No, I’m Not Crazy – Here’s Why HR Needs to Be a Lot More Like Tuna

When is the last time you had a tuna fish sandwich?

It’s been a while for me because I’m the only one in my family who likes it, but growing up, I had tuna weekly. I mean, it’s the Chicken of the Sea!

Slate recently had an article that made me remember my tuna fish days:

Why did Americans fall for tuna? Because it’s cheap and bland. Most of the tuna consumed in 19th-century America was imported in cans from France and served to European guests at upscale East Coast restaurants. Mainstream Americans considered the fish too gamey, until a cannery in San Pedro Bay, Calif., figured out that the steamed white meat of albacore tuna has very little flavor if you drain the fish’s own oil and can the meat with olive or cottonseed oil instead.

The company began marketing the product as a chicken alternative in 1907. It distributed thousands of free recipe booklets, which contained mostly classic chicken or canned salmon recipes with tuna as a substitute. Americans found that tuna’s flavor was hardly noticeable in the right sauce, and sales began to rise. The tuna revolution really took off, however, during World War I. European countries, and eventually the American government, bought the inexpensive canned fish to feed the troops.”

How tuna built a reputation for itself

You feel smarter don’t you? Don’t tell me you didn’t learn anything today!

So, the big question is what does tuna have to do with HR? Only a question I would ask!

Tuna did for itself what human resources needs to do for itself: build a reputation within your organization – a positive reputation! Tuna (OK, the tuna industry) didn’t go out and say “we are the best and brightest, and come find out what we can do for you.” No, tuna went to the consumer and said, “You know what? We are cheap but we taste all right and we can show you how you can make us taste better … and once you use us, you’ll find out you’ll want to use us even more because we are a better value then all those other fish in the sea!”

See what I did there? I compared what you do internally in HR to the history of tuna. I’m losing my mind.

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Does your org know what HR is capable of?

Too often in our organizations, we don’t make it easy for our organizations to work with those of us in HR. We don’t show them how, we just assume they will know how to work with us. But the reality is, they have no real concept of what HR is capable of, or what you’re capable of, until you show them.

How do you show them? Go spend time with them and find out what they need (not what you can deliver) then figure out the recipe to what they need, All it takes is a little bit of HR, a little bit of marketing, and little bit of arm twisting and BAM! — they’re using you and liking it!

Yep, HR needs to be more like tuna!

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.