Is your personal brand relevant in 2017?

Published on: 3 Feb 2017

Personal brand

Stephanie Sparrow looks at how to develop an impressive profile which is true to yourself

Self-marketing is key to sustaining your HR career. From how you come across in meetings, or employee communications, to performing in job interviews and having an appropriate professional profile on social media, who you and others think you are is integral to career success.

“Personal branding is about being your values, and packaging yourself in the best way to achieve your goals”, says personal branding expert and career coach Evelyn Cotter.

And so for HR people who feel settled in their current roles, this personal branding means developing and displaying integrity. For those who are looking for a new job it is about being aware of what employers and recruiters are looking for, so that career “goals” are within reach.

It is not about tailoring your personal brand to make it  “fit”, but about finding an employer in which your personal brand would be appropriate; and in 2017, which is rife with political turbulence and new technological and cultural demands on organisations, this quest has become more complicated.

HR professionals are facing greater challenges than most when looking at their self-brand, which Cotter has noticed has become more “multi-faceted” over the past year.

“HR managers often tell us that they are anxious about how to be a corporate ambassador”, she says of some recent clients at her Seven Coaching Consultancy, “and they are also looking at the pressure to be a new type of business leader: one who is personable, and approachable, yet aware of boundaries”, she says.

Be business-savvy

Alongside these personal qualities and interpersonal skills which make up an authentic HR professional and give them a genuine “personal brand”, are the imperatives to be business-savvy, and aware of internal and external politics.

This pressure is reinforced by findings in the CIPD’s HR Outlook Survey for 2016/2017, produced in association with Workday, which has pulled out six key areas on which HR must act.

“We must demonstrate the value of the HR agenda; use HR data to strengthen evidence-based decision making; harness the benefits of technology; prepare for economic uncertainty (for example globalisation and Brexit); adapt to the changing needs and desires of the workforce, and strengthen the capability of people managers”, says the report.

Recruiter’s perspective

Recruiters share similar observations with those of the CIPD Outlook Survey. At Hudson, director of HR recruitment Jemma Rawlins has noticed an emerging trend of HR job types which are based around culture and employee experience, but also “challenging the norm”. She has noticed that HR professionals have to be both sensitive and business-focused.

“Culture seems to be a big issue right now”, she says, “and getting it right is so key because it affects your brand, your retention, hiring and so many other things.

“And with technology being a key component of the new world of work, analytics are ever more important to these job types, Data is available to everyone right now, everything has to be transparent.”

Alongside data skills is the expectation that HR people will have modern and appropriate ways of developing others. “People want

instant and constant feedback,” she says, “so the coaching element of an HR professional’s job is ever more important.”

Multi-faceted roles

Job candidates who are assessing their personal branding and strengths need to be aware that HR roles are changing. For example, Rawlins says that more companies are incorporating talent management responsibilities into what were previously business partner roles.

“This is because the need to attract, engage, and retain talent is a priority,” she says.

She notes that “whereas around four years ago a business partner with a commercial, change and transformation and growth background was flavour of the month, a specialism around talent is now the focus.”

Rawlins comments that organisations are looking for skills in “talent acquisition, development and retention and agile working to encourage a productive and transparent culture, while at the same time responding to the demands of the workforce.”

How to matter in 2017

So, these are complicated times for HR professionals, set against political and technological upheaval; and knowing how to pitch yourself and your skills can be difficult.

“HR is very much at the crossroads again”, says Paul Sparrow, Emeritus professor of international HRM at Lancaster University.

“There are massive changes in the external environment which will change the way people behave inside organisations.”

Sparrow points to the new skills and knowledge which workforces will need, and that organisations must prepare for the impact of potential de-globalisation. He is optimistic for the profession.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for HR to take the lead”, he says, advising HR professionals to demonstrate that they know which data, skills, knowledge, and types of people could lead organisations through these confusing times.

“HR professionals are the group of people who can de-code these changes and de-code the new business models for organisations”, says Sparrow.

And so it seems the personal brand which will be relevant in 2017, is that of a “decoder”. It is authentic and proactive, and certainly sought after in the current maelstrom.

As branding expert Cotter says, “Personal branding is about being memorable for the reasons you want people to remember you by.”