Yours Personally Professionally

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Yours personally professionally

Yours Personally, Professionally Speaking

Facebook’s sweeping success is, in very large part, because it is a hybrid social media, brokering the gap of personal and professional.  The rules of the social media game privilege ‘personal’ communications; and companies that manage to insert personal-ity into their Facebook presence will certainly garner a more favourable following.  Yet, how does one sign off a note or letter “yours personally” professionally speaking?  It is a tricky question in that a company must enable its employees to speak on their own initiative, yet maintain a consistency (call it “a line”) that does not muddy its positioning.  In the end of the day, that has always been the case, to the extent that employees have always communicated directly with customers.  The ballgame is now different in that the dialogue must be two-way and there is a trace that is visible to all online communication.  Furthermore, whereas one letter/fax to one client had limited scope in the past, that same letter can now become an internet sensation over night.

Megaphone effect of the Web

Regardless of the internet megaphone effect, I am more than ever convinced that, in order to be successful in the future, brands — and companies in general — must learn to bridge the gap between the professional and personal worlds because the customer is expecting a personal interface, a reaction, an emotion, an experience.  The only way to satisfy this customer expectation is to put your heart and soul into the product and surrounding service.  The key then becomes the employee who must be able to interact with characteristics such as passion, conviction and humility.  This is an issue that places the role of the Human Resources department at the strategic core of companies.

The term “Human Resources,” however, increasingly feels like a misnomer.  Resources are, by definition, limited; and, de facto, these human resources are being mined by businesses.  Moreover, while employees are, more often than not, not “enjoying the ride”, HR departments, as a whole, tend de facto not to be considered central to the organisation’s strategy regardless of what is being said at the top.  What counts are the acts.  Giving human beings the opportunities to learn and grow, to express themselves, to find meaning in their employment are a surefire way to make the “resources” go a lot further.  Moreover, if the “resources” are on the same [fan] page, then the results [and customers] will undoubtedly follow.

The truth is, finding ways to turn organisations upside down into “learning organisations” with an entire labour force able to listen to and talk with engagement and responsibility is a tall order for any company.  But, it’s not because it is difficult that it should not be the objective, especially for companies that want to build sustainable success in the new Internet world.  Putting the HR function at the centre of the organisation is quite uncommon; but I would argue it has never been more important to do so.  Marketing, sales and finance all remain critical; but the true vector of the culture and the customer experience lies in the quality of the staff delivering your service.

What’s your opinion? If you have been at a strategic planning session recently that featured the HR manager getting major air time, that is surely a rarity and I would love to hear of examples.

3 Comments, RSS

  1. In an "internet world" where people are more and more connected and where customers have the possibility to express easily their opinions; brands have to consider from now on the customers priority and put themself in the center of the company.
    Brands are changing and are more taking care of them. But I am sure it's still not enough. As you said, brands have to speak with their "heart" and with "passion". It's now essential. Customers are waitting a special relation with the brand.

    For a long time, brands had for aim to just sell products in order to make money. But this time is over. Nowadays, companies don't consider customers as "objects" but as "real humans". If they still consider them as "objects" (with everything around this term), it could be fatal for them.
    When you see people reactions about Nestlé and BP, I think it's irresponsable for companies not taking in consideration the human behavior. Imagine how long its necessary to repaire the damage. for a company to change people mind after something like that.

    However, there is a fantastic opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves from others companies on the Internet. They don't have to use it as a constrain but more as a potential.
    But for that they have to focus on the the customers, their needs; listen more to them, exchange, collaborate,and share information. Take into considerations all these facts in order to be closer to the customers. They have to listen to them everytime, reply to them, be transparent and respectful to them. And finally, they have to Act for them in order to show that customers are not "cows" who's buying just products. They are more than that.

    In order to implement this new approach towards the customers, the companies will have to change a lot of things in its strategy, and put in stand by for once its business vision. And before doing that, I think that the companies have to concentrate on the human side of the employees.

    As you said in your article, I agree with you on the fact that we have to give more possibilities to the HR to express themselves in the company.
    But not only. I think that companies in general have a lot of potential, all the departments have to express, exchange their ideas, feelings and put their skills into the hands of the company and also the customers directly.
    All the departments have to be placed in the center of the company, forget their business side, and in contrary use more their human side.

    I understand that its hard for a company to change, it seems even risky for the eyes of the management. Because they are afraid that the employees will express themselves negatively and the management will lose the control of it. But in real, i don't think that its really the case. The companies have to change on this principe, because if they don't do it now, others will take the opportunity to do it before !

  2. @Pierre-Emmanuel. Your points are all super valid. Putting the employees at the centre and allowing all departments to play their part vis a vis the customer is a vital yet tricky balancing act, managing not to get wires crossed, territories infringed and messages messed up…

    And yes, still today, the opportunities are rather vast not just because many if not most companies have not figured it out, but the options are still wildly unexplored. The field is very open to innovative marketing – the form yet remains the message (la forme deviant le fond)…

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