New study by global capability experts Brand Learning reveals the opportunity for HR to reposition itself as a strategic growth driver

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A new global study of 250 leaders and employees has found that business is crying out for HR to play a more driving role in shaping the future, putting people at the heart of the strategic discussion. The study found that HR has a unique opportunity to drive greater impact, and HR and Marketing should be working together to build the capabilities to deliver exceptional people experiences that drive competitive edge and growth.

The New HR Imperative: Leading for Growth

“Business is crying out for HR to play a driving role in shaping the future, putting people at the heart of the strategic discussion. HR and Marketing should be working together to build the capabilities needed for growth." -Jill Hughes, Brand Learning

It is increasingly recognised that business growth is powered by delivering exceptional customer experiences, with people at the heart of creating those experiences. Yet a new report led by Brand Learning reveals that in many businesses the customer and people agendas are not connected, with fewer than 30% of businesses involving HR in the development of the customer experience strategy.

The new global study by Brand Learning, the global expert capability consultancy, surveyed nearly 250 leaders and employees on their experiences and the role of HR, including Chief HR Officers and HR Directors who contributed their insights to the report, ‘The New HR Imperative: Leading for Growth’. Interviews with leaders from organisations including Unilever, GSK, Colgate, MetLife, Diageo, PepsiCo, EasyJet and BUPA revealed a growing acknowledgement of the capability gap that is holding HR back. HR leaders recognise that if the people experience is lacking, it is harder to deliver a great customer experience. Yet many HR teams are not increasing their impact quickly or sufficiently.

The report, finds that HR has a unique opportunity to drive greater impact in organisations, connecting with the business growth agenda like never before. It outlines four key areas in which HR can add greater value:

  • Understanding – rooting strategic and operational HR guidance in insight
  • Simplicity – driving a coherent, streamlined employee experience with a clear sense of what the business stands for
  • Energy – unlocking the talents of people, enabling them to flourish and maximise their contribution
  • Advocacy – helping people to believe in the business and act as ambassadors of the brand

Addressing these areas would enable HR to keep pace with the changing needs of business. At present over 50% of survey respondents think HR in their organisation could do more to meet the changing needs of the business. Doug Baillie, leading HR influencer and former Chief HR Officer, Unilever says “HR needs to lay the road in front, not follow filling in the cracks in the road.”

In reframing the role of HR in the organisation, the report finds that new capabilities drawn from the Marketing function can empower HR to drive a closer relationship between people and the business.

Jill Hughes, Managing Director, Specialist Business Unit at Brand Learning states “Business is crying out for HR to play a more driving role in shaping the future, putting people at the heart of the strategic discussion. HR and Marketing should be working together to build the capabilities that are needed for growth, enabling HR to build exceptional people experiences that will drive competitive edge and growth.”

The report, published by Brand Learning on 5th June is available here:


For further information, contact:
Sarah Jones, Brand Director
tel. + 44 (0) 208 614 8150 or +44 (0) 7500 011 410

Notes to Editors

About the research
The report ‘The New HR Imperative: Leading for Growth’ is available on request.
The research surveyed more than 250 people comprising 2% C-Suite, 11% VP/Director level, 26% Managers and 56% other employees. 52% respondents were employed in large organisations, with 44% employed in small or medium sized enterprises.

Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with HR leaders in senior roles at the following organisations: Unilever, RBS, Cook, GSK, MetLife, EasyJet, Gerdau, M&S, LVMH, Bunge, ADP, BUPA, Ideal Standard, Starbucks, Diageo, Affinity, Pymetrics, Colgate, Associated British Foods, MediaCorp, Tesco, PepsiCo, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Sainsburys.

Previous Brand Learning research includes the Growth Drivers Study which surveyed over 900 global business leaders, as well as interviews with 70 CEOs and senior executives, to identify the new practices driving growth among the world’s leading organisations.

About Brand Learning
Brand Learning is a global capability development consultancy, based in London, New York and Singapore. It works with over 160 leading organisations (including Shell, Unilever, Diageo, PepsiCo, AstraZeneca and GSK) in more than 60 countries to inspire and build their capabilities to deliver customer-centred growth. By equipping organisations to be more customer-centred across teams and remits, and to achieve deep functional excellence in Marketing, Sales, Digital, Leadership and HR, it enables them to achieve their growth goals.

The company is privately owned. Its co-founders are two ex Unilever/PepsiCo VP Marketing executives – Mhairi McEwan (Group CEO) and Andy Bird (Executive Director).

Brand Learning has been awarded on multiple occasions for their work with leading organisations including the 2016 Marketing Society Excellence Award for Building Marketing Capabilities, a silver Brandon Hall Award for Learning Excellence in 2014. They have also been recognised for their achievements as a great place to work including twelfth place in the UK’s Best Workplace Awards 2016 (medium sized business category).

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Sarah Jones
Brand Learning
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