• Building a Relentlessly
    Relevant Brand

    A New Approach to
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4 Ways To Shake Up HR and Remain Relevant With Employees and Consumers

by Jeff Smith and Helen Rosethorn

In today’s cluttered and “always on” world, greater relevance with customers is what wins the battle for brand supremacy. That relevance is built by becoming a brand that people want in in their lives, one that keeps pace as everything around us accelerates. We call these relentlessly relevant brands. Names like Apple, Google and Netflix are such an integral part of our daily vocabulary and routine that they seem almost like family.

Many factors energize them, including product quality, user experience and technical capability. But the backbone of these great global brands is the power we often hear the least about: Its people. A dynamic workforce breathes life into them. Employees are behind every show, new release and successful search. They are the heads, hearts and hands responsible for shaping and delivering brands, turning business objectives into reality. And for many companies, these employees are the primary reason customers stay loyal.

Disrupting The HR Mindset

To create a brand that is relentlessly relevant, companies have to shake up the way they’ve typically recruited, trained and promoted people. Employees have to be engaged as never before, chosen and deployed in ways that are directly linked to a brand’s purpose and goals. In too many companies, even those far along in their digital transformation, HR is still a holdover from another era, focusing on requirements, benefits, compliance and certifications. When pushed on a talent strategy, HR is often a numbers game: How many of what type of people does the business need to deliver against its plan?

That doesn’t work anymore. The employee experience—just like the customer experience—needs to move faster, capturing new trends and changing preferences as quickly as the brand itself.

Here’s are four ways to get started:

  1. Give the cultural machinery a wake-up call

While company culture doesn’t live in a single department, it probably gets talked about most in HR, where new employees learn about the company’s shared purpose and values. Too often, though, this means culture gets a little sleepy. It is unattended and becomes less relevant to the brand and most importantly, to the delivery of the experiences that drive business results. While bedrock tenants of integrity, innovation, responsibility and diversity can remain, there are new ways of thinking about them, and faster-moving techniques to keep them alive. Modernizing a culture enables it to flex and evolve as needs change, while still staying true to itself.

  1. Find ways to link marketing and HR

Talent strategies shouldn’t just be about checking the box on requirements. They need to be directly tied to brand purpose and business goals. The only way for this to happen is for HR and Marketing to become more closely aligned. At many companies, they are siloed. They may connect periodically around challenges like who owns the Facebook or LinkedIn pages and how things show up on the careers page on the corporate website, but the truth is, they talk too infrequently about customer needs, the path to company growth and the customer experience. Talent strategies need to move beyond job descriptions and more towards defining characteristics of the type of experience that is most relevant. The strategy will illuminate whether the right talent is available within the organization and can be developed, or if not, how to attract the new stars that will fuel the company and brand’s future.

  1. Consider deputizing a Chief Employee Experience Officer

In some companies, this might be a new role for the human resources leader. In others, there’s a strong conviction that every leader is responsible for delivering the right employee experience. Either way, the point is the same: Employee experience parallels the efforts of the customer experience and is just as important. As a customer, the experience we have of a product or service directly impacts our perceptions, for better or worse. Employee experience is the same. Our day-to-day experiences shape our opinion of the company and brands we work for, and that directly impacts the organizational DNA. Without addressing experience, transformations stall and culture cannot be changed.

Like customer experience work, employee experience starts with a clear understanding of the current experience by mapping out the breadth of the relationship. Following that analysis, the moments of the experience that are broken, and those that are most important to desired talent, provides a clear path to evolving the employee experience.

  1. Bring consumer thinking into employee experience

We all leave our day jobs and become consumers. We engage in new experiences that change how we think about a process, product and even the world. And then, before you know it, we are back at work again. It is critical to understand that our after-work experiences influence who we are and what motivates us. Work and life are blended more than ever, and a culture must be enabled to meet employees where they are and strive to keep pace with the experiences they are having outside of the 9-to-5. A living culture can be a path to remaining relevant to employees and customers. Cultural clarity becomes the guiding blueprint for the employee experience and the pulse of a relentlessly relevant brand.

By purposefully building an employee experience, connecting with the customer through marketing and  bringing in a consumer mindset, organizations can create the foundation for driving real engagement and culture development. Of course, the success of these more behavioral drivers of change require the supporting talent/HR systems and processes providing the enabling performance measurement, development and reward. These are the levers for building a framework and activating an employee base that will drive the business and the brand forward in a more dynamic, living way.

While strategy gives sight to the path of business impact, the employee experiences are the arteries of the cultural heart. All three are needed for a brand to thrive and evolve to be consistently relevant and valued.

This article originally appeared in AdWeek.

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