ‘Action requested/recommended — what you want.’

(Institute for Healthcare Improvement, n.d.).

Let us look at how you can make this technique your secret weapon. It is time to level up!

1. Situation—A concise statement of the problem

Firstly, you need to identify the specific situation/problem. This includes:

  • Who the person with the problem is
  • What the concern is.
Here is an example of the information that you would collect and communicate: 

“I received a call from Brendan Smith in the Tech team [who the person is]. He called because he’s concerned about bullying within his team. Natalie Johns has been making offensive remarks about another team member, Jess Jenson. This is occurring in team meetings [what the concern is].”

2. Background—Pertinent and brief information related to the situation

Next, background information about the situation and the people involved should be collected. 

Here is an example of the information that you would collect and communicate:

“This is the first time that Brendan has contacted us about this matter. Natalie Johns received a warning for bullying last November. The bullying was directed towards Jess Jenson.”

3. Assessment: Analysis and considerations of options—what you found/think

At this stage, you provide your professional assessment of the situation.

Here is an example of the information that you would collect and communicate:

“As Natalie has already received a warning for bullying Jess, I think that we need to conduct a formal meeting with the HR manager and myself to come up with a way forward.”

4. Recommendation: Action requested/recommended—what you want

Lastly, provide your recommendation for the situation. This is what you would like to happen in response to it. 

Here is an example of the information that you would collect and communicate:

“Are you happy for me to organise a meeting this week to investigate this further?”

If you would like to improve your skills in this space, this is a relatively easy and effective technique to adopt. It is really about building confidence in using it so it becomes natural and a habit. Experiment and practice with it to achieve confidence.

Think of problems that you encounter in your role and play out how the conversations would sound using the SBAR technique. You could even practice this technique with a colleague, family member or friend. Trust us when we tell you that it becomes easier over time.

A special shout-out to Brandy Rhodes (an instructional designer and nurse practitioner), who inspired our team to learn about the SBAR technique. If you would like to hear more from Brandy, check out our conversation with her here (she is a legend!).

To find out more, please do not hesitate to contact our passionate founder Kim via or by connecting with her on LinkedIn.


ACT Academy. (n.d.). SBAR communication tool – situation, background, assessment, recommendation [PDF file]. Retrieved from

Institute for Healthcare Improvement. (n.d.). SBAR Tool: Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation. Retrieved from

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