Changing the Brand: We Can’t Let HR Become the Fredo of the Organization

HR, like Fredo Corleone in The Godfather, wants respect within the larger organization.
HR, like Fredo Corleone in The Godfather, wants respect within the larger organization.

I could not believe that they said that!

Every morning I do a preview of articles, deciding which ones to print and read on my commute into the city, or, save for more in-depth analysis either that night or the weekend. Sometimes however as we glance headlines, we see things that stops us in our tracks.

That happened to me at the beginning of the week when I came across an article titled HR or Marketing: Who is better equipped to manage employee engagement?”

Many of you who have read my posts know that one of my all time favorite movies is the The Godfather.” As I fumed over this article my thought was that HR is gradually becoming the “Fredo” of the organization. Fredo Corleone was one of the sons of Don Vito Corleone, “The Godfather,” and he never got the respect from his father or brothers that he so desperately wanted.

I ask again, is HR the Fredo of the organization?

Respect for HR

It never stops, from the argument about the proverbial “seat at the table,” the relevance issue about our governing body, relevance questions concerning certification, HR vs Human Capital Management, the debate over title inflation (VP HR, Chief People Officer, CHRO), the list of concerns about HR are all bordering on the issue of respectability.

All this comes at a time when, based on all relevant research, HR has the issues that can and should catapult the profession to new heights. I love the term that I coined in recent blog called HR 3.0. The issues are there, the timing, is there and it is up to all of us to execute.

Marketing vs Human Resources

The premise of the article on “HR or Marketing” was that marketing was better equipped to manage employee engagement initiatives since marketing has the ability to attract, retain, and leverage the organization’s customers. The thinking goes that this same methodology could be used for employee engagement.

It seems everywhere you look today, professions are trying to rebrand themselves. Some are more successful than others, but I have to tell you, ours is locked into an identity crisis. HR has become a brand looking for relevance. From the broader profession to the individual practitioners, the tug of war is tightening.

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Here’s a case in point: I have watched the reaction to social media within the marketing process. The marketing profession has been all over it, trying to not only keep abreast of the media landscape, but also trying new strategies, working at being creative with viral campaigns, and and using all types of methods to engage the customer.

No reset button in life

HR, on the other hand, has spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out the policy and deciding how to write the guidelines. This type of reactive thinking probably has a lot to do with our current situation. The time has come that we can never again be a reactive department. We just can’t afford it. We must (and should) be developing strategies for not only engagement but for the entire talent management spectrum.

The difficult and turbulent last two years have seen HR departments struggle, and in some cases, earn their stripes. We should now be poised and ready to take off and build out the organization through great talent management strategies.

In life, there is no reset button. It is what it is and we must deal with it. It is imperative that we change the brand of HR. It has been terribly damaged over the years to a point that we have no choice but do it in order to survive

In The Godfather movies, poor Fredo never did get the respect he craved and wanted. Please HR professionals, let’s not be Fredo.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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