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Nick Ellis

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Building a brand from within – the role of HR


It’s no secret in the industry that HR teams, like parents, do many jobs under one title. And, like parents, they are the go-to for good news and bad news, crises, problems and any major changes within the organisation. Everyone deals with the HR team; whether they work for a growing business or a multi-faceted, multi-national mega corporation.

However, of all the jobs HR teams have under their belts they often don’t recognise one other key function they offer to their organisation: brand ambassadors.

The HR team, by its very nature, deals with individuals; it is the most personal of departments in any business.  People’s lives are an emotive subject and an HR team that wants to understand the key values of a brand will be an effective listener. Further than simply creating a one-way channel of information from management to employees, HR teams are in a privileged position which enables them to absorb staff feedback and feed this into the externally portrayed personality of the company. This can influence the language of the brand (i.e. not necessarily corporate or proper English) or the behaviour of the brand (for example perhaps ethically-driven rather than blatantly profit-focused).

HR teams are very good at providing practical and professional advice to a wide variety of personnel, on a number of topics and often across geographically and functionally diverse teams within an organisation. From a brand manager’s perspective therefore, this is a golden opportunity to communicate important company information. 

Beyond internal newsletters and corporate intranets, the HR team has a unique ability to embody the organisation’s core values and display them to a potentially large audience. Actions often speak louder than words, so in many circumstances this is a highly effective tool.

The most trusted and strongest brands are created from within an organisation rather than ‘imposed’, allowing a company to therefore honestly portray its values to the outside world. To build from the inside, the support of an HR team is crucial.

Many staff presume the HR department is an extension of a company’s management team; they are seen as an authority. Their experience of the HR department will therefore help form their view of the company as a whole.  Ensuring that the actions of the HR team are representative of the company’s own perspective is really important.

For example, in a large company that prides itself on the range of opportunities for career progression and diversification, an HR team needs to visibly provide opportunities for broadening experience, perhaps through secondments and training courses. Crucially, if an employee can ‘feel’ the organisation’s commitment to opportunity, he or she will communicate this to a customer. A team member who feels he or she can spend a month working in the New York office for example, may well say to his or her client: “Did you know we have a very capable team in the States?”

Some simple steps to help guide you through a rebranding process:

  1. Keep the HR team well informed! An HR department that doesn’t have the answers gives the message that the management is unsure and possibly lacks confidence.
  2. Use the HR team to identify the business’s key values (as perceived by employees). Creativity, for example.
  3. Consider whether you offer staff the opportunities to live these values.  For example, would flexible working make a team member work more creatively?
  4. Consider whether the company’s working practices are sympathetic to its values. If your business’s key strength is creativity, is your website a creative space? Is the intranet functional or attractive and user-friendly? Would a staff ‘break out’ area help the team to be more creative?
  5. Invest in training the HR team to recognise further opportunities to be creative and report back to management on a regular basis.

Nick Ellis, Halo Media