Where do ‘Brands’ go to Die?

cad_poke_stillI read a press release yesterday announcing that the Museum of Broadcast Communication in Chicago will present “A Salute to Advertisings Greatest Icons” beginning in May.

The exhibition will “examine the creation and evolution of the characters from their inception to contemporary use, through commercials, vintage print ads and packaging, and a wide variety of character memorabilia. Advertising agencies and brand historians will describe how the characters were designed and how they have evolved over the years.”

Among the brands/characters/pop culture icons showcased will be:

  • Pillsbury Doughboy (General Mills)
  • Jolly Green Giant (General Mills)
  • Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) (Kelloggs)
  • Snap, Crackle & Pop (Rice Krispies) (Kelloggs)
  • Keebler Elves (Keebler…duh)
  • Ronald McDonald (McDonalds…duh again)
  • Procter & Gambles Mr. Clean (Procter & Gamble)
  • 9 Lives Morris the Cat (Procter & Gamble)
  • Charlie the Tuna (StarKist) (Procter & Gamble)
  • Raid Bugs (S.C. Johnson)

OMG…how I want to poke the belly of the Pillsbury Doughboy and make him giggle!

According to the president of the museum These beloved characters helped define many of the worlds top consumer brands, and each has become synonymous with their brand in commercials, print ads, packaging and on grocery shelves.” 

It’s kind of nifty that these characters continue to have active lives; Poppin’ Fresh (the doughboy) (OMG…he’s so cute!) has been getting a finger jammed in his tummy since 1965. Ronald McDonald has been scaring amusing children for the same length of time. Last year, you may recall, McDonald’s announced Ronald was getting a makeover. Not quite sure how that has turned out; I, along with countless others, thought it was creepy as hell.

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This got me thinking about the types of brands we blather on about in HR and Recruiting; employer brand, culture brand, branded (aka ‘talent’) communities, HR brand, personal brand.

I can guarantee you, with some degree of certainty, there will never be a museum exhibit dedicated to fabulous branding by human resources teams.

And I wonder if one of the reasons is because so many of these “HR driven” branding initiatives wither away. Oh sure, there are employer brands that evolve, transform, and remain strong (Google, Apple, Starbucks, et al.). The HR brand within an organization may shift dramatically with the addition of a new CHRO. People dissect, re-imagine, and reposition their personal brands all the time.

But sometimes the brands that HR teams are ‘responsible’ for just go “pffffffft”.

Why? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Employer branding is siloed in talent acquisition instead of carried throughout the entire employee life cycle
  • There is no integration with the company’s consumer brand
  • Something is built or constructed in the belief that ‘if we build it … people will come’
  • People invested in the nurturing and furthering of the brand leave the organization

And isn’t that last point critical? We can grasp its importance in SMBs but I think it’s a relevant point in large multi-faceted enterprises as well.

This may go against what we try to believe. We get behind the rallying cry “there’s no I in team” and discount the drive and contribution of that one person who is a fierce believer, promoter and passion-ista. The loss of that one team member, co-worker or leader can also mean the loss of ideas, excitement and brand energy.

And when that happens does the brand go somewhere else? Does it land in some sort of brand boneyard? Can it be resuscitated and resurrected?

I think it can; although it may never be the same. Sort of like a Zombie.

But zombies are sort of cool.

GRAAIINS-M2

 

 

 

 

 

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(1) Pillsbury Doughboy image

(2) image courtesy of WearYourBeer

 

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The Neil DeGrasse Tyson of HR

NDTOccasionally I’m witness to an interesting phenomenon when gatherings of HR professionals play a round of “HR Solar System.” This game is also known as “I’m in HR and I think the planets revolve around me.”

I recall a workshop I attended where the speaker posed the following question: “if an employee is getting off track, whose job is it to get them back on board?”

So while I ticked through some answers in my mind – “the employee, the manager” – I really wasn’t surprised to hear an answer bubbling up from throughout the audience – “it’s HR’s job.”

Oh boy.

One thing that always makes me wince is when HR colleagues make statements along the line of  “I have to meet with Sally Sue Employee to issue her write-up/written warning/PIP.” And Sally Sue works in Accounting. Or Marketing. In other words, Sally Sue is NOT having this performance discussion with her manager – she is having it with the HR lady.

Please stop.

HR’s role is not to insert itself into every single employee interaction. Our role is to assist the managers by providing them with coaching, support, and guidance so THEY can have performance discussions with the employees who report to them.

Our role is to assist in supporting a culture where employees are treated with dignity and their abilities and contributions are aligned with organizational goals. Our role is to work to ensure that our organizations provide the foundational structure and the environment in which the employees can succeed. And ultimately our role is to do all these things in order to impact our organization’s performance and success.

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The quickness of the attendees at this workshop to respond “it’s HR’s role to get an employee back on track” points to a continuing desire to be acknowledged and validated. I saw it happen live. I hear stories about it on a regular basis. Jason Lauritsen wrote a great post about this syndrome after the conclusion of the HR Reinvention Experiment in Omaha a few years ago.  He made some great points and readers chimed in with some super comments. Go check it out and then let me know —

—- does HR still view itself as the center of the universe?  Do we suffer from Solar System Syndrome?

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this post originally appeared at the HRSchoolhouse. Reprinted because I still think it holds true. 

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Join Me: Drivers of Engagement in New Hire Onboarding

We discuss employee engagement a lot don’t we? We realize there are benefits to our organizations when we have a highly engaged workforce; things like improved performance, higher productivity, and improved retention.

