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How We Can Help Managers to Not Hate HR

February 15

People in Business is a wholly-owned company in the UK.

David is a seasoned HR professional and consultant with over 20 years working within Financial Services, Retail, FMCG and Automotive industries across Europe and Asia. He held senior HR roles at Lloyds TSB where he was HR Director of the Retail Bank, Tesco where he was Group People Insight Director and Coca-Cola Enterprises where he was HR Director for the Europe Group. David joined People in Business in March 2010, and has worked with clients such as Holcim, Novartis and JTI since joining People in Business.

I am sure that you, like me, regularly trawl the digital world for news and updates. A few weeks ago I was reviewing my Google Alerts and came across the post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Why We (Shouldn't) Hate HR. It sparked my interest because it took me back five years to when, as a newly appointed HR Director for a leading European bank in 2005, I was greeted one day by a playful colleague brandishing a magazine with a provocative front page of "Why we should hate HR."

Sure, he was having fun at the expense of HR but he was also making a serious point. The thing is that far too often HR functions lose sight of what they are trying to achieve — they focus on process rather than outcome, standardisation rather than innovation and administration rather than building strategic value for their organization.

So I was interested to see what the writers of the original article thought had changed. They argue that the challenge should be laid at the door of companies and their leadership for not understanding that in a tough market "you can't be special, distinctive, compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive, compelling in the workplace". Music to my ears. This is the essence of what we, at People in Business, have been helping clients to do for many years.

Gradually, we are seeing client needs shifting from developing their Employer Value Proposition (EVP) and honing their ability to attract and hire to addressing the far more complex challenge of how they embed and manage the EVP through all aspects of their working experience. In our 2009/10 Employer Brand Survey we found that 53% of clients now embarking on EB work intend to use their EVP to shape people strategy, processes and practices (up 10% on those who had embarked on similar projects during the last four years. We also saw a significant shift in leadership of these projects from HR General Management, Marketing & Comms towards CEO's, Talent Managers and EB Managers, suggesting that many organisations are beginning to see the strategic value more clearly.

Anticipating this change, we have been working hard to develop our methodology to help organisations to take the EVP to the heart of the people agenda. We recently showcased our thinking with over 30 clients and prospective clients exploring the critical success factors and capabilities required to be effective in managing employer brands. What became clear was that there is a real hunger for informed and skilled support in this area. Board and investor level interest in how organisations manage their employer brand is increasingly linked to corporate sustainability and a key indicator of future competitiveness and growth. Why? They are increasingly seeing the impact that employer brand management can have on communicating and shaping a culture and environment that not only attracts and retains talented people but also helps to embed the organisational qualities required to create competitive advantage in the customer marketplace.

At last it seems organisations are getting serious about the people side of their business. We, as Employer Brand consultants, have a key role in helping the HR function and their colleagues across other functions to respond to this and focus on how they use the disciplines of employer brand management to build value.

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