Embrace Client Relationship Management for a Winning HