Hey HR – Who do you want your employees to become?

Paul Hebert Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Employment Branding and Culture, Good HR, Innovation, Paul Hebert

My company president forwarded me an article from Harvard Business that contained the transcript of an interview that Harvard IdeaCast had with MIT’s Michael Schrage, a frequent HBR blogger.  The focus of the interview was about Mr. Schrage’s newest idea outlined in a short book called: “Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?”  The interview is pretty short, but it brings out a hugely interesting point about how a company views their customers.

His point of view is that a company shouldn’t focus on creating a product or service that meets a customer’s needs – or exceeds those needs for that matter – but should focus on creating services and products that will make them better customers.  The article suggests that new products/services should be investments in clients and their future success, not just a transaction with them.  Success for companies in the future is only going to happen if they can think of their customer’s future state, and then be the means to that future success.  Helping customers be better in the future – not just better today – will be how companies will be able to transform their own business.

His point is that in many cases, customers are merely a means to an end. The end is the growth and profitability of their business.  But when you think of customers in that vein, do they simply become – as the article suggests – an inconvenient, market friction that needs to be overcome in order for the company to be a profitable?

So, I ask you to ask yourself – do you see your own employees in that light?  Are they simply a means to a profitable end (current engagement discussions seem to indicate that employee engagement is simply a way to get more profit… think about that for just a minute).

Does your HR group – or your executive staff– look at employees as friction to be overcome in the pursuit of success?  Should HR look through this new lens Mr. Schrage is looking though?

Can HR Do The Same?

I love the idea that HR should view the relationship they have with employees as an investment account – not a cost account.  It seems that many HR services are designed to meet the needs (current and somewhat future) of their employees to make their lives easier at the company – navigating healthcare decisions, or 401K decisions.  Some forward thinking HR groups are including health-and-wellness options and financial services.  They are doing a great job of helping employees manage the job of being employees.

But what if the role of HR was to invest in the activities and services that contribute to an employee’s future success?  How much does what you – the HR pro – do everyday truly help employees succeed in the future?  I’m guessing that it is less than 20%.  But should it be more like 80% about future success and 20% about current needs?

I’ve said that HR plays too much defense in the past – and I think they still do.  I suggested two years ago that HR should play more offense.  I think this idea of investing in the future success of an employee is just the offensive play HR needs to consider.

Read the article – think through how HR can create investments – not just simplified transactions – with the employee base.

Is that a better way for HR to design their future role?  I think there is a lot to this idea.

What say you – the real HR pro?


Paul Hebert
Paul Hebert is Senior Director of Solutions Architecture at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.