‘Human Resources’ Just Doesn’t Tell You What HR Really Does

Here’s a simple truth. Human resources is an outdated term.

The HR director or HR coordinator no longer just focuses on hiring and firing employees and making sure the company is in compliance with benefits and payroll.

In fact, many businesses are even shying away from the title HR coordinator, as it may sound stuffy or scary, and – worst of all — it appears to commoditize human beings. Certainly, people are an organization’s greatest resource, but they aren’t smartphones, replaced with the newest model every two years. They’re also not raw materials or working capital, used until the supply is depleted and then replenished in time for the next initiative.

To remain competitive and productive, it’s up to the C-suite to revitalize and invigorate employees, so they continue to perform their best. And that is a key reason many successful organizations are changing “head of human resources” to “chief people officer,” “chief happiness officer” and “mood coordinator.”

Just as the phrase to describe HR professionals has evolved and expanded, so, too, have the duties of that department.

The HR departments of the past were segregated as their own separate entity, not part of the employee team and also not quite part of upper management. But how can an organization focus on building a strong company culture and creating happy employees with a strong purpose if the person in charge of that function isn’t part of the team they seek to lead?

The HR department requires a cultural overhaul, some reputation management and a PR facelift. HR is evolving in creative ways to fit today’s innovative HR titles.

The new generation of HR titles doesn’t leave room to treat people like commodities. Once HR personnel begin thinking of themselves as a chief happiness officer or even mood coordinator, it opens the door to viewing employees as people with feelings, goals and ambitions both inside and outside the office. It’s the job of today’s HR professional to take into account those aspects of workers’ personalities as they seek to manage the overall cultural climate of the office, workplace morale and productivity.

Perhaps it was the millennial influence that affirmed for employees that personal fulfillment matters in the workplace. Or maybe it’s technology that blends work and life into one, giving employees more flexibility to perform their duties on their own terms. In all likelihood, a number of factors have given way to the evolution of HR.

With the growth of flex-time, video conferencing technology and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, the HR professional is managing more moving parts than ever before. The upside is that each of these factors, when managed well, empowers employees to do their jobs with greater efficiency. And empowered employees are happy and productive employees.

HR’s role today covers employee engagement and empowerment, employee experiences (the day-to-day office experience as well as workplace amenities and organized team-building activities) and the workplace culture. And that’s before you get into recruiting and candidate experiences.

It’s no easy feat, which is why HR professionals must find the balance between workplace flexibility and getting the job done. In the past, it was the HR leader’s job to ensure everyone was treated equally. Now, it’s about treating every employee fairly – and taking steps to ensure that everything, from their hours and primary work location to their benefits, and even the technology they use, is customized to the employee’s specific needs.

HR and technology have blended. Smart HR teams have evolved to keep pace. This department no longer simply manages people but also works with the CIO to manage the technology they use – all with the goal of happier, more productive workers. HR directors, who get CIOs in their corner, will discover limitless possibilities to use technology to build a video culture, enable workplace flexibility and enhance productivity.

As the role of the HR department continues to evolve, the very concept of human resources may be phased out. And new titles may reflect leaders, who are not gatekeepers and enforcer of rules, but partners in creating a company culture built upon the shared values of the organization and its workers.

A version of this was first posted on Entrepreneur.

Does your HR Function need to Rebrand?

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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