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.
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.