Strong brands need strong HR

Jul 11 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

An organisation’s people management practices can significantly affect how its brand is perceived, according to a new report.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report, ‘Branding and People Management: What’s in a Name?’ explores the relationship between branding and people management and the importance of employee perceptions of the brand proposition and reputation.

Its authors, Dr. Graeme Martin and Professor Phillip Beaumont, identify four distinct stages of development in the relationship between branding and HR. In each, the policies are combined to varying levels and affect the overall strategy of the organisation.

In stage one, branding is seen as a well-defined and protected signifier or logo for particular products, services or businesses, while HR plays little or no role in supporting the brand. This is more common among smaller, newer companies that do not necessarily see brands as embodying values.

Companies in the second stage may have a master brand or logo but also place more emphasis on the vision and values behind it. The role of HR is to support those individual brands and highlight how they relate to employees’ values.

In the third stage, companies can capitalise on the vision and values of a strong corporate brand to bring about organisational change, for example in bringing together previously disparate business operations.

HR supports this by designing programmes for change, while the brand provides a compelling employment proposition for staff as well as an identity for customers. However, these changes can be difficult to implement universally and usually require years to become fully embedded.

When companies succeed at the third level they may move to the fourth. The corporate brand is now the centrepiece of the overall strategy and HR has a pivotal role in allowing employees to act as ‘brand ambassadors’.

Graeme Martin says: "It shouldn’t be assumed that all companies progress along these stages in a linear fashion. Because of their own strategic context or time frame, many businesses find that the strategic practices that work best for them may not be the most ‘highly developed’, such as those organisations in Brewing and Financial Services that wish to retain strong product or individual line-of-business brands.

"However, this report allows organisations to identify where they sit in these stages and develop their understanding of how branding and people management are combined. What is critical is to acknowledge that they can and should work together: a company’s HR practices support its branding proposition and vice versa."