There are so many theories on HR branding – Karen Gately asserts that; the strength of your HR brand is a key influencer of success and it is important to understand how people perceive your team and the value you add.
How strong is your HR team’s brand? Contemplate for a moment how the leaders and staff in your organisation perceive your team and the value you bring. In what ways does this reputation impact upon your ability to make a real and meaningful difference to your organisation’s success? How do people react to HR related issues in the business? How do employees react to changes in HR policies, procedures and processes?
What does HR do is a question often asked by employees. It is worrying when the employee cannot relate to what HR does or its contribution to business operations.
Reputation is the greatest influence on the effectiveness of HR departments. In other words – what your team are known for, has the biggest impact on how well your team is able to perform.
It’s an unfortunate reality however that HR teams often struggle to earn the credibility and respect needed to be a truly effective business partner. Among the most important steps you can take to build the HR brand and optimise the reputation of HR in your organisation are:
Know your business: Your ability to link HR priorities with business strategy is key. Demonstrate a well-developed understanding of what it takes to make strategy happen. Provide data and advice that is focused on driving business results.
Be known also for your knowledge of the context within which your business operates. Knowledge of your industry and general business trends together with your customers’ and shareholders’ expectations are vital to building a strong HR brand.
Deliver: No matter your good intentions, the depth of credibility you earn is ultimately determined by the outcomes you deliver. Avoid the all too common excuse of busyness standing in the way of progress. While the workload of HR departments can be unpredictable, adopt a disciplined approach to balancing the demands of today with the needs of tomorrow.
Be accountable: Among the most commonly reported complaints about HR is a lack of accountability for the outcome. Offering fewer excuses and more solutions is essential to credibility. Sharing ownership of people outcomes with the leaders you support will go a long way toward building trust and in turn partnerships.
Take for example staff turnover. How often have you heard an HR professional argue they can’t be held responsible for the rate at which people choose to leave the organisation? While of course, it’s true that the direct report manager has the greatest influence on this outcome, its side-stepping accountability, to say the least, to suggest there is nothing HR can do.
Educate: “What exactly does HR do?” is a question asked all too often by managers and staff. To what extent do the people in your organisation understand the services you offer and ultimately ways in which you can support them to achieve their objectives?
Engage in conversations with leaders across your organisation about what they need to achieve through their teams and the support role you can play. Educate people about the ways in which they can leverage your team’s capabilities, by showcasing what you have. Be visible and demonstrate your active engagement in the day to day operations of the business.
Coach: Take a hands-on role to coaching leaders at every level of the organisation to enable them to both grow and succeed. Place priority on developing the ability of managers to be able to coach their direct reports. Teach leaders how to avoid the headaches they most often experience, and soon they will be coming back for more.
Be commercial and pragmatic: Intelligent insight and sound judgement are essential to earning the trust and respect of the people you advise. Be educated about the information and guidance leaders need to reach the right decisions. Understand the context within which you are being asked for advice, and what this means for the strategies that need to be applied.
Understand the difference between what is ideal and what is achievable. Be willing to look for alternative solutions if the advice you offer is met with resistance. Within the boundaries of integrity and the law, there is typically more than one way of going about something. Demonstrate a balanced approach that takes into consideration all of the business’s needs, not just a fixed HR agenda.
Use policy wisely: HR policies lay down the boundaries within which people are expected to operate. While essential to managing the employment-related risks of a business, HR leaders are wise to avoid an overly prescriptive approach or demanding style. Leverage policies to explain the rules of engagement, but allow room also for people to use their judgement.
Get rid of ridiculous policies that do little to protect the organisation and a lot to undermine trust and respect with your workforce. Take for example the policy of one organisation that prescribes the need for all staff to report to work at 8:00 am and close at 5:00 pm, data and people analytics will indicate where all employees reside. If most of your employees reside far off from the office, HR could be innovative and introduce a system where based on preference, some employees can start work at 6:00 am and close at 3:00 pm. Others can start from 7:00 am and close at 4:00 pm. Nursing mothers can be instructed to work from the nearest branch offices and report to the head office on certain days of the week. The establishment of a crèche for nursing mothers will bring relief to mothers whiles they concentrate on their deliverables.
These kinds of HR innovation and people-centred approach is what will bring relevance and position HR as a strategic business partner. In trying to be innovative one should be mindful to involve all stakeholders to ensure that it is feasible and will not affect business operations and also avoid abuse from employees.
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