People management issue: Role of HR in human resource branding

WITH the increasingly changing business environment, the need for companies to redefine and align their HR departments has become more compelling than before.

Robert Mandeya

Most human resource departments, the world over, have transformed from the usual day to day duties of recruitment, placement and worker supervision.

The HR department’s role inside the company is changing with the focus now on turning the HR department into a “business partner” for the company’s management. Its leaders are being gradually changed into project managers who are in charge of promoting the company’s employer brand.

What has prompted this paradigm shift has been the realisation that commercial advertisements on television and online channels like You Tube really do not attract or capture as much attention as previously envisaged.

The time when brands could sell their products strictly on the basis of the facts of the ingredients has long since gone. Consumers need more these days. They need to be courted and they need to feel like part of a community. People are no longer simply buying a product; they are buying the entire package. They are buying a dream.

Due to the pace of change in the economy (mergers and acquisitions, evolution of professions and techniques), as well as to an increase in employee disgruntlement, marketing the company’s brand has become a key-activity for the company’s management.

What is it that makes brands like, BMW, Apple, Google, IBM etc so popular? Is it the fact that they make superior products? Or is it simply due to them having understood something that other brands haven’t?

Much as it might sound crazy, the phenomenal growth of Google brand has got much to do with their heavy investment in the internal branding of its work force. The branding Google spends the most money on is its employer brand.

Simply put, Google made a decision early on in its existence: rather than spending money on getting a lot of customers; it spent money on getting the best employees, knowing the customers would follow. And that is the key to it becoming one of the most successful companies in the world.

Maintaining and developing the company’s employer brand and making it visible has become a major strategic goal for the company’s communication, both inside and outside. It is however imperative that the branding strategy should rely on a clear and attractive message that is supported by strong and true-to-life values.

In order to build up your employer brand and make it credible, it is important to set up a multi-disciplinary project team (managers and employees from the line, as well as marketing and salespeople) that will go through a few essential steps together. However, it is worth noting that the implementation of the branding strategy, as well as its control and monitoring process should be exclusively assigned to the HR department.

Building up your organisation’s branding strategy will require outlining a dual action plan that include external and internal HR marketing, a process of which must rely on a specific set of tools. More so building a universe around a brand demands a good insight into your core customer; an understanding of what triggers them and how to best create an emotional bond between the person and the brand. This requires conducting a field investigation.

People within the organisation must be clear of the company’s purpose of existence and this consist the ability to answer such key questions as “what are we doing here?” and “Whom do we actually work for?”. In most organisations there is a tendency of putting the share holder value a top priority such that it becomes an end itself rather than a means. This approach to business often results into a total loss in the understanding of the company’s purpose. Employees should regain the notion that what they are doing is meaningful.

Further in coming up with a mission statement companies should address key concerns such as “What are our long term goals?”, “How should these goals be reached and with whom?”, “How do we treat our people?”

The mission statement should serve as behaviour guidelines for everyone within the company. Its contents should also clearly state what differentiates the company from its competitors. Equally important in branding the employee is the writing of an organisation’s charter of ethics.

The writing of this statement should be undertaken with all the company’s stakeholders and it should reflect the reality on the ground. All too often, the writing of the corporate charter is entrusted to some overeducated management gurus, who have no connection to the company’s everyday life. This often results into a charter that is devoid of any meaning and with which nobody identify.

Test your branding strategy: the best target-public for this validation process consists in the company’s employees. It is thus essential to first introduce the diverse HR marketing projects and messages in the context of round table discussions. This approach shall also contribute to making clear to all employees what the HR Department’s role within the company actually is, and thus foster their adherence to the company’s branding strategy.

This process will be followed by the designing of the internal and external action plans of communication. It should be noted here that each communication plan should identify its target audience. It is therefore necessary to ensure that this public will not be flooded with irrelevant information. Marketing of the company’s employer brand within the organisation itself has become a very important issue.

Many convergent factors must be outlined. First of all, the nature of the employer-employees relationship has dramatically changed. Second, fierce competition is now forcing companies to increase their efforts in terms of internal communication and skills development programmes to unprecedented levels. Everyone is mobilised — independent of the position they occupy — to achieve the company’s goals.

Indeed the HR department’s role inside the company is changing. Its leaders are being gradually changed into project managers who are in charge of promoting the company’s employer brand.

Robert Mandeya is a training and communication in management advisor. Email: mandeyarobert@yahoo.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com.

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