HR's Role in Reputation Cultivation: A Proactive ApproachPosted in : HR Updates on 28 November 2023
An organisation's reputation is arguably its most valuable asset – it is the culmination of how they are viewed by their internal workforce, customer or client base, competitors and investors. During times of skill shortage or economic downturn, a great reputation can be your best protectant. A great reputation is not only built, but also maintained – and this maintenance requires a proactive approach. In a world where information spreads rapidly, safeguarding your reputation is not just good practice, but a strategic imperative.
How Damage can Occur
Reputational damage can occur through various means, and to various degrees. A one-off incident, such as a data breach or safety failure, can be widely reported on. However, the most damaging incidents often occur as the result of longer-term, progressive lapses in judgment, such as persistent neglect of employee relations, then made public through the tribunal process or through whistleblowing incidents.
It is important to be mindful that reputational damage can also occur in spaces which are perceived to be confidential – there have been various cases of “leaked” leadership calls and memos, or social media blunders by one person, which have caused PR disasters for the companies involved.
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it” – Benjamin Franklin
How reputation can be curated and proactively managed
- Leadership – A recent CIPD study has reported that most large UK Boards lack strategic people expertise, particularly at Chair level, and even on committees dedicated to key people issues. A person-centred approach to policy and strategic direction is likely to be positively received and boost reputation. It is the first step to cascading a people-centred approach down through the organisation.
- HR Audit – A HR audit should be conducted at least every three years to ensure organisational compliance, appropriateness and ‘cultural fit’ of contracts, policies and procedures, and promote a culture of continuous improvement. A HR audit can detect areas of reputational risk and correct them before they transpire.
- Training – Regular training, particularly of managers, is crucial in ensuring awareness of policy, including relevant changes. An organisation may have excellent policies in place, however if they are not implemented consistently, this can hold higher risk than not having the policy at all.
- Employee surveys – an employee engagement survey can be an efficient method of gauging internal reputation and can offer “quick wins” to improve reputation, retention, well-being and various other areas.
- Communications – external and internal communications are crucial for building and maintaining reputation – consistency in tone and approach is key to developing a strong impression of your brand. You may wish to define your brand voice and develop guidance around this to be shared and implemented throughout the organisation.
- Crisis planning and response – One size does not fit all in terms of crisis response. When reputational disaster strikes, the organisational response should be measured, appropriate, consistent and considerate of employees, key stakeholders and the public. Where possible, risk should be addressed beforehand. For instance, most HR professionals will be aware that grievances are often filed after work parties. Ahead of your company Christmas get-together, consider the communications which may be issued to staff to set expectations around drinking, behaviour etc. and consider what the organisation can do to ensure safety of employees, such as through providing transport home.
"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." — Henry Ford
In summary, reputation is an incredibly valuable asset because it influences almost every aspect of operations and interactions with the wider world. It is an intangible but powerful force, that can make or break business, particularly during times of crisis. Therefore, nurturing, safeguarding, and proactively managing reputation should be a top priority for any organisation seeking to attract talent and sustain their growth.
HR have a key role to play in managing reputation – from assessing risk, ensuring policy compliance and adherence, providing strategic guidance, reviewing communications to employees and much more.
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