Today a major HR conference is taking place in London (#HRTechEurope) and twitter is alive with conversation about HR. From the first few tweets it was clear that the stereotypes of HR being out of touch, not about employee happiness and only useful for transactional stuff are alive and kicking. People have mentioned the need for a HR rebrand and it got me thinking about how HR could learn from successful brands and re-brands.
1. Pay attention to what the public says about you
This one is timely given the tweets today. As a HR person, you may feel what people are saying is unfair that HR is not like that anymore but if the stereotypes are pervasive (and all stereotypes are usually based on some truth) then maybe HR needs to start paying more attention to what people are saying about it and really acknowledge how people perceive it.
As the Noughties got underway, the public view of McDonalds became increasingly negative. Programmes like ‘Super Size Me’ helped increase awareness of the health implications of high fat foods which led to the public stating McDonalds was bad for your health and was not something you should be feeding your children. Sales were impacted as customers looked to other brands for healthier options. Mcdonalds listened to what the public, understood the impact and adapted its brand. They added healthier options, family oriented environments and added the McCafe brand. Despite the cynics, sales have increased as a result the public perception changed.
If McDonalds hadn’t listened to what the public was saying they wouldn’t have moved with the times. Listening to what people say about you gives you insight to how well you are providing your service and how you may need to adapt it.
2. Change your behaviour not just what you say
Human Resources has been here before. It has already rebranded itself changing from ‘personnel’ to HR and many names in between. However, changing what you call yourself or how you describe yourself does not automatically change how people perceive you, you have to change your behaviours.
Take BP for example, they spent a lot of time and energy getting people to associate their brand with being environmentally responsible. Their latest logo is designed to reference sun and nature and support their proposition that they are a company that is ‘beyond petroleum’ and socially and environmentally engaged. However, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill showed the world that their behaviour did not match what they said and the impact on their organisation, brand and more importantly the environment was catastrophic.
While this is an extreme example it does show how you have to actually change what you do alongside what you say you do. Saying you are a proactive, strategic HR person or team and then waiting for the organisation to come to you with issues does not match up and people will feel duped. To change how you are perceived you must change how you behave.
3. Be a leader not a follower
Successful brands lead the way in how they are received. Regardless of whether they already have a good product or service they are always looking for new ways to meet customer demands. The greatest brands even work to meet customer need before the customer has even realised they had a new need!
Brands like Microsoft. Most of us were happy with Window’s 7. Thought it met all of our needs and then along came Windows 8 and it has revolutionised how we interact with computers and do our day to day work. At first it was so new not everyone understood its need but now with touch screen laptops, I for one, wouldn’t be without it.
Great HR departments proactively work with the businesses to provide ideas and solutions before the business has even realised it has a new need. They find new and better ways to create great organisations through its people they don’t wait as they know if they do it may already be too late.
4. Create a consistently high performing product or service to meet customer expectations
Top brands consistently deliver a high quality service that meets their customer expectation. You can call yourself whatever you like or redesign your logo but if your product or service is variable or poor your company will not be successful no matter how strong the brand is.
This happened to Harley Davidson. Despite a enormously strong brand the company almost went bankrupt as the quality and reliability of their motorcycles did not meet their customer expectations. Harley Davidson worked hard to understand their own inefficiencies and were not afraid to make the necessary changes which resulted in a far better product and a huge globally recognised and respected brand.
If you and your HR team are not actively reviewing your service regularly against the expectation of your ‘customer’ then you may be providing a poor or even just an OK service and this will become how people perceive you. If you want a wow service then you need to be actively creating a consistently high quality service for your organisation and while uncomfortable, this will involved taking an honest look at what you are currently providing.
5. Create an unforgettable experience
In a world where the workplace is becoming increasingly complex and less linear, how a person experiences their organisation is key. Brands already recognise that how a customer experiences them is vitally important to success and it is increasingly relevant for HR. In a culmination of lots of the above points, HR customer experience, like brand experience, is it is about understanding; ‘what does HR offer me’, ‘does it do what it says it will do’ ‘does it respond to my needs’ and ‘does it care about my future’. Aiming to answer these questions positively is where brands start and is a great start for HR.
A great example is Apple. All of its products are designed around customer experience, from the actual products to the stores you see them in and the packaging you take them home in. As a brand it offers its customer a range of beautiful products that change to meet the needs and expectations of the market place and its consistent approach means you always know what to expect from the brand.
HR departments are part of every key experience for an employee from recruitment through to understanding how well you are progressing and then your lasting impression when you leave the company. This is an incredibly powerful position to be in within an organisation. Imagine how things could be if you actively considered HR as a brand and the experiences it wants to create?
Hopefully this gives a bit of food for thought around the HR re-brand debate. Would love to know your though