Pop-Up HR

Steve Boese Engagement and Satisfaction, Good HR, Steve Boese

Last month (oddly enough the day after the infamous ‘Position Accomplished’ summit put on at TheLadders), while walking down a snow covered New York City street and looking through the store windows, the series of high-end clothiers, funky hipster shops, and art galleries was broken up by an unusual and unexpected sight – a park set up inside one of the storefronts. Cool-cats-barracuda-los-angeles-3

The indoor Pop-Up park, created by the Openhouse Gallery was called Park Here, and was open from January 8th through February 14th.  The idea of Park Here was to create a temporary, summer-like oasis of sorts, where winter-weary residents could come, congregate, and have an unusual ‘outdoors but really indoors’ experience.

The Pop-Up phenomenon, most often seen with retail shops and restaurants, is typically characterized by the use of unexpected or non-traditional spaces (or even outdoor spaces), diverse uses, and temporary or short-term execution. Often these pop-up stores are not intended as miniature versions of a merchant’s complete offerings, but rather they offer a targeted selection of products, or are designed to highlight and promote something new and different. And the Pop-Up stores are seen as a way to generate interest, to gain exposure in locations and with consumers they may not normally contact, and by their temporary and edgy approach to create a sense of curiosity and the feeling in consumers of ‘wanting more’.

Pop-Up stores, restaurants, and parks in places like New York City work because they surprise, intrigue, and engage. Even if they deliver a familiar product, they do it in an unexpected place and remarkably different style. And when they offer something brand new, the change of traditional venue further enhances the experience.

Could the same approaches and concepts work for one of the most traditional organizational activities, the delivery of commonplace and ‘normal’ HR programs and services?

What might a Pop-Up HR shop look like? Try these ideas on for size —

  • How about creating a temporary storefront in a common area, or if you are lucky enough to be located in a climate that allows it, outside of the main entrance to the building or plant that offers up ‘on the spot’ information, advice and consultation about the organization’s benefits or wellness programs? Do your normal pass out the nicotine patch drill, but this time you catch folks heading out for their smoke breaks. You could call it, (if your company culture allows), the ‘HR Feel Good Shop’.
  • Or you could set up some monitors in the break room or cafeteria and run a loop of presentations on important business and technology topics, the live stream of an industry event, or even some TED talks. Augment these videos with some Flipcams and encourage employees to record short videos that address an important company issue, or that solicit suggestions for new products, process improvements, or cost savings. Load the best ones immediately to the company intranet.
  • Create a mobile technology lab, (it doesn’t have to be fancy, just some laptops on a mail cart will suffice), that brings the latest tools and technologies directly to your customers. It could be a new collaboration tool, the company internal forum, or the company idea generation platform that you are looking to generate some interest about. Heck, it could even be a lab that encourages your folks to set up or enhance their LinkedIn profiles. (Note: Tim Sackett made me include that item, he wants it to be easier to recruit your best talent).

The Pop-Up model works in retail because it changes the perception and the expectations of your customers. They are forced to re-evaluate the offer since it surprises them and challenges their assumptions.

The same old HR rolls out programs and initiatives in the same old ways. Even good messages can be diminished by traditional and boring packaging. Don’t let your customers view you and your projects as the same old HR. Hit quick with high impact, and then move on. Keep them guessing and wondering where you may show up next.