Making The Rubber Hit The Road- Rebranding HR


September 22, 2009

If I were asked to describe my “ideal” HR department, it would be one in which every HR pro would:

  • Know the business- Speak the language of the particular industry they support.
  • Understand the financials- This is key to being able to strategically advise leadership on people issues.
  • Get honest– They wouldn’t sugarcoat what is going on.  The only way to really make things better is to examine the issue at hand.
  • Encourage innovation– Include HR at all levels in brainstorming to truly challenge the traditional ways of doing things.  Some processes will remain the same.  Others will be taken to new and better levels.
  • Be recognized publically (internally AND externally) – Other work teams publicize their “wins”.  So should HR.

How do we get to the ideal? We RISE to a new level of awareness:

  • Reduce or outsource administrative functions where possible
  • Innovate to come up with fresh approachs to HR
  • Spread the word about what HR is and what it isn’t and  really publicize HR “wins” and successes
  • Engage all levels of the organization

So, why re-brand and reorganize Human Resources now?  There has been a great deal of focus on the future of HR lately in the blog world.  Several days ago, Lance Haun,, wrote a post pondering whether or not HR was “fatally flawed“.    I thought his idea of HR having a near death experience that would transform it was one worth exploring.  As many of us know, great thinking and great results often come only when someone challenges the popular way of thinking.  In this case, popular thinking of human resources as a mostly administrative role that supports the strategic leadership of the business.

I encourage you to read Lance’s post if you haven’t already.  He suggested that many of the administrative processes can be outsourced so that focus can be directed to three critical, strategic roles: a workplace process and productivity expert, a functional and effective ombudsman, and an employee life cycle manager.  His post encouraged many comments from HR pros weighing in on both sides of the question.

On the heels of Lance’s post, Laurie of Punk Rock HR hit us with ‘HR is dying. Yes? No?‘  The great thing about Laurie and her approach is she tells us right up front what she thinks, no sugar-coating (unless it’s about Scrubby, her cat).  Her take is that HR is dying.  People generally avoid HR, not embrace it.  Her post generated 86 comments (as of today) so you can see that this is a topic that inspires many people to weigh in on the state of the profession.  After reading all the comments, the common theme I saw was:

  • HR is in need of some serious overhaul
  • HR gets a bad rap for some of their roles and could do much better at publicizing the great things they do
  • HR pros (excluding the crappy ones) are willing to do what it takes to drive the change and help HR evolve

Laurie said it best in her comment response. “One thing I know: if we don’t innovate and thrive, we’re as good as dead. So I wonder — what are some good examples of HR doing it right? The Red Cross was one. If UR DOIN IT RITE at your companies, why isn’t CNBC profiling your HR team? Why aren’t you called upon as experts when there’s an article about unemployment, staffing, or workforce issues? Do we just need better PR teams for HR departments who are doing it right?”

As I started drafting this post and was half way through, Mike VanDervort over at The Human Race Horses grabbed the baton.  Check out his post to see how he describes the various types of HR pro as he sees it.  There are obviously those who will help drive change in updating the HR profession (Rock star, Expert, Specialist), the “status quo” Professional, and the ones that are clearly not joining in the movement of change (Preventer, Placeholder, and Victim).

One thing Mike said really hit me. “Why aren’t those of us who are perhaps on the leading edge of HR thought  and social media doing more to use our bad ass blogs and communities and all the other forums that we have at our fingertips  to tell the world just how kick ass HR can be?”  This directly ties into the idea I had which is that part of the HR overhaul should really focus on how HR portrays itself to the masses.  How well we publicize the great things we do will determine how we re-brand ourselves.

All this feels like the culmination of many different approaches all leading to the same result.  A new HR. A refocused, redefined, re-branded HR.  The ball is rolling.  How do we gain momentum?


  • I don’t know if it’s the fault of HR or the larger organizations, but HR in sooooo many companies functions primarily as a police department. They document the rules, enforce the rules, keep the records and when it’s time for a layoff or firing, deliver the pink slips. The result? HR as a department, and as individuals are both hated and feared. Sadly, I’ve seen far too many cases where that very rule-focused, enforcer role attracts people who get off on that kind of power, perpetuating the punitive reputation.

    What a breath of fresh air it would be for more HR departments to be a resource for growth opportunities, a place to go for help with questions and access to training on demand. A facilitator of employee development. Sure, HR will still have some gate-keeper functions. But maybe a little more St Peter and a lot less Grim Reaper would help.

  • I always tell people that I’m in HR, but I’m not like any HR people they’ve ever met before, because I’m actually fun. 🙂

  • LOL! And those of us who connect with you on twitter know that it’s true!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.



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