HR Branding — Human Resources in the competitive global industries
As a part of the marketing engine, HR branding is a fairly new concept, at least in Indian organisations. The development and management of the vital assets of any organisation – its people – needs pre-emptive care and methods. This will ensure reliability on these people, assurance of their service quality and synergy in inter-department teamwork. Internal and external communication to existing employees and potential candidates is the medium to leverage a company’s profile while ensuring cultural fitment and brand value adherence.
Traditional Role of HR:
Traditionally the HR department was responsible for recruitment, payroll and performance appraisals with other ad hoc responsibilities relating to the employees. The HR and Marketing departments were clearly demarcated and each unit specialised in their role. The HR team was not expected to “sell the brand” to its people or clients. And the Marketing team was not expected to attract employees or other talent. Over the past 10 years, with growing speed and network of communication tools, it is expected that organisations make the best of any contact with clients, customers, or potential candidates for a job.
Branding is accepted as a norm for all competitive companies. Establishment of a corporate agenda, a value system and social role is communicated via the brand image marketed by the public relations machinery. Now the trend is to make all functions of an organisation participate more actively in voicing this brand image. It is assumed to be a joint responsibility to promote, protect and project the corporate values as declared by the leadership. “The 4 Ps of Marketing” (product, price, position and promotion) applies to branding as well. This needs to be adapted to people management as well.
With growing global operations and larger markets, organisations need to manage their employees such as to educate them to make them brand ambassadors for their corporation. “The 4 Ps of HR” are People, Pay, Position and Prospects. This is derived from the Marketing concept mentioned in previous paragraph. Since an organisation’s employees are the key enablers of all projects and functions, it is vital that they incorporate the branding strategy in their tasks.
Here the HR department has to take ownership of enabling the employees as employee management is their primary portfolio. Thus an HR Manager needs to market the brand to its people, structure compensation accordingly, find relevant job roles and promise benefits in line with corporate growth. In some cases, the target is internal and in other cases it is external people.
The branding involves several initiatives to inform, involve and educate the employees about the leadership strategy and market/ industry status of an organisation. Some of the methods can be briefly summarised as given below:
Internal Communication tools: Intranet webpages, newsletters, notice boards, email circulars, etc are common enough in most modern offices. Using these existing tools, the HR Manager can extend his support by employee grievances resolved online or promoting new policy initiatives or promoting success stories of teams/ individuals, etc. This is also useful to bring together ideas and innovations in people management. Various corporate projects and CSR activities can gain momentum simply through effective communication through such channels. The focus should be on involvement and interactivity. Welcoming feedback and acting on them is important to know what the people need or desire.
External Communication: This is not restricted to the traditional Marketing team alone. Every HR personnel who is communicating with a potential candidate or even an ex-employee needs to uphold the brand values and promote them in their official communications. As a representative of the company the HR team needs to effectively voice the brand image and present the company and its people in positive light. Co-operation with Marketing and Finance departments is also essential in executing such measures. This will include communication in recruitment drives, campus interviews, online and print media job listings, internet websites, etc.
Talent Management: Facilitation for employee development is a must. The HR Manager needs to develop his resources so as to make them feel valued and trusted and hence trained for further responsibilities. While doing this the by-product is that the organisation soon has a skilled, experienced workforce who believe in the corporate strategy/ agenda and thus are role-models for others. Soon the organisation gets renowned for its employee management and retention capabilities.
Credibility and Catalysts: The HR branding should build credibility in the leadership and should act as a catalyst for employee engagement and participation. This involves upholding the Mission Statement and ensuring that the employees are part of any restructuring or policy changes.
Final medium: Most Marketing executives will also agree that the only new medium/ channel left for reaching customers and potential clients is the average employee of the organisation. The workforce has various people in front-end and back-end who interact or deal with customers and hence affect the business. An HR Manager, being a people manager, needs to leverage this last communication channel to further build the brand by improving a customer’s contact experience with the organisation.
Living the Brand Values:
Experiences of both – a customer and an employee – affect a corporate brand. Both can be influenced by HR branding through employee enablement. Therefore, by changing an employee’s experience with the organisation you also change a customer’s experience with the brand. This is how the HR Manager effects “HR Branding”.
Focus on “Living the Values” is important for such branding. The employee’s participation in such change of work culture influences the team, inter-department activities, the various functions of the organisation and thus causes an outward wave trickling down to the customer or vendor. The belief and faith in such corporate agenda comes with effective promotion of brand image to these marketing elements. And this adherence to “the Mission” will ensure effective branding. The HR Manager needs to remember that all this depends on the people’s perception of the organisation and not his own tinted view. Hence he needs to listen and learn from them as much as tell and educate them.
The HR machinery succeeds when every employee is living the brand values and hence advertising the brand image wherever he works and whomever he interacts with.