As we've aged (so hard to write that...), we still look to fit in. Often, however, it may not be as much about being popular as it is being relevant. We don't want to be our dads or moms of a generation ago. We don't want to go "gently into that good night" and we shouldn't. We should want to remain engaged and informed. We should maintain a voice within our organizations that still speaks to the pulse of the markets, the competition, the corporate philosophy.
But I would be delinquent if I didn't mention priorities. In our quest to be relevant, we sometimes lose our way in keeping the priorities of our organizations first. Some of you are already shaking your heads in agreement (thanks!), but let's get some perspective on this, as it's not a new phenomenon.
We know that sex sells. It has done so since time began. Men and women have both used it to be desirous and to achieve goals. Advertisers and marketing executives understand this and regularly use sex as relevant to the generation watching and listening. The philosophy for some major organizations has shifted due to the use of sex to sell product. GoDaddy has had some beautiful women in its advertising and this has been successful for them. Oh, and by the way, they sell website domains and services...very sexy, hence the relevant advertising.
OK, in HR, we can't use sex (if you are, wow) to sell our relevance. So, what do we use? What is the latest and greatest product, series of lectures, technology? The first component is to remember what the mission of the organization is. All messaging should be tied to that, and if there are messages that don't fit, we should remove them, regardless of how "relevant" it is. Secondly, relevance does not equal appealing. These words have become overlapped in organizations. Think about school for a moment. There were days that school seemed boring, tough, annoying, overwhelming and stupid. The appeal of school was not always there, but it's relevance remained. Education is vital to the health and growth of people (we can argue about Algebra later).
And finally, the method of achieving relevance may not be popular. In fact, sometimes it may be polarizing. When Miley Cyrus performed at this year's VMAs, she delivered what she believed to be a relevant performance. She was talked about for days after the performance, clips were shown over and over again, celebrities were interviewed, etc. The response was divided - some loved it, some hated it. Is she relevant because we were talking about it or is she relevant because her messaging is consistent with the goals of her organization?
The dictionary defines relevance as "closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand." What does the messaging we deliver in our companies say about our relevance? Are we "flash in the pan" messengers? Meaning, we deliver the latest and greatest, and as such, we have employees who pay little mind to it. They know that if they just wait a bit, the message will change again, so why commit? Better use of our time is to remain consistent in the ways in which we deliver product and services to our customers and to relay that consistent message to employees with enthusiasm and openness. Relevance can be enhanced by better connecting it to the matter at hand.
If we are Brother and typewriters are not what people want any more, then what are we doing to continue to deliver products and services in keeping with our mission of providing office solutions? Understand what's going on in the markets and maintain relevance through offerings. Simple to say, I know, but necessary to unpack with the executive team. Brother, for example, still employs 1100 workers in the US. They care to know how the company plans on remaining consistent in mission in light of changes in technology, usage and competition.
Sometimes our problem in HR is that we like the shiny new toys. New programs, new tactics, new videos are great, but if they don't contribute to the overall mission of the organization, then they are not relevant, regardless of how much fun they are. To be taken seriously as a true business partner, we have to be able to show how what we do, suggest and implement is driving our company to its mission and related goals. Some of you are doing great work in this vein and should keep sharing your great ideas. And for those of you not doing so, cheer up! Listen to "She Bop" (with which I have forever scarred you), re-energize and review the mission. Relevance takes thought...just like Algebra.