I can hear you from here:
Another provocative article’s title. Nothing new under the summer sun.
Well, this time more than usual, it is the entire and sad truth:
Your Human Resources department may very well be your brand’s worst enemy; and therefore your company’s nastiest nemesis.
Think about it.
Your Marketing department is having you increase their communication budget year on year.
They need your firm to communicate more, to a larger audience, to be everywhere - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, your own company’s blog, … just name it!
And whatever will come up next, they will want to be there.
And it is their job to do so.
And let’s don’t forget – if your company is big enough – you will eventually need these evangelists whose duty is to promote your firm without being (at least officially) on your payroll.
Sooner or later, if you don’t have one yet, Marketing will come beg you for at least one evangelist per key market segment!
Another expensive tool – but effective, I must say.
So Marketing is working hard – and expensively: they don’t act cheap – to promote your brand to an ever increasing audience so to allow you to reach new markets and improve your penetration indexes.
To achieve their goals, they work with almost all departments of your company, from Sales to Operations, Finance or Training.
So all is good.
Unfortunately, all is not.
There is one department that remains traditionally far away from branding and marketing activities:
The Human Resources department.
Some – the much too rare most active - may have developed their ‘own’ branding that takes some key elements of the company’s main brand. But still, it is their own Human Resources branding.
Not the company’s branding.
And this is where the problem resides.
Let’s look at any employee’s journey.
Everything starts with hiring.
What is the traditional hiring process?
The company needs a new employee; Human Resources (HR) advertise their need online through the company’s own Web site, dedicated portals, local newspapers, head-hunters, etc. explaining how great the company is and what the job is about.
Candidates sent their CVs (resumes) and the lucky ones get an interview.
And this is when all goes wrong.
The recruitment process is everything but a branding activity – for the company I mean; it is for the candidate who’s supposed to brand itself in the best possible way to have a chance to be hired:
Except for a lonely logo here and there on some official HR documents, the average company presents itself more like an inquisitor than to try to ‘sell’ itself to the candidate.
“We are talking about a job here, a position to fill, we are not selling anything!” I can hear you (again) saying.
This is where the average recruiter is wrong:
Filling up a position is first and foremost selling the company – regardless of your local and national unemployment rate.
The candidate you are hiring will be in contact with your various stakeholders (e.g. clients, suppliers, local authorities) and therefore will represent – brand – your company to their contacts.
They are key to your positive image.
They make your story telling alive… or they kill it.
Human Resources forget much too easily the following rules:
As much as a professional Marketing department insists in continuously increasing their audience, Human Resources wants to improve employees’ loyalty and satisfaction, while ensuring that all employees-related policies are implemented.
Their own way.
Human Resources never consider employees as anything else than that: workers (not even as people, as we discussed previously).
Let’s carry on with the employee’s journey in your average company.
So the candidate is hired.
They first get, in best of cases, their induction; but this step is often overlooked, being seen as time consuming – not to say waste of time - and expensive.
Most company’s induction aims at familiarizing the new employee with firm’s policies (through the Employee’s Book – or whatever you may call it), their department, maybe the products or services you are selling.
Almost never, or indirectly through the Employee’s Book design, do they learn about the brand.
Another good opportunity to promote your brand missed!
And now we get to the daily routine.
The worker works.
The employee is employed.
Human Resources ensures that they receive their dues (salaries, benefits, …) and that they follow company’s rules; if not they are punished (warning notices, financial penalties, …).
In other words, the HR department acts like a severe but fair - let’s hope so - ruler.
The department that represents the company more than any other to the eyes of your employees does not represent the brand – and again, if it tries, it is using its own communication grammar.
Your company’s core brand does not exist in Human Resources.
Therefore, it does not exist in your employees’ life and daily routine.
Now you see why you have a problem.
Read, listen to, watch your official brand’ communication, and now look at how it translates in real life:
Two different if not opposite worlds.
The care and attention you spend so much money to communicate exists only with those employees who are ready to walk the extra mile because they have their own reasons to do so.
It doesn’t exist with the essential of your workforce.
Unfortunately, the ‘extra mile’, the care and attention your Marketing department is promoting so strongly should be the day to day routine of each and every one of your employees.
But it is not, and your Human Resources department is the main responsible:
Rank and file employees (the greatest part of your workforce) never meet personally the brand; only management do.
How do you expect them to represent it, to be it?
To make the brand part of everyone’s life in the company, the Human Resources department should not be a world by itself, far from operational – and therefore marketing – activities.
As much as the employees are the center of your company, Human Resources should be its nucleus around which every other department revolves.
Human resources should be the heart of branding – again, Google is the perfect example to follow in that matter.
“Employees are more than brand ambassadors; they’re promise keepers. They’re the ones who have to bring to life the promises we make in our content programs, lead-nurturing campaigns, PR efforts, and the brand storytelling efforts we distribute through all marketing channels,” said Carla Johnson, Vice President of Thought Leadership for the Business Marketing Association.
Ask yourself this question:
Why would you do business with a company (or even your street corner shop) if you feel and see that their employees don’t believe in that company’s promises or even care about it?!
If they cannot demonstrate that their products / services are better than their competitors’ (regardless if it is true or not) – or at least show that they believe in it even if they cannot argument it (not everyone is a born-speaker after all) -, why should you bring them your business?
It is more than time to change our perception and duties of the Human Resources department.
It is more than time to change the Human Resources department.
Are they ready to change?
In most cases, I doubt it.
We need the same (r)evolution we saw decades ago when the Personnel Department became the Human Resources Department.
How do they call it at Google again?
It says it all.
Do you think that it is feasible to 'google-ise' the average Human Resources department?