In other words: How do you sell HR?
This has been on my mind because I keep hearing a lot about small business, its everywhere in the political discourse but I want to get away from politics and ask: How do you sell the value/need for HR to a small company/startup?
If the owners/initial investors were in the corporate world, they may not view the traditional HR group as very valuable. Many people see HR as overhead (we are that’s true) but some view our version of overhead differently than marketing or PR. Marketing is the “cool” department, finance/accounting are “necessary” but HR is neither.
So how do we sell HR? Here are the two main tactics I’ve seen in the past:
- Compliance “You need me or you are going to get sued.” This is the DirectTv “when you have cable…” method of persuasion (click on the link if you have no idea what I’m talking about).
- Efficient task masters: “I can manage the facility, plan the company Christmas party, and get everybody paid correctly on-time.” This is the Wal-Mart style, they have everything you need but it isn’t necessarily the best quality or selection.
These look and sound great: the bigger a company gets the more they have to worry about compliance, and there is a reason why Wal-Mart is so popular. People go there and get what they need in one stop. There’s nothing wrong with that but you are unlikely to find something unique or different there.
The problem with the tactics above is that more and more they are being outsourced. This is not news but it certainly complicates our ability to sell HR. In the past we could rely on the compliance or task master model but in this world many outcomes are determined by something that we have little control over: human behavior. Leaders, supervisors, employees, maybe even customers all influence how our department is perceived, positive or negative.
To sell HR we need to look at the business environment and company history. From there we need to determine what aspects of HR are most vital to success: securing talent? retaining talent? keeping the company’s nose clean?
Determine all that and follow in the footsteps of niche marketing. Customize services, create initiatives, plans, strategies (whatever you want to call them) that fit the business and its employee’s.
This means that outside of legal compliance, HR likely looks different at every organization. And that’s OK. Is it difficult? Sure it is. But that’s the only way to differentiate the value of HR at your organization. If HR at Dan’s Bait Emporium looks the same as HR at Rob’s Huntin’ Shack then why bother having your own HR team? Just find an outsourcing company that can do it for you.
What do you think? Am I out of line? Off my rocker? How do you sell HR in your organizations?