I just read an article on HBR by Michael Schrage titled “Invest in your customers more than your brand“. Very revealing about a winning attitude that organisations should have when addressing the customer challenge through advertising. Way too often we concentrate on product sales, or on the overall Brand, and forget the daily needs of the customers.
I observed that also often a similar attitude happens within HR organisations well through their HR transformation pattern. The objectives of efficiency gains that similar projects support are key to the relevance itself of the HR function in modern organisations. However sometime it is easy to assist to a “commoditization” of HR services. These get packaged, put into nice wrapping, and “sold” to customers, these being employees or managers within the Organisation. Issue is that along this all the defects of commoditized products come in, with their fair issues of the “one size fits all” approach.
Similarly, a lot of recycled bad marketing practices have contaminated internal communication. Often the “Change Management” programme meant to speed up the adoption of the new HR Organisation have simply been mass advertising campaigns of the new packaged HR products.
The “real” business world has already bypassed this, and the key trend today is “aducation“: the process in which advertising works in educating its customers, allowing tests and trials and evaluation of each product. A key consequence of the digitalization economy, cannot be limited to the outside world.
Financial service firms, health care providers, automobile producers and consumer packaged goods companies already understand that adding new features and functionalities to products and services now matters far less to their branding efforts then figuring out how to get customers to sample and test them.
Why would this be relevant at all for HR?
I believe that one of the key elements to win the Talent Battle of today is also making sure that HR looses its “paternalistic attitude” towards communication, and starts engaging the employees and managers within their Organisation as real Customers. Which also means 2013 customers! Used to technology and customer reviews. I just assisted recently a discussion in the framework of an HR portal plan, if it was right to allow employees to rate and comment on contents such as policies and procedures. Guess what? I felt a lonely voice when stating that feedback can only enrich, the same way that Amazon reviews enrich the customer experience allowing for a better choice and improving products and services.
Some changes are happening. A site like Glassdoor is already obliging HR to start considering that there may be voices “against”….
Let’s see how the most advanced HR directors will pick from this and make this a real competitive edge!