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HR BRANDING

 Abstract

We start our day with a morning jog in Nike athletic shoes, we go to work dressed in a Raymonds suit in a new Accent car, and stop along the way for having a cup of coffee at Cafe Coffee Day.

These aren't mere shoes, clothes, cars and coffee we are talking about. These are brands, and chances are you have to choose them not only because they meet your basic requirements of clothing, transportation and sustenance, but also because the brands promise a certain quality and style that you've come to rely upon. Great brands provide a source of identification and assurance of quality. These brands simplify decision-making and communicate the value they create for their customers. And great brands make and keep their promises. These characteristics differentiate great brands and cement their leadership credentials.
Branding in HR has traditionally been limited to the employment function. The HR branding has become a topic of great interest. The importance of mastering the concepts and skills behind branding have greater implications for HR professionals in the "new economy".
The success of an organization relies upon excellence in execution. Historically, corporate leaders have looked to other functions, such as product development, marketing and sales, to drive corporate success, today more and more eyes are looking towards HR as the call for need.
Success of the brand depends upon of awareness and relevance. If target audiences are not aware of the brand, if their internal and external customers don't notice your effort in the cacophony of messages they receive each day, then we will never have a chance to be relevant. And if they become aware of you, if you capture their attention and fail to deliver relevance, then they will learn to ignore you.
In this paper, we give an overview of the importance of branding, steps involved in building a brand for the HR department. In this paper, we have also described the importance of creating a brand for the HR department to attract, motivate and retain the best and brightest in order to survive in the competitive world. 
Then we have analyzed the various sub systems of HR brand system which serves as the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of the company to grow in a big way in the long run.
 
Introduction
 
Customers differentiate firms by their products. Marketers have traditionally used "The 4 Ps" (product, price, position and promotion) to set the products of their firm apart from those of the competitor in the market place. Employees now differentiate their jobs by HR branding .The 4 Ps of HR are People, Pay, Position and Prospects.
As the functions of HR started spreading across the organization, the services rendered by the HR department to the employees can be treated as the same thing as selling services to the external customer. Hence, the HR department should care about its brand identity.
For a company to be successful, it has to attract, motivate and retain the best and brightest, making it competitive in the race. As organizations are complex, open systems, single interventions are not enough. The best organizations have compelling people strategies that are perfectly aligned with the organization's business strategy. Once the people strategy is aligned with the business strategy, you can begin creating a great place to work. The HR brand has to be aligned congruently with what the company delivers to the employee, customer, public and shareholder.
In today's knowledge driven economy, HR plays a strategic role in bringing in the right kind of people into the organisation. In a sense, HR is the first face of an organisation for a new prospective employee. Market research has revealed that strong brands contribute to strong competitive presence. In this way, the HR in its new avatar, the importance of branding HR follows quite as a corollary.
The challenge faced while structuring the brand is to establish new deliverables to sustain strong partnerships with both internal and external customers. The ability to see the big picture and to deploy the resources to address to this big picture will be more important than ever, based on the interactions of HR department with both internal and external customers.
 
The brand 'HR' can be well built by concentrating on the factors, which directly or indirectly influence the expectations of an employee. HR department should take decisions that would not discourage employees from being aligned to the brand behavior.
Initially, we have to build a brand internally that is possible by making high participation of internal customers in benefit plans, training programs and company functions. Greater the acceptance of performance plans, compensation programs, and policies and procedures, employee assistance programs, meditation services lead to higher satisfaction ratings on employee attitude surveys.
If an organisation wants its brand to be perceived as more strategic, more valuable, more reliable, one needs to think about what internal and external customers expect from them, how well they can deliver it, and how to progress. This isn't achieved by fancy packages, catchy slogans and name changes, either. This is achieved by thinking like a business with a product to be developed, marketed and reliably delivered to customers who want your services.
 
Rise in Importance of HR Branding
 
 
Brand as a System
 
We can consider brand as a system. The brand system has four components which are inextricably tied and interdependent.
 
Offer: It is the service or a group of services that the brand renders to its customers, and if the offer is complex or it is difficult to explain, then it would be very difficult to communicate the offer to the target segment. Hence, the offer should be clearly described for a brand to be successful. 
Example: Compensation packages, Training programs, Employee assistance programs, a good working environment, etc.
 
Identity: Identity is defined as every thing that assists in attracting attention, setting expectations and making an impression. Names, logos, slogans, advertising, packaging, vision and mission statement of the HR department make up the brand identity. This provides information to employees to determine an impression on the HR department.
 
Experience: Brand experience is the aggregate of all the perceptions that result from the interactions with a brand. But all the experiences are not equal. Employees assign different levels of importance to different facets of their experience.
 
Image: Brand Image is what people think of the brand. This is primarily based on the interactions with the HR department.
 
Steps Involved in Branding
 
Know The Customers
The first step in creating or enhancing a brand identity is to determine who your customers are, what they need, and how they currently perceive you. Are your primary customers upper managers, line managers or the entire workforce? What products and services do they use from HR? What would they like from HR? Do they use any HR services from outside vendors, and if so, why? How do they perceive the internal HR department?
To get truthful and useful information, it may be worthwhile to hire an outside specialist to conduct these interviews in private. Employees are more likely to state their true feelings about HR if they are guaranteed anonymity, and don't have to share their opinions in front of peers and co-workers.
It s important to start with gap analysis .Now-a-days in companies, there are many ideas about what HR is. When one thinks of human resources, they think of training, recruitment, personal welfare, salary and bonus, the corporate environment, and a whole range of concerns which can make brand development trickier. Companies often start with structuring various activities of HR to build a prototype with acquires all the qualities of a brand. Then they acquire and divest other companies ideas, to groom themselves with new technology, converge into new brand areas and pretty soon they outgrow.
 
