Monday, February 02, 2015

Giant leap for PR with HR remit at HSBC… Is PR ready for more opportunities?

A recent global corporate appointment indicates the growing importance of corporate communications, and the far-reaching management structural changes the said development could perhaps herald across the world. 
According to a report by Arun Sudhaman of The Holmes Report, HSBC's Pierre Goad has taken on leadership of the bank's human resources function, in a new role that retains oversight of communications.
Goad has made a transition to corporation communications in 2001 post his long journalism career with media houses like The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  
"It demonstrates how far communications has come at HSBC specifically, but more widely as well," said Goad. "The skills and experience you gain managing an integrated communications function are applicable and relevant in other functions. Communications has moved past the press office era…. This is an unusual move but I don't think it will be the last — it's the new modern, integrated version of communications... Employees are our most important resource and our most important ambassadors."

Juxtaposed with the assessment and recommendations of global experts, one begins to feel the HSBC appointment would not perhaps remain an isolated corporate development.
Ram Charan, other experts’ prescription 
Consider the views of Ram Charan, eminent business advisor to CEOs and corporate boards, on the Chief Human Resource Officer’s function, for instance.
In his article, It’s Time to Split HR in Harvard Business Review (July 2014), Ram Charan focuses on why global CEOs are disappointed with their Chief Human Resources Officers. “What they (the Chief Human Resources Officers) can’t do very well is relate HR to real-world business needs,” said Ram Charan. “They don’t know how key decisions are made, and they have great difficulty analysing why people -- or whole parts of the organization -- aren’t meeting the business’ performance goals.” 
However, there are rare exceptions including Santrupt Misra, CEO, Carbon Black Business and Director, Group Human Resources, Aditya Birla Group. Misra “became a close partner of the Chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla, working on organization and restructuring and developing profit and loss managers”.
HR heads like Misra (the other two exceptions named by Ram Charan being GE’s Bill Conaty and Marsh’s Mary Anne Elliott – working in line operations is the distinguishing quality of such rare HR heads) have inspired Ram Charan’s prescription of splitting the Chief Human Resource Officer function into two strands: 1. HR-A (for administration) would primarily manage compensation and benefits; 2. HR-LO (for leadership and organization) would focus on improving the people capabilities of the business.
Ram Charan is the author or co-author of 18 books, including the best-seller Execution. He is the co-author of the new book Boards That Lead with Dennis Carey and Michael Useem.  
In his article, Why HR Still Isn’t a Strategic Partner, in Harvard Business Review (July 5, 2012), J. Craig Mundy, Vice President, Human Resources and Communications, Climate Solutions Sector, Ingersoll Rand (his present designation is Vice President, Enterprise Learning and Talent Management, Ingersoll Rand), wrote, “For two decades we have been hearing that HR must become a strategic partner to the business. And the fact that we’re still hearing it suggests that in many organizations it hasn’t happened. The need to align HR with the business has become more urgent than ever…. Yet, all too often, business leaders still wonder aloud why their organizations even have HR departments. For their part, many HR leaders are willing to partner with the business, but given the unique situation of each individual company, they have little in the way of concrete guidance about how to fulfil that role.”
Mundy continues, “To truly be partners to the business we must identify those critical points of the business where the strategy succeeds or fails, and provide relevant talent solutions. In other words, we must think in terms of what Brian E. Becker, Mark A. Huselid, and Richard W. Beatty call ‘the differentiated workforce, in their book of the same name.”
The Differentiated Workforce states that “many companies fall into the trap of spending too much time and money on low performers in non-strategic roles, while high performers in strategic roles aren't getting the necessary resources, development opportunities, or rewards”. The book recommends that the workforce should be managed like a portfolio – with disproportionate investments in the jobs that create the most wealth.
Marketing opportunities
An analysis of global experts’ assessment and recommendations on the marketing function too reveals that the corporate communication function could perhaps look forward to playing a much larger role in marketing, provided corporate communications professionals are willing to rise to the challenge and retool themselves.
Stressing the importance of marketing function overhaul is the article, The Ultimate Marketing Machine by Marc de Swaan Arons, Frank van den Driest and Keith Weed in Harvard Business Review (July 2014).
Marc de Swaan Arons and Frank van den Driest are the founders of the global marketing strategy consultancy EffectiveBrands (now Millward Brown Vermeer) and the authors of The Global Brand CEO (Airstream New York, 2010). Keith Weed is the Chief Marketing and Communication Officer of Unilever and the Chairman of the Marketing2020 Advisory Board.
“Marketers understand that their organizations need an overhaul, and many chief marketing officers are tearing up their org charts,” the three experts write in their HBR article. “But in our research and our work with hundreds of global marketing organizations, we’ve found that those CMOs are struggling with how to draw the new chart. What does the ideal structure look like? Our answer is that this is the wrong question. A simple blueprint does not exist.”
Echoing similar views on the marketing function is Bill Lee, President of the Customer Reference Forum, Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, and author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset (HBR Press, June 2012). In his article, Marketing Is Dead in Harvard Business Review (August 9, 2012), Lee writes, “Traditional marketing -- including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications -- is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are.” 
The way forward is clear. In their article, The Ultimate Marketing Machine, the three experts recommend, “Marketing organizations traditionally have been populated by generalists, but particularly with the rise of social and digital marketing, a profusion of new specialist roles -- such as digital privacy analysts and native-content editors -- are emerging. We have found it useful to categorize marketing roles not by title (as the variety seems infinite) but as belonging to one of three broad types: ‘think’ marketers, who apply analytic capabilities to tasks like data mining, media-mix modelling, and ROI optimization; ‘do’ marketers, who develop content and design and lead production; and ‘feel’ marketers, who focus on consumer interaction and engagement in roles from customer service to social media and online communities.”
Lee’s prescription focuses on the “new model of marketing: that is already in place in a number of organizations”. The key elements of the new model are: community marketing; cultivating customer influencers; rethinking the customer value proposition of the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) customers; and involving customer advocates in the solution provided by the company. 
PR and corporate communications professionals, does all this ring a bell?


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