The hard sell

first_imgThe hard sellOn 1 Oct 2002 in Military, Personnel Today HR often feels under-valued as a profession, so how can it successfully besold to the board? Compiled and written by Scott Beagrie, Philip Boucher, LizSimpson and Ed PetersWe’ve heard it all before: HR is a profession frequently overlooked,sidelined, dismissed and downsized. Clearly, such complacency calls for radicaltactics to change this mindset. What if the profession was to call in anadvertising agency to come up with an advertising/marketing campaign to givethe board that much-needed wake-up call and convince them that HR does make avital contribution to an organisation. To devise the campaigns, we approached three agencies located in the UK, USand Asia and gave them a brief as to how HR wants to be seen. So as not to beconstricted by costs, the campaign did not have a fixed budget. It was up tothe agencies to maximise the effectiveness of their message through cleverchoice of media. Each of the three agencies came up with very different interpretations ofthe brief, solutions, methods of delivery and rationales for their approach. The campaigns Agency: TBWA, Hong Kong TBWA is a major Asian advertising agency with a network of officesstretching from Korea and India to New Zealand. Its clients include theAustralian Tourist Commission, Adidas and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. The campaign TBWA chose to produce a TV-led advertising campaign based on three themes:‘Competitive’, ‘Ambition’ and ‘On Top’ – each of these themes were made up ofthree short ads, of which we detail one from each: Competitive A sample from the first, entitled ‘Copier’, sees two employees,a man and a quiet, looking younger man, approach the photocopier in an ordinaryoffice. They both reach it at exactly the same time. The younger of the two,holding a single sheet of paper, says: “I hope you don’t mind if I goahead,” and places his document on the machine. The other man yells:”Oh no you don’t – I was here first”, before shoving his colleagueinto the copier and slamming the lid down on his head. As the younger manslumps to the floor, the older colleague nonchalantly begins making copies andthe voice-over cuts in: “Increase your company’s competitiveness. Usehuman resources.” Ambition In ‘Meeting’, a board meeting is interrupted by the arrival of aninternal messenger. But instead of dropping off a message and leaving, he takesan empty seat at the table and adjusts the seat to make himself morecomfortable. The confused board members don’t say a word. Then the tea ladywalks in and the messenger ostentatiously orders a café latté and the voiceoverintones: “Nurture ambition with human resources.” On top ‘Factory’ took on a different approach. A woman works on a tediousproduction line, where large stamping machines pound the conveyor belt in frontof her. She calls her supervisor over, apparently to ask a question, but as heleans over, she pushes him on to the conveyor belt and a scream is heard. Thewoman looks around to make sure no-one has spotted her and continues with herjob. The voiceover says: “Let your employees know there are other ways toget ahead. Use human resources.” Key message The benefits – what HR can give; rather than attributes – what HR can do.That the core benefit any board is seeking relates to competitive advantage andthat HR at its best can shape attitudes and culture, which for a board is oneof the key, yet hardest, things to address. Media TBWA chose TV citing mainstream news programmes as prime slots, in additionto cable channels such as CNN and CNBC. As TBWA chief Neil Ducray points out:”TV is by far the most intrusive, persuasive and memorable medium.”He also says that in Asia, it is several times more cost-effective compared toother advertising media than in Europe or the US. The TV campaign would besupported by billboard and print advertising in publications such as Hong KongEconomic Journal, Hong Kong Economic Times and the Singapore Straits Times. Soundbite “We thought it was time to get HR away from corporate advertisingsameness and make a bold statement to set the discipline apart,” says TBWAchief Neil Ducray. “The programme had to be highly disruptive if we wereto yank HR out of its current perceptual rut.” Agency: The Cherenson Group, New Jersey, US Cherenson is a full-service PR and advertising agency with a recruitmentarm. Vice-president Mike Cherenson worked for the democratic nationalconvention committee in 1992 and as a consultant for local and state-widepoliticians. Clients include: BOCGases, Hard Rock Café, US Water, RayBanSunglasses and Virgin Records. The campaign The Cherenson Group approached the task as a political campaign that mustwin support throughout the organisation. “In corporate life, no-one isgoing to get anywhere until they accept that business life involves politicalfights, including the ability to show why you’re important and need to belistened to,” says Mike Cherenson. Step one, he says, consists of HR going out to ‘press the flesh’ and have conversationswith employees throughout the company to find out what their issues are. “Like any good political candidate, you can only solve people’sproblems if you know what these are in the first place,” he explains. This internal, qualitative research can be translated into a series of casestudies outlining all the ways in which HR has actually helped employees withtheir concerns. “Case studies are a wonderful tool for illustrating thevalue of HR and we’ve taken a number of everyday situations in which HR canmake a demonstrable difference to employees lives,” says Cherenson. “Once you’ve found your own real-life examples, these become a seriesof messages.” These examples could be used as a series of messages toemployees conveyed through large wall posters, inserted into employee mailings,the corporate intranet and even screensavers. Cherenson believes attracting the‘voters’ in this way builds a network of advocates throughout the company, whowill help disseminate the message to line managers (whose support is vital inpersuading the board) that HR is an effective and essential business partner. “Today’s companies are always looking to slash overheads and increaserevenue. HR is the one department that has ties to all employees and it needsto develop and utilise those relationships, and the tools at its disposal, tosolve the company’s problems.” Then, he says, it must promote itself constantly using the language that’sappropriate for the audience. With employees, this is couched in the ‘how canwe help you?’ approach,” he says. With senior management, it is howintangibles like corporate reputation and employee satisfaction are assets thatcontinue to be invested in – because without them, the bottom