Nobody likes to be pushed into things. Especially “HR things.”
I read a great post from Mark Bonchek, Senior Vice President, Communities and Networks for Sears Holdings on Harvard Business Review this morning. The article talks about how top brands are creating value beyond their product to keep customers “orbiting” around the company.
Bonchek says, “Top brands like Apple, Google, and Nike are using a new model based on pulling rather than pushing. They create a gravitational field that attracts customers into orbit around their brand.”
For these brands, it isn’t about how many likes they can get on Facebook, or follows on Twitter. This is about creating lasting, meaningful, and authentic relationships with their customers and the people in their customers’ lives.
We often talk about building our brand in HR, so let’s see if we can learn some ways we can create some HR gravity of our own, and begin to pull, rather than push folks into our processes and technology.
Bonchek says those who are successfully generating gravitational pull are doing it with three basic steps: Establishing Purpose (the Why); Implementing Engagement Platforms (the What); and Collaborating with Partners (the How).
The objective of Push marketing is to convince a customer to make a purchase. In contrast, the objective of Pull marketing is to achieve a shared purpose. Bonchek shares an interesting story in his post.
“At Sears Holdings, where I work, the Craftsman brand of tools and equipment has an orbit strategy for do-it-yourselfers. The Craftsman Experience studio in Chicago creates live experiences and professionally produced content to help members of the Craftsman community create and accomplish their DIY projects. The focus isn’t on the immediate purchase, but on achieving the shared purpose of creativity, craftsmanship and accomplishment. This shared purpose attracts existing Craftsman customers, and leads them to bring along their DIY friends as well.”
Are there ways you could bring managers and employees into the fold before launching your next HR initiative? Could you create an environment where HR tools and technology are available for ‘non-approved’ uses?
The reason many do not pursue this type of exercise is that it shoots holes in their “plans,” or means re-thinking HR delivery in ways that take additional effort and investment. Yet, wide-spread user adoption remains one of the biggest challenges organizations face when implementing new HR technology.
In the same way marketers try to “push” consumers into a purchase, HR tries to push users into adoption. Think about ways you can create a shared vision for what you want to accomplish. It doesn’t mean you have to set up a lab, or test environment, but the effort you make up front in creating that shared purpose may just help you avoid a costly rip and replace of technology nobody is using down the road.
While Push marketers focus on products, Pull marketers focus on engagement platforms. Don’t confuse “platform” here with technology platform. These platforms are what enable a conversation outside the purchase process, engage potential buyers in the shared purpose, and deliver value beyond the product itself.
Back to Apple, Google, and Nike… Apple’s iTunes music manager, Google’s search engine, and the Nike+ running community are engagement platforms for these brands. These companies don’t charge for these services, but keep customers in frequent orbit around the brand and make it easy for customers to make a purchase (song, ad, or shoe) when they are ready.
Yes, these are high-tech brands, but even traditional brands like Kraft Foods have built effective orbit strategies. Kraft’s is all about recipes – combining content, conversation, and commerce.
Why don’t people hang around HR and talk about performance reviews, or share employee development ideas, or trade stories about how they achieved their quarterly goals? In most organizations, managers and employees DO talk about these things – they just don’t do on HR’s platform. Because there generally isn’t one. Oh, you put up an HR page and nobody ever goes there?
Creating a platform with gravitational pull takes more than simply providing a social networking hub, or web page – you need to provide value beyond the product (HR) itself.
Engagement platforms work when multiple layers work together. The identity layer should recognize the employee (think talent profiles). The data layer exchanges information to personalize the experience (think individual career pathing, succession planning, talent development). The relationship layer enables connection among the brand (HR) and community members (think feedback, team learning & skill development, corporate goals, future skills needed, etc.). Finally, the value layer delivers benefits to the users (self-directed learning/skill development, peer-feedback, collaboration, career path, next-level opportunities, etc.).
The value here is what is valuable to the workforce… Two of the biggest: a sense that the organization has their well-being in mind, and opportunities to improve knowledge and skills.
One of the reasons social strategies are becoming part of HR technology strategies is that social networking can provide ready-made identity, data, and relationship layers. All you have to do is figure out the right engagement strategy for the value layer.
Common engagement strategies include, content, conversation, collaboration, contribution, and commerce. In HR, you are probably going to focus on the first four. Again, these don’t have to exist online.
Simply put, partners add credibility to what you are doing. They reinforce the idea that you are trying to create value and build relationships beyond pushing products. In HR, this means opening up to your business partners across the organization without trying to get them to do/use/adopt your shiny new system. It means allowing them to participate in creating the shared vision for how talent and HR technology will play.
In the example of Apple, their music platforms are integrally connected with partners, whether music companies for iTunes or developers for the App store. They don’t say, “must be designed/developed here,” and neither should you.
One example from Bonachek’s post is particularly on the mark for us. A t-shirt maker, Threadless sources designs for its t-shirts from its customers, and lets the community pick which ones to produce. Does this mean I’m suggesting we open up the next HR technology RFP to the company and let the employees decide what we implement? Well, not quite, but close.
I’m suggesting we “source our design” from our customers (managers and employees) and that we do include them in the technology we select. When we begin to think about those who will be asked to use the systems and processes we design and implement as “partners,” rather than simply users, it only makes sense to bring them in early and often.
Creating HR gravity starts with identifying the purpose both you and the company cares about, and for which you have something to offer. Your engagement platform – whether it be online, or a break-room table, creates value beyond “using” the system or HR process by delivering content, or collaboration, or allowing greater contribution.
Are you ready to build some HR gravity? If so, now is the time to stop pushing and start pulling!
Another infusion of knowledge…