It’s time to reframe your HR strategy for bigger business impact

At this time of year, each day brings with it the publication of a new company annual report. Alongside declarations of trading conditions being tough, the impact of a challenging global economy, disruption opportunities of new technologies and the opportunity to put the customer first, we expect many businesses to talk about the people agenda. It won’t be any surprise to read businesses talking about “people - their most important asset”.

And indeed, in this “experience” era, where superior customer experiences are proven to drive growth, the people agenda really is more important than ever before. Customer experiences are undoubtedly enabled by technology, but at their heart is the role played by people: people within the business who understand the business purpose and the brand promise, delivering this through every interaction they make with the customer. People who put the “human touch” at the centre of building brand advocacy.

So people and the role that they play in customer experience is key to driving growth.

Yet despite this, HR, the “people function”, remains a supporting role in so many businesses. In recent research conducted by Brand Learning, we discovered that HR often sits on the side lines, having little impact in shaping the future. There’s value in this supporting role: HR is important in enabling the business to operate, maintaining key business processes, resolving daily issues and managing risk, however there is a risk in it being under-represented in developing future vision and strategy. As an illustration, our research showed that despite employees being central to the delivery of customer experiences, HR is involved in the development of the customer experience strategy in less than 30% of businesses.

Awareness of this disconnect is rising, and our research signals an exciting new opportunity for HR – an opportunity to play a more influential role in business than ever before. By putting people alongside the customer at the heart of the strategic discussion, HR can connect more directly with the growth agenda. HR’s influence will come from shaping the role that people play in delivering customer experience and business purpose, putting the human touch at the centre of the transformation in the world of work - enabled by technology not overtaken by it.

This fresh agenda for HR requires value added in different areas and new capabilities for the function. In our research, talking to inspirational HR leaders from US, Europe and Asia, representing companies as diverse as Unilever, Gerdau, Marks & Spencer, Mediacom, Diageo, RBS and Starbucks, there was a palpable energy around a new agenda for HR. They recognise HR needs to deliver greater value. The conversation was peppered with talk of “reframing” or “reimagining” the role of HR, creating a new future for the function and transforming impact. The leaders we spoke to are energised by this new future for HR but implore the profession to grasp this opportunity.

Over the next few weeks, we will share our research findings. Alongside quantitative data from our recent studies, we will share insights around the areas where HR can deliver unique value in business. We will identify core capabilities that HR needs to build and identify how working with commercial areas of the business such as marketing and sales will be key to connecting the employee and customer agendas.

In the meantime, let us know how HR is changing in your business - what’s holding it back and how is it overcoming barriers to drive greater influence? You can contact us via the website, or get in touch via LinkedIn.

BRAND LEARNING: Inspiring people. Lifting capabilities. Growing organisations.