HR needs to go commercial

Day 1 of ASTD2012 ICE left me with one core feeling regarding the future of HR: We need to get commercial…


I consider the commercial spirit as “positioning your offer in terms of the position of the other person”.

Applied to HR, this means that HR professionals will need to be able to better do 3 key things:

  • Understand their business/internal clients in terms of situation, values and needs
  • Be able to create a service offering that responds to those things in terms of real benefits
  • Be able to express their own position in terms the business can understand and accept


At ASTD2012 day 1, several ideas came up that support this idea of the need for a commercial spirit in HR:

During the session on management trends Michael Stallard told us that we have to work hard to motivate people to accept the need for certain HR-loved approaches (like coaching). Kevin Eikenberry just tweeted that HR won’t succeed in winning business mind-share if they can’t market their services in terms of value. Alfredo Castro told us that we need to better brand things.

During John Boudreau’s session on Transformative HR the idea of innovating HR services like recruitment to better answer real burning business issues like “supply and demand” was coupled with the idea that HR will have to change it’s relationship to the business: Get out of the “central/top-down push model” that obliges services and solutions not-aligned to the business. Move to a user-centric approach that is embedded in the real practical reality of the business.

Another idea evoked by Boudreau and in line with Castro’s comment on branding is that HR will need to be better at story-telling in order to convince the business partners of the use of intangible things that, by their results-driven nature, they may not naturally be inclined to accept.


Sounds like marketing to me!

So: I set the first HR marketing challenge. Let’s start with a little bit of self-branding!
How about a new name for HR?

The king is dead. Long live the king!


Thanks for reading.
(If it doesn’t make any sense, blame jet-lag…)


Published by Dan Steer

For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here:

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