Friday, 29 January 2010

The other side of the brand

I'm sitting here just finalising my group's presentation on "Harmonising Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management". It has been a really good programme and I have said it enough times that Trinidadians and Tobagonians, just aren't fully aware of their rights as employees, and their rights in general. But that is an entirely different conversation that can go down a long road.

But from a brand management perspective, I am not sure that many HR people recognise just how important their role is in managing a company's brand. People hear "brand" and automatically think marketing or PR, but every person has a role to play in how a company is perceived in the outside world.

I have worked in various places - both private and public sector - and there will always be employer-employee disputes, but how one manages them and also how one works on ultimately preventing them goes a long way on how the company's brand is managed. Because the truth is, an annoyed, disgruntled employee or ex-employee just needs to go sit in a bar on a Friday afternoon, and start telling his friends, their friends, the bartender and anyone within earshot about his boss, the company's poor HR practices, the compensation, the policies, how overworked and undervalued he feels, how favouritism keeps him from moving up, how unfair recruitment is, etc and there goes the neighbourhood.

When I am scoping out potential places to work, I never go by what the employer has to say. You want to talk to a subject matter expert don't you? Someone who is currently in, or has been in the trenches so to speak. These employees, dear managers, are your brand ambassadors, who can either make you or break you.

Companies cannot now expect only to attract the best talent through snazzy websites and good pay  packages. Today's employees are looking for other less tangible but equally important, if not more important features.

  • Work-life balance - Employees want to have weekends, evenings with their families and friends. And please don't think only married people want personal time. Single people want to have a life too.
  • Great health plans
  • Flexi-time
  • Telecommuting - In an age of so much technology, driving long distances to work, sitting in an office all day, when you can probably do all the same things at home is just so played out.
  • Work environment/Good employer/employee relations - Noone wants a pill for a boss. I don't care how many zeros are on that pay slip. You spend most of your day with them, so who wants a butt biter?
  • Open door policies, without fear of reprisals - I have a problem, I want to know I can talk to you, and not be ostracised in the lunchroom the next day or victimised.

These are some of the things one wants ideally from an employer and if your current employees aren't feeling your brand, and aren't loyal to it, what do you think their communication message is going to be? How do you intend to attract the best of the best from the labour force? I have had people call me, as a former or current employee of an organisation to ask about the organisation in order to gauge whether it is a place they may wish to work. And though everyone's experience is different, and what I may find fantastic, another person may be miserable with, people still ultimately want to know. It's like buying a new car, where you get to drive it around the block a few times before you buy it. Those phone calls are akin to the test drive. It may handle really well at the dealership but when you take it home, it cannot start. It may sound good, but it may not be all that it's cracked up to be.

HR can no longer work as a silo. They have to work with managers and supervisors to get them on board the programme. They say people don't leave jobs, they leave people and I am sure many of you have left that bitchy boss, that biased manager, that uncaring company, where business came first, people came way after. What makes it scarier is how online tools can practically take that Friday happy hour rant to the masses until you have Facebook pages, tweets, YouTube videos slamming, ripping, shredding and totally destroying a company's brand. And once that happens, it's near impossible to stop.

Strong brands need strong HR. How can we expect employees to buy in to internal and external communications plans ? And HR needs to start thinking a little bit of PR and also work closely with PR when managing employee experiences cause really, there is only so much a PR team can do to save a brand that has been massacred by the people closest to it - the employees.


I suppose that's why in many organisations, though internal communications sits within the corporate communications team, it still has a dotted line of responsibility into HR .

I agree with what you've said above. I take the view that managerial training needs to include elements of employee branding in order to facilitate good working relationships throughout the organisation as this affects external perceptions.

And vice versa. Managerial training also needs to include HR, which is what the course was all about, because we are all managers of the HR brand as well.

Each department within an organisation is in the rat race of individual branding and then tends to forget that objectives can be met only if they co-exist.
Communication department would always come up with effective plans and solutions based on briefs. HR anyways plays a crucial role as they involved in every aspect of the employee right from recruitment to the exit of the employee hence there is an understanding right at the gates. However innovative internal communication or the module would narrow down or would completely solve the problem.
One must not forget that an employee has life beyond work but on the contrary he spends maximum time at work. Hence when work becomes fun, brand automatically enhances and so does the productivity of an employee.
However hurdles differ from industry and organisations, hence they need to be tailored accordingly.

HR is on the frontline in any organisation. If you want to know how happy employees are in an organisation, just ask them what they think of HR professionals. Unhappy employees think that HR professionals are in general idiots, heartless, lazy, "doh care" and worse, but when you say, "but look X is an HR professional and she isn't any of the above" you either get, yeah well she is an exception, or "oh yeah", ending the conversation.

The short point is that HR surely are not the only people to blame when you have unhappy employess (not that I think you are making that point), but from supervisor, to manager to "Big Boss" all have a role to play in making the work environment one in which the employees are happy, which in turn will make the emplotyees better workers... a so-called "win win" situation

I agree. It is a collaborative effort, which should also include employees.

It takes a village!


it takes co-operation to make a corporation work... (see my attempt at a clever little joke?)

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Thanks for your comments and questions!

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