HR is typically seen as the ‘cost centre’ of a company’s activities. While Marketing might command as much as 30% of a company’s internal expenditure, Human Resource Departments routinely operate on as little as 1% of budgets. Yet is this practice just a little… misguided?
This post has a look at one key contribution HR makes – or can make – to you company, that is often overlooked. Namely: how HR contributes to the strength of a company’s brand.
What does HR have to do with your company’s brand?
The traditional approach within HR is that the HR Department’s link to a company’s brand is largely made through resourcing and recruitment. Specifically, the people it hires and the number of those that then become ‘brand ambassadors’.
But hiring only gets you so far. Purely depending on who you get to join a company is a one-dimensional and quite simplistic ‘strategy’ – if it can even be called that – when the big difference is really not who a company hires, but who and how it engages its people to contribute to its brand strategy. If you have a disengaged workforce, no matter how many stars you hire, they will eventually ‘revert to the mean’ – everyone will be equally disengaged.
This is a subtle difference. It starts with the concept of Engagement.
Engagement is what makes or breaks a brand…
Ask any marketer to choose their greatest brands, and then ask the reason behind the brands’ success, and you will almost always get one answer: engagement.
Apple at its zenith will be remembered for innovation – yes. But in terms of leveraging the brand, it was all about achieving amazing customer engagement at every touchpoint, human and technological. Few know or respect that this was a deliberate strategy pursued by Steve Jobs.
Disney is similar. The brand has been created and enhanced through engagement. And, in the UK, ‘stuffy old’ John Lewis has achieved similar results.
And, as marketers will often tell you, creating this engagement will often lead to diametrically enhanced results that flow through to the bottom line – this explains why brands themselves are so valuable as ‘intangible’ items on a company’s balance sheet.
But what has all this got to do with HR…?
HR’s role in brand building
If your company depends on ‘intangibles’ to build its brand or drive its marketing strategy, then HR has a key role in brand building. Have a look at the ‘HR Brand Pyramid’ below…
The HR Brand Pyramid explains Brand Architecture from a customer’s (‘Outside-In’ perspective). As you can see, Brand sits on top of the pyramid.
But, like a capstone on that pyramid, Brand needs support. It can’t do everything by itself. And that most obvious support comes from Customer Engagement. How much do your customers Say, Stay and Spend with your company? For those are the only customer behaviours that drive value for any company.
In order to evoke those behaviours, you need a differentiated Customer Experience. This is where the wheels really fall off for all but a few companies. Marketing can do a lot with brand, with advertising, and with value propositions – in other words, with value and its perception. Yet where Marketing needs to reach ‘out of its silo’ and get HR’s support – that support or even that concept of HR having a role here is lacking! Worse, most people in HR have no idea about how they can contribute to a deliberate customer experience!
The ‘Foundation Stone’ – Employee Engagement
There is an adage doing the rounds in management ‘in order to serve your customers, serve your employees first.’
While the sentiment is great, when your company reaches a certain size no amount of slogans will make a difference. Instead, what you need is a discipline.
That discipline has 6 key components:
- Use a sound employee engagement framework
- Measure employee engagement in your company using that framework
- Make the link between the outcomes in your employee engagement scores to the outcomes in your customer experience scores
- Diagnose gaps
- Train your managers to deliver employee engagement as a discipline
- Reward managers for high employee engagement/customer experience scores
Make the Engagement habit…
In future posts, we’ll be looking at the HR/Marketing connection in more depth.
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