Across the continuum of the employee life cycle there are numerous touch points and multiple opportunities for us to focus on strategies that address our desired outcomes. And the onboarding of employees is one of those times.

But how do we tackle it? How do we improve the onboarding experience, ensure it’s aligned with our company’s business objectives, and measure success? What are key talent metrics? And how, if you’re considering revamping your onboarding program, do you get from here…to there?

Join me next Thursday (2/26/2015) for “Drivers of Engagement in New Hire Onboarding” when I’ll be part of a panel discussing the essential elements of high-performance onboarding, key practices for gauging impact, and the importance of talent technology.

Hosted by cfactor Works Inc. (developer of Vibe HCM suite) and Brandon Hall Group, a leading HCM research and advisory services firm, and will feature, in addition to me, a whole bunch of smart people:

I promise we’ll have a great discussion and share some interesting information, so go here to register and join us.

Onward to onboarding!

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The Aftermath #50ShadesofHR

Employee complaint form

MEMORANDUM

 

February 16, 2015

TO:                   All Employees

FROM:           Janet Jones, Director of Human Resources

RE:                   Inappropriate Workplace Conversations

It has come to my attention that a fair number of you saw the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” this past weekend. Some of you, according to my sources, attended multiple screenings.

It is apparent that many of you have forgotten that Acme Corporation’s Workplace harassment policy prohibits “verbal or physical conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” (Section III, subsection A, paragraph 2).

While talk of one’s ‘inner goddess’ may not, on the surface, create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, when followed up with a discussion about the color of one’s cheeks it may cause others to feel uncomfortable.

Please also note:

  • It is not appropriate to begin using “Laters, baby” as your email signature
  • We will not, despite repeated requests, be turning the vacant office on the 5th floor into a “Red Room”
  • Corsets are not appropriate workplace attire
  • It is neither funny nor professional to inform a co-worker “I’d like to bite that lip.”
  • We will no longer allow college journalism students to interview our top executives
  • This memo is not tongue in cheek; it is not advisable, after all, to use the phrase “tongue in cheek.”

Thank you for your attention to this matter and please see me with any questions.

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How To Build Your HR Empire

empressRecently, I was doing some reading about internal barriers in organizations created by fear. In Tom Rieger’s Breaking the Fear Barrier he points out these barriers take three forms: parochialism, territorialism, and empire building. As he states:

Parochial managers do not necessarily want to take control over other departments. Instead, they build walls against others’ empire building attempts to keep outsiders from interfering with their own local focus and viewpoint. Territorialism is about keeping things just the way they are; empire building is about changing the balance of power. While territorialism seeks to impose limits over what people can do inside the silo, empire building seeks to change the focus of what those in other departments do. Territorialism is about defending the current span of control, but empire building is about expanding it.

Huh. I’ve known some human resources professionals that fall into each of those categories. Parochial HR leaders say things like “You can’t do xyz because it’s against policy/law/my wishes” or “We need you to complete that annual checklist performance review so we have documentation” or “Because I say so.”

The territorial HR manager will let you know, quite happily, that she controls your training budget so you best justify to her why one of your staff members needs to attend a $159 training workshop. You need to go through her (not IT) to get a new laptop and gain her approval before you allow a staff member to spend the afternoon working at the local coffee shop.

Interestingly enough, Tom Rieger shares an HR example of empire-building:

“A multibillion-dollar company centralized several support functions under its head of human resources. As a result, that executive became chief administrative officer over human resources, accounts payable, legal, real estate, and several other departments. Although the IT needs of the businesses were specialized in research and development, she insisted that IT should also be under her charge and successfully fought to add IT to her growing empire. The outcome was inefficiency, wasted resources, disengagement, and lack of focus, all of which resulted in unnecessary costs for the organization.”

Now I dare say the way this works in a multibillion-dollar company is just a tad different from how it occurs at Acme Financial Services with 300 employees. In some ways it’s easier for the HR leader to assume control of people, functions or resources in a smaller organization. No one wants to manage the vehicle fleet? HR will take it on. That administrative assistant whose job has become somewhat redundant in the last 10 years? Bam! We’ll put her to work in HR!

Next thing you know, the human resources span of control includes customer service/reception, purchasing, and facilities maintenance.

Is this always a bad thing? Not necessarily This sort of structure might be appropriate for Company A even though it’s not going to work at Company B. But, as Tom Rieger points out “Often, organizations will permit or overlook an empire builder’s encroachment because he presents his attempt at conquest as a faster way to meet an objective. In other cases, the empire builder is more subtle, taking over inch by inch. By the time anyone notices, the change has already occurred.”

Do the HR Empire Builders want to find ways to meet objectives? Get stuff done? Eliminate redundancies and remove impediments? It’s possible.

It’s also possible some just want power in whatever way they can get it.

But size – and control – have nothing to do with real strength and power. Wise HR leaders realize it’s not about gobbling up additional territory as if sweeping the board in a game of Risk in an attempt to conquer the world. Instead they realize it’s about delivering value by supporting and enabling the execution of company strategy. Period. End of story.

They understand that HR influence isn’t dependent upon the size of one’s kingdom. They know it’s about acquiring knowledge and mastering the HR fundamentals. It means they never stop learning and they look forward to the future rather than trying to run from it. They know that great HR is often invisible.

And that’s how they build an HR empire.

 

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Henry The Fourth, Part 2 Act 3, scene 1, 26–31

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