Do you know the Marketing department in your organisation? You know, they’re the stylish, opinionated ones with the Fitbits?
OK, looking beyond the stereotypes, they are also the people who HR are going to need to model themselves on in the future, according to Tamara Erickson, Executive Fellow of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School.
Erickson was a keynote speaker at AHRI’s National Convention in 2014 and, more recently, appeared at the World Business Forum to talk about how organisations need to prepare for the next decade to remain competitive.
The McKinsey-award winning author said that HR would need to manage a portfolio of people working in a variety of ways, full-time, part-time, project-based or casual.
Managing a community of individuals means the HR role will be much more similar to marketing. Marketing has to maintain great relationships with customers who use your products sporadically. It will be the same with people who work for you. You will need processes to develop and maintain long-term relationships with people who are not full-time employees, says Erickson.
What that means is that companies need to have a great employment brand. And HR has a role in shaping that.
“Engaging employees is never about copying another corporation’s best practices. It’s about digging deep to identify what’s uniquely important to your organisation,” says Erickson.
So how you adopt the tools of marketing to shape your brand as a great employer? Erickson uses Virgin as an example: a company that has really mastered the art.
To attract the right people, Erickson says you have to prioritise learning and development, “to promise that employees will learn and experience more if they come to work for you, than anywhere else”. And you have to be able to communicate that carrot publicly. Having great managers who are like teachers rather than bosses is another factor. “They set a process that is not just about guiding the team but about developing individual skills,” says Erickson.
Organisations need to be open and accessible and part of the wider community, offering a wider variety of ways to connect, so that they can tap into the best skills wherever they may be, cultivating relationships with a pool of talent and establishing a reputation, through the voices of people who work there, that this is a great place to work, she says.
“A highly engaged workforce has never been more important. Much of the work today requires an individual’s discretionary effort – people have to choose to innovate, choose to share knowledge and provide extraordinary service,” says Erickson. Many employees, particularly younger generations, are less motivated by money than the connection they feel to their work, so creating that bond between employer and employee is vital.
“Leading companies first understand who they are and then design their organisational practices around their values. One of the most powerful approaches to strengthening meaning in the workplace is the creation of Signature Experiences – distinctive, value-driven elements of the employees’ experience that encourage self-selection and reinforce values, leading to retention,” says Erickson.
Creating an environment where people want to go beyond the call of duty requires courageous leadership says Erickson. Organisations with the highest level of discretionary effort are, she admits “weird”. “They are idiosyncratic – with a unique identity. So one of the things you need to do is get really comfortable with what makes your organisation special. And then deliver an employee experience consistent with whatever that is.”