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Seb Anthony

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Marketing the HR function


Following a restructure we are currently looking at our image and how we market ourselves internally. Historically split into 2 distinct functions - Personnel & OD we're now going to re-brand as one department - HR. Can anyone point me in the direction of any articles/research which have looked at these terms, what they mean and what the customers' perceptions are of each, particularly in terms of the sercives they provide and the role they play in an organisation?

Or does anyone have any experience of this kind of internal re-branding which they could share?

9 Responses

  1. Ask Your “Market”
    Hi Sarah

    I can’t point to any specific articles at this point, but as a marketer I would say that the best way to find out what your clients currently think is to ask them directly – why not ask a small, cross-section of your staff to complete a questionnaire, or better still talk to them individually and in a group? You may be amazed what you learn and it could provide valuable material upon which to base your communications strategy.

  2. Lessons from Lucent
    Though their share price today is a shadow of what it was when the company was launched, the internal and external re-branding of Lucent was considered a great success.

    And the brand has stuck. Employees today show both identification with and loyalty to it.

    By way of background, Lucent was floated off from AT&T where it was the R&D arm.

    The lessons learned from the Lucent re-branding have been expressed as:

    ** Overcome initial resistance to change by properly launching the new identity.

    Going through an identity change is traumatic for a company and its employees. Properly launching the new identity includes explaining why and how the decision was made. By contrast, simply introducing the new identity and expecting employees to immediately embrace it is an almost surefire recipe for rejection.

    ** Be tenacious in supporting the new identity during launch.

    It is not uncommon for initial reactions to the new identity to range from neutral to negative. It is especially important to support the new identity in its early days so that people have enough time to become familiar and comfortable with it. Very few people enjoy radical change; preparing for an adjustment period is essential to ensure an identity’s efficacy and long-term health. Such preparation and stolid, unflinching management support marked the development and introduction of the Lucent identity.

  3. Know yourselves
    1. Get a professional in to facilitate a brainstorm session with the HR team in which you work out what your messages are. What is it that you can do for your “clients”?
    Also make a list of the values you want to encompass in HR – make sure all of you are happy with your team identity and on board before trying to sell it the rest of the company.
    2. Get trained for excellent presentation and communication skills.
    3. Plug your messages through brilliant face to face presentations and vibrant newsletters – online if possible.
    4. Make all documents attractive and topped with your distinctive logo.
    5. Reward yourselves for achievements because rebranding is hard work.
    Good Luck,Tina Coulsting, Director, Mentor Consultancy

  4. Engage your client base
    Having worked in a Personnel Dept, an HR Dept and even a Human Capital dept, my experience is that customers of these different guises actually see very little difference. Hence most departments were/are still refered to as Personnel years after they became the HR dept.

    And whilst brainstorming amongst yourself and improving your presentation skills is always good, I agree with Christine’s comment that you need to engage your customer base.

    Find out what you do well and what you don’t do well and use the re-branding as an opportunity to higlight the good points and improve on the bad points. Once you understand how the customer views the old structure you can then use the new structure and brand to build on or improve on that.

    We’ve been doing a lot of work with clients recently with an HR Diagnostic Tool and it has given some interesting results as one part compares HR’s view of itself with the business’ view of HR. It has also been very well received by the business managers or customers of HR. Hence I stress the need to engage them as it will also encourage them to identify and accept the changes you are making.

    Good luck with it. Feel free to e-mail me if I can help – or you can look at our website as well.

    Paul Flavin
    [email protected]

  5. “Marketing” the HR dept
    Hi. I think the idea of “marketing” HR is a terrible mistake. HR should not be a set of optional extras that management have to be persuaded to buy. HR practices should be an integral part of managing the organisation. HR’s job is to determine the sort of people needed to carry out the strategy and to operate a system of recruiting, developing, motivating, and retaining them. If your HR dept is not doing this your organisation is almost certainly performing well below its potential. There is loads of research evidence that HR practices that fit the business model and culture of the organisation are associated with superior performance. Have a look at the database at An author to look out for is Mark Huselid. Regards, Peter Burton [email protected].

  6. Help yourself
    From your question you are one of the troops in the new HR department. HR in your organisation is whatever the people in it think it is, and there will be many different views on that subject.

    My advice to you is to be brave, go seek out the head of HR and tell them that you do not know what the term means. You will both learn from the discussion which follows, perhaps more than you will learn here.

  7. Combine but focus

    Integration of the separate personnel & OD is a good idea. In the integration however, be careful not to loose the focus of each. If by personnel you mean the administration aspects, then that is very different from OD, which I understand as working to improve business performance by improved management of people. The two need different skillsets and operate in different ways. Personnel administration needs efficiency with a human touch. OD needs creativity and business accumen with a strong relationship.

    With reference to branding, it is the wrong initial focus. Having worked through this with several companies, I suggest you consider the following:

    What is the purpose of HR: Why does it exist?
    How does it contribute to business performance?
    What needs to be done in HR to improve business performance?
    How will we measure success?
    How will we organise to achieve our goals?

    The key is to challenge – don’t accept the easy answers. Test your thinking with your business colleagues. If it’s like many organisations, expect scepticism. If it’s the right thing to do, do it anyway.

    Once you are underway, use your measures, achievements and plans as the basis of communication. In my experience, effective brands are 90% delivery and 10% ‘marketing’.

    If you want to discuss further, drop me a mail.

  8. OD & HR
    Building on comments you have received earlier on your question. The key is ensure your department is a Strategic Partner. I wish to share the following thoughts and info.
    My definition of OD is really planned changed using social and behavioural sciences. Although today, some HR practitioners also work in the OD field, I believe it has a very specific role in organizations. Check out the web page As for HR’s role check out the author Dave Ulrich, Human Resouces Champions. He has an integrated approach of competencies required to deliver results.

  9. Focusing on your brand is absolutely right!

    I am a little concerned that one or two of our colleagues here do not think you should be focusing on your brand. Whather we like it or not, HR has a “brand identity” with it’s customers, and the key is to establish the right identity. What to you want people to think of when they think of HR? The brand should reflect promises in behaviours and performance. By using the brand identity as a starting point with your internal customers, you will be able to have a frank discussion, in their terms, about where HR currently is, and where you both want it to be. I would agree with those who have suggested that (at least initially) these discussions can be best supported by the use of an external facilitator.

    In terms of research, I would add Andrew Mayo and Jac Fitz-Enz, who’s work will give you a framework for identifying business value and ROI from HR activity.


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