line suffers. Key message The overall theme is that when people have a problem and want to know whocan help them, the answer is human resources. HR needs to present evidence tothe board that what it does is not an expense but an investment and that suchinvestments have demonstrable returns. Media Wall posters, inserts into employee mailings, the corporate intranet,screensavers and short executive briefings. Sound bites “There is no magic dust and putting up some posters will not fix theproblem overnight. This must be a long-term, sustained programme where HR isseen as an advocate for the workers.” “Today’s companies are always looking to slash overheads and increaserevenue. HR is the one department that has ties to all employees and it needsto develop and utilise those relationships, and the tools at its disposal, tosolve the company’s problems.” Agency: Ward Diamond Advertising, London WDA was established more than seven years ago and has an annual turnover of£4m (US$6.2m). It has a team of recruitment advertising specialists and itsclient base includes British Film Institute, British Airways Travel Shops,Thomas Cook, Rail Europe and Macmillan Cancer Relief. The campaign To brand HR as HRMY – a pun on army – and use a series of events leading upto an HRMY delivering a “substantive” dossier with analysis,statistics, projections and examples of HR’s successes in other organisationsto the board. The rationale for the pun is that an army is powerful and able to achieveambitious and complex objectives as a result of leadership, planning andstrategy and HR should be perceived in the same way. To avoid seeming overlymilitaristic, WDA decided that its campaign would contain no inappropriatereference to conflict, weapons, attacks or anything similar – it wouldn’t evenmention the war for talent. The tagline to the campaign would be performance-enhancing force (againpromoting HR’s ability to influence the bottom line). Having come up with theconcept, the strategy would be to present a document pack. Called OperationLinks, the document would be delivered to the board by an HRMY team in brightcoloured uniforms. In organisations where HR and the board work together to make these links,performance is improved. “We would focus our document around these links, and use our facts, figuresand case studies to justify making them. The name Operation Links was a naturalchoice,” explains Samantha Diamond, managing director. To match the army theme, the campaign would be run in phases, like thebuild-up to a military operation. Each phase would take place weekly, and starton a Monday, leading up to the final brief to the board. The first stage would be an announcement to the board that something big wascoming. This would be a huge, inflatable billboard outside the office, carryinga pastiche of a film poster with a typical gung-ho statement relating to thebottom line. The twist would be that the HRMY would be, quite literally, coming to theboardroom soon. The second phase would involve adding a bit of intrigue. Everyday of weektwo, an envelope marked ‘For Your Eyes Only’ would be pushed under eachdirector’s door. Envelopes would contain a task and a method by which to achieve the task.The tasks would all relate to improving business performance; the methods wouldrefer specifically to proven ways in which HR can achieve this improvement. In the third week, directors would receive a package – the HRMY operationskit. Mocked up to resemble a survival kit, it would contain the followingitems, each with a label attached with one word printed: Compass – direction Radio – communication Flare – attraction Chocolate – energy and motivation Antiseptic – problem prevention The words all refer to key ways in which HR can aid a business: – Ensuring workers understand board goals and work towards them – Promoting effective communication – Attracting (and retaining) people who can help the board achieve its goals– Motivating staff to raise productivity – Providing the flexibility to counter external threats and problems withinthe organisation The final stage would be a short meeting at which all the directors would bepresent. A group of people would burst in wearing bright uniforms with the logoHRMY. The team would make its way swiftly and efficiently around the room, placingthe Operations Link dossier in front of each director. Then the most senior ofthe group calls for attention and begins the briefing. Key message The best way to get through to the board is to demonstrate how HR can affectthe bottom line. Media The campaign would run in several phases: Billboard advertising, direct mailand publication Sound bites “We should portray HR as a confident, credible and capable force.””An army is powerful, is able to achieve ambitious and complexobjectives thanks to leadership, planning and strategy. HR should be perceivedin the same way.” The brief HR in a bad light: How it isfrequently seen– HR professionals lack foresight, influence and credibility andplay a marginal role in many companies– The board is (often) mystified about what HR is for andignorant of the relationship between good people management and financialperformance– Even when companies put people issues at the heart of theirpolicies, HR does not get the recognition for putting these in place– HR’s role is primarily stuck at the lower end of the scale,hampered by managers’ failure to understand what it can offer but also by HRprofessionals not being assertive enough and not having enough authority (seebelow)– However talented an HR director is, if the board does notwant to listen, it won’t. Equally, if line managers don’t buy into HR strategy,getting anything done may prove nigh on impossibleHow HR wants to be seen:Convincing the board of its merits– To be a dynamic, credible force with business acumen thatmakes a positive contribution to organisational performance and the bottom line– To be considered a priority – involved right at the beginningof any strategic agenda or business planning and able to draw people strategiesfrom the business objectives. And be seen as a ‘value-adder’ to any commercialdecision– For business leaders to recognise the value of good peoplemanagement and high performance HR policies– Considered as an effective business partner with a seat onthe board, or failing that, disparaged to at least have a strong relationshipwith the top team– To be seen as accessible and effective by the workforce,shedding the human remains image Features list 2021 – submitting content to Personnel TodayOn this page you will find details of how to submit content to Personnel Today. We do not publish a… Comments are closed. center_img Related posts: Previous Article Next Articlelast_img

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