‘What?‘ I hear you ask. Departments don’t have a brand – surely they come under the company umbrella.
Actually, every component of a company, from its newest employee to its global empire has a brand. And if your team and department is being kept out in the rain when it comes to strategic policy-making, is the last to know about significant changes or is rarely visited by the top executives then you may need to fashion your own form of weather protection – and the brighter it is the better!
Why Brand the HR Function?
In some ways, HR Tech and HR Analytics have been the saviours of the HR function, cutting down on costs and time and enabling HR to be leaner, agile and more productive than ever. But the flip-side to this development is that HR is now becoming a target for the outsourcing fetish – bundled up with IT and accounts as something that can be done somewhere else for less money.
‘Not us!‘ I hear you say. We have been in the industry for years; we know exactly where the future talent can be found, we have created the perfect compensation package to balance wage costs and talent retention and we bake a pretty mean cake for the annual Christmas party.
This may be true, but if your department’s self-perception is not shared by the increasingly remote C-suite, then you probably need to do something about it. That ‘something‘ is branding!
Branding and Motivation
Before we look at the nuts and bolts of branding, there is another big advantage of creating a department identity.
When individuals unite behind a coherent set of standards and beliefs than they tend to have a clearer focus and become more motivated. Just like people, entire departments can become undervalued and that naturally affects those who work there. If you have ever been part of a company where one department (usually sales or marketing) gets incentives and a brand new office while another is shunted down to the basement and misses out you will know what I mean.
However, once a department’s workforce becomes motivated by a rebrand, something magical happens!
They puff out their chests, they become more creative and industrious, they are more forthright when asking for the tools they need to perform their work. This in turn strengthens the department’s brand further and will raise its profile in the company.
How to Brand: the Power of Psychology
Please do not think that branding is just about creating a mission statement and handing out a company rulebook about how people need to behave.
This will just strengthen the existing (often unfair) ‘meta-brand’ of HR as a gathering of pen-pushers and petty bureaucrats. A brand is much bigger than a mission statement – it is the living, breathing proof of the mission itself.
The first step of any branding exercise is to get a handle on the existing brand identity. This can be done by a twin process of in-department meetings and anonymous focus groups involving the company as a whole and any external stakeholders who have connections with the department (e.g. recruitment agencies, HR Tech vendors).
Next, you need to decide whether you want to tweak the existing perceptions or, in some cases, make a complete u-turn.
You may need to overhaul a number of processes and policies, from the way you answer the telephone to the dress code and – ultimately – who you choose to recruit.
The new brand values will need to be consistently applied across time and location until the entire culture of the department shifts into its new identity.
I have not mentioned the department’s name yet because branding is sometimes erroneously confused with names and logos, but a powerful psychological technique for rebranding a department is to call it something else. Perhaps you could now be known as the ‘global people team‘ or the ‘people capital department.’
Whatever you decide, rebranding is a top technique for reasserting a department’s critical position in the eyes of a company’s decision-makers.
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