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HR as Product: Be the Brand of Choice

Rethink Your Role as a Human Resources Department

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The HR Role Is Changing - for the Better

Copyright Aiden-Franklin / iStockphoto

It is time for Human Resources practitioners to rethink their role and that of the HR department, not only for the purposes of contributing to the organization's bottom line, but also for their own survival.

HR continues to balance the demands of several different roles: business partner, internal consultant, operational and administrative expert and both employee and employer advocate. This may sound like business as usual, roles that aren’t likely to create a mad rush of HR people arming themselves for the future.

In reality, however, they are new. Although the questions may be the same, the answers most assuredly are not. The ongoing challenge is to establish new deliverables and to sustain strong partnerships with both internal and external customers. The ability to see the big picture-and to deploy the resources to address the big picture-will be more important than ever.

Determine Your HR Department's Current Reputation and Brand

If you were to ask your employees today, "What does the HR Department do?" would they mutter something unintelligible to you and make a run for it? If that is the case, your human resources department needs to rethink its role and do some in-house marketing, marketing research and public relations.

First, you need to ask yourself some important questions:

  • Do you know what your HR department's reputation is among the employees? When HR is mentioned, do managers picture savvy strategists, backward bureaucrats, or pleasant, people-pleasers?

  • Do employees understand and appreciate the importance of the HR department in furthering the organization's mission and objectives?

  • Does the HR department make an effort to market its services to the organization? If it does not, then it has the reputation it deserves. You can, however, easily correct this reputation.

Talk to Employees to Learn the HR Department Reputation and Brand

The key is to open up conversations with all levels of employees, and present yourself in the role of facilitator instead of enforcer. You have to get out of the HR office and into the world of your organization’s employees.

Finding these answers requires dialogue, which means that HR must communicate. That communication must consist of equal parts of listening and promotion.

First, HR must listen carefully to what its customers need. Then it must promote what it has done and can do. HR staff must educate the organization about its capabilities and potential contributions. No one knows your capabilities as well as you do.

Employees, for the most part, still see HR as "those people who handle benefits and do interviewing." To position the HR function for the next decades, every HR practitioner needs to take on a public relations role-starting with your own employees. Think of yourself as a product and do some smart marketing.

The marketing of the HR department requires you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, so others will know you do much more than simply process papers. The best form of advertising is the actions you take.

By your actions, processes and programs, you can promote the HR department as a flexible, adaptable, solutions-oriented partner, a resource to whom the organization can turn when it needs problems solved.

Your HR department can be something that helps your organization when it needs help. To make your HR department even more beneficial, read about tips for HR image, reputation, and brand.

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Judith Brown is the Director of Research at the International Personnel Management Association (IPMA) in Alexandria, Virginia. Brown, who has her Masters degree in Human Resource Management, has been working in the HR Center at IPMA for 5 years. She enjoys traveling, reading mysteries, dancing and gardening. You can reach her at 703-549-7100 or visit their website: International Personnel Management Association.

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