Whenever I have worked with HR teams –be they top HR teams or teams of HR experts at business partner or centres of expertise level, we have often carried out a team SWOT analysis exercise and one of the key weaknesses regularly identified is “ We have a low profile in the business “. This is despite the fact that often HR professionals are doing great work that is really adding value and making a difference but they are often the “unsung heroes”. So why are HR teams ineffective at marketing themselves internally? And what should they do about it?
In answering the first question- it seems to me that often it is a confidence issue and HR does not wish to be seen “blowing its own trumpet” perhaps out of fear that if something goes wrong or something basic is overlooked that leads to a problem (“Tomorrow’s crisis is today’s routine that’s left undone”) then anything that has been advertised as a major initiative or achievement will be ridiculed or under-played by the line-therefore better we avoid that risk! Sometimes HR have suffered from a rather unfair label of “introverted extroverts” but the issue could also be to do with “siloed ways of working” in the business.
So how does HR build its brand?
They can start by consulting with marketing colleagues in the business who are used to building strategies to enhance the organisation brand in the external environment - focus on product, price, promotion, place may be relevant to HR and its contribution to the business- what are HR’s key services and their features? Where are these services basic value for money and where do they add value? What methods through internal communication will we use to promote them? How do we maximise these services according to their location? marketing professionals can help their HR colleagues define the benefits of their services to the organisation and its line managers. HR should act like a consultancy as if the future of your department depends on your service and marketing excellence.
From my corporate HR experience I have seen first-hand the value of HR collaborating and working in tandem with the marketing department for example in initiatives such as staff or company conferences which serve the following purposes:
• Clarifying the vision and direction of travel for the organisation’s employees
• Communicating crucial management messages
• Raising morale of staff in difficult times
• Building the team and increasing cross-department/cross-functional working
• Acting as a development forum
HR Professionals often work with their L and D counterparts to plan such events but by working alongside skilled marketers they also enhance the opportunity to make a real difference as marketing colleagues can bring visual energy and creativity in abundance to complement HR’s analytical abilities and strength in employee engagement.
If HR is to succeed in building a strong profile in the organisation it needs to show it can collaborate with other departments such as marketing and IT too where with the rapid advance of change in technological processes and the move to more automated workplaces in the future, unless it collaborates it could be replaced by another function.
What other strategies can HR adopt to build a strong HR brand?
• Always seek stakeholder views about the value of your service to them- Value is defined by the receiver
• Use an in-house logo or tagline that singles your function out from just being HR and ensure you have a strong electronic newsletter or brochure that uses non-HR jargon so it is relevant to all departments
• Above all be strong at Networking both inside and outside the business-offer to talk at conferences or Forums about your achievements and gather new perspectives from others and ensure your Linked-In profile is up to date sand impactful-working for you and your organisation.
• Finally don’t forget the hard data that demonstrates the direct impact of the HR function to business outcomes-this will not only raise HR’s profile but ensure managers and other stakeholders have access to the relevant information to make sound decisions for the future of your business.
The benefits to these approaches to some extent are self-evident but the main ones will be to ensure the sustainability of an HR function that means business as well as add to the business and continue to give satisfaction to HR professionals who strive to make a difference to people’s lives through the successful growth of their enterprises.