Still an “Old Lady’s” HR Department?

Guest: Melissa Anzman Communication, HR, HR & Marketing

Let’s face it – HR departments are segmenting into smaller pockets of experts. Which is fine and dandy if for your senior leaders who have daily interaction with an HR business partner… but means about squat to the average employee. All that most employees know is that “HR” hired them and “HR” always seems to be around when their cube-mate is fired. Within Human Resources, we know that there is so much more that we do – but we keep it to ourselves. Instead, our reputation precedes us (picture a cartoon of 75-year-old lady with a gray bun and an outdated, ill-fitting navy suit).

Maybe there was a smidgen of truth to the dreaded HR cartoon, but Human Resources of today and tomorrow needs to be so much more. Our employees are demanding it. It’s not enough to be in the people pleasing business or sitting at the table to add value. HR needs to become more like a marketing department and persuade your employees the difference your people platform makes.

When you are “marketing,” the goal is to deliver informative and creative information to persuade the customer; change his or her opinion, present an argument, inform, or dazzle – ultimately to think positively of your unique brand.

When was the last time you thought of HR as a brand in need of marketing? (And no, I don’t mean those ridiculous branding attempts from an external consultant that helped you establish your colors, font, and the look and feel of your HR transformation.)

At the ground level, how are you cultivating your department’s expectations, standards of service and excellence, communication needs and platforms? Are you constantly marketing to your employees, just how awesome you are?

HR emails are blatantly deleted and ignored because you have sent out three different versions after the first one had a spelling error, the second one was too difficult to understand, and the third one is now beyond redundant. Your benefits are a complete blur even though you required all employees to attend training because your take-away materials contained so much “HR speak” their eyes glassed over and you were left standing in the front of the room saying, “Bueller. Bueller. Bueller?”

HR as a function needs to incorporate best practices from Marketing to be able to be effective partners within the entire organization – not just at “the table.” Your 2013 HR plan needs to incorporate the following additions that will create a large-scale shift of action and perception for your department and your employees. While changing perceptions does take time, it’s easy to get started.

  • Partner with your Communications and Marketing departments to determine best practices going forward, particularly around editing and their approval process for external messaging.
  • Audit the number of messages HR sent out in 2012 – be sure to include local and corporate HR messaging, and the many versions.
  • Set new standards of how different messages should be delivered (email isn’t your only option).

Make your employees a part of the conversation, not only the message receivers.

Communication is just one facet of marketing your HR brand. It’s time for every HR professional to become a person and a part of the business, not just a face in the department or a desk jockey. Get out of your office; talk to people outside of your direct influence. Get to know what makes your culture tick.

Now don’t get crazy – you’re not a marketing expert just because you are enacting some best practices, But borrow the right ideas, and you will have a robust communication strategy that will shock your employees into listening to you. What are the best ideas you have borrowed from your Marketing department? What was your experience?