Scheming a Strategy Towards Development of Mission Statement
 
Once the needs and current perceptions of your existing customers are determined, then the way the HR department is perceived can be changed.
All HR departments wish they could be strategic. But this may not be the most appropriate goal for every HR department in every company. In some companies, internal customers may want the HR department to provide great service in all the traditional HR areas. In many companies, customers may expect HR to take responsibility for productivity growth. You have to decide what brand identity works best for your particular culture and then work to create a mission statement and an organization that supports that identity.
HR professionals should take time to decide what works best for their particular customers. Developing a brand is all about making tough decisions as to what you will and will not stand for. In your company, for example, it may make sense to outsource routine tasks such as payroll processing so that existing HR people can concentrate on more strategic issues. To develop a solid brand identity you shouldn't be all things to all people.
Once you determine what your brand identity will be, take some time to craft a mission statement that will guide you through all the improvements that need to be made. The statement should define the mission of the HR function, the values and core principles the department will uphold, and the benefits.
The mission statement is important because it helps to define the future you wish to gravitate toward. We call this 'aspirational branding'.
 
Monitor the Change Performing Gap Analysis
 
Based on customer input, your HR department needs to do a better job by providing good services. Whether it s hiring employees or conducting team-building sessions, customers want you to be more responsive and pleasant to deal with. Because branding is about delivering a promise, we must ensure that people, practices and systems in the HR department all work to support the goal of customer service. There has to be an alignment between the brand promise and what you actually deliver.
Just as the company does not hire retired men in leisure suits to sell its hip, young clothing, we should not staff people who are unwilling to go the extra mile for line managers. For a brand identity to work, the systems must provide itself with back-ups.
 
Act the Talk
 
In the world of consumer goods, a product without a distinctive logo, slogan and type of packaging would become standstill. For example, a can of Coors beer looks very different from a can of Coca-Cola. These companies understand that the look and feel of their products communicate strong, albeit subtle messages to consumers.
Does it make sense for the HR department to create its own logo and slogan? Is the look of the HR department itself important in communicating brand identity? Packaging is an extremely valuable way to communicate and reinforce what a brand is about, but it would not work unless there is substance behind it. 
If your HR department has made substantial improvements, then the new look can be a way of communicating those improvements to others.
For example, as told by Shiv Balan, Head of HR at GMR Group, more than 80 percent of stored memory comes from the visual sense. "What you see, you remember, more so than any of the other senses." Consumer companies understand this, and that's why they spend enormous sums developing logos with memorable type, images and color.
If you think developing a separate logo for your HR department will make it stand out and get noticed, there s no harm in it. A verbal tag-line can also be an effective tool in getting your message across. But probably the most important packaging item is the HR department itself.
"Branding is not just about a label, logo, name, environment or color." More to the point a service brand HR is about people. It is all about how those people act, talk and treat others. You could spend millions of dollars redesigning your department, developing a logo and tag-line, and communicating the new brand identity, but if the people in HR are impossible to deal with, forget it. Your accomplishment is nothing.
 
Flatter a Lot
 
The most important step that needs to be followed once we determined what the brand identity is, to create a system in which you can consistently deliver the brand's promise, and you have packaged the department in such a way as to subtly communicate the improvements that have been made. Now is the time to begin tooting your horn.
However, unlike Pizza Hut or Nike, HR doesn't have the opportunity to use paid advertising to get its message across. A better way to communicate the new brand identity is by taking advantage of tried-and-true public-relations techniques.
For example, if you want human resources to be perceived as strategic, take time to quantify the strategic impact of a recent HR decision, or find an anecdote that shows how HR contributed to the strategic direction of the company by communicating those messages in board meetings, through the company newsletter or by developing special "HR Performance Reports". The key thing is to back up the overall.
Be sure to use language that employees will understand. "Don t get so caught up in HR jargon or terminology that you end up losing the audience," he warns. "Craft messages that speak to the recipient, not to you."
 
Enhance Your Visibility
 
Another PR technique that will help you to spread the good word about HR is to be as visible as you can - not only within your own company, but also in the larger world of human resources. Reach out to magazines and speak at HR conferences. This gives external validation for the brand changes you have made internally - and sometimes that's what it takes to get managers to pay attention.
 
No Looking Back
 
As HR struggles to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing world of business, the profession must regularly subject itself to self-scrutiny and be willing to make tough choices about what it will and will not stand for. The HR brand is in transition, but with careful attention the brand can harness an identity, learn to compete with external vendors and provide what customers expect.
The trick is to remember that branding is not a paint job. You can't dress up the HR department in new colors and expect people to believe everything has changed. Branding is only convincing, credible and effective, if it reflects changes in substance.
So pull out your Palm Pilot, PowerBook or Parker ball point and make a note to yourself - "The brand strategy works and HR can take advantage of it."
 
Benefits of Building a Brand for HR Department
 
1. It improves credibility and strengthens the bonds of trust between HR department and the employees.
2. It acts as a catalyst for pushing change.
3. It is communications shorthand for getting the message out.
 
Limitations
 
1. Employees perception at all times is not same. 
2. There is no appropriate method for prioritizing things. 
3. People may not have proper knowledge towards branding. 
4. Marketing and branding always overlap and create confusion.
 
Conclusion
 
Why do we go for brands? The answer is simple -.reliability. Its the popular brands which provide this reliability. Attracting knowledge workers has become a Herculean task for the HR department. Only the best practices and the best environment can assure their interest in working for your organisation. The practices and policies of the HR department and its outlook create a certain brand for the HR. The better the brand, better are the chances that you attract the best talent. The focus in our paper outlines all that are required to make HR the best brand.
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