“How is your HR department?”
What answers come to mind when you ask people about their company’s HR department? People’s instinctive response may be that the department is excellent with a thumbs up or rolling their eyes with a “you know, they are HR people” type of stereotype. As you probe, more information surfaces, such as whether the department is knowledgeable or unequipped, strategic or bureaucratic, agile or old school, etc. These answers reflect people’s perception of a company’s important function - the Human Resources department. Today, as businesses navigate the changing economic and labour landscape, and seek ways to maximize the value that employees provide, the role of the HR department becomes more crucial than ever. This calls for an important question: What does your HR organization stand for?
The HR department, like any other support department, although is a functional section of a given organization, should run just like an organization: with a plan, budget, resources and an operating model.
Branding a department is no different than branding a product or service. First, branding the HR department starts with defining its purpose.
In a given organization, the HR department’s brand is to support the overall business brand. We are not unfamiliar with those HR departments that re-branded their name from “Personnel Department” to “Human Capital Area” or “People’s Team.” We’ve also seen HR position titles shifted from “Personnel Officer” to “HR Business Partner” or “Chief People Officer.” These changes reflect the HR department’s desire to evolve and align with the current business needs as a strategic partner. For businesses that compete for innovation and speed, the HR department’s strategic plan must center around supplying the companies with staff and people management programs to promote efficiency and creativity. For organizations that focus on communities’ well-being, the HR department’s purpose is to foster a humanity culture and hire outcome-driven individuals who truly understand communities' challenges and can deliver services with empathy.
Second, designing a compelling brand comes from understanding its customers.
Having clear answers to the question of “What do our customers expect from us?” should give the department a precise understanding of the brand identity it wants to establish. HR’s customers include internal customers such as leaders, line managers and staff, and external customers such as job candidates, contractors, industry partners, and other stakeholders. For internal customers, the HR department supplies them with the needed talent-related support. Consulting with internal clients and regularly collaborating helps the HR department grasp their needs. For external customers, HR representatives can be their first point of contact with the organization. Their experience with the HR folks determines their perception of the company.
Third, designing a compelling brand comes from understanding the external market.
No businesses exist in a closed environment. Trends, technologies, competitions, labour market and legal changes all shape how we run an HR organization. The continuous environmental scanning will help identify the market needs and changes. Making timely adjustments to the people management programs will put the HR organization above the industry peers, providing the entire business with a competitive advantage.
Finally, the HR department needs to operate with a suitable model and people to support its established brand.
The proper operation blueprint derives from designing metrics that direct performance and encourage the right behaviour that the HR brand wants to construct. A strong HR department brand attracts like-minded HR professionals to join the team, thus, creating a productive departmental culture. These individuals carry similar values and are empowered to serve the overall business mission through people management programs.
Clearly outlining the HR department’s brand will strengthen the corporate culture and enable the organization’s advancement in the market. It will also improve the business's overall brand. Having all the departmental branding infrastructure in place is only a start. Educating and communicating the brand's value to current and potential customers will take diligence and ongoing effort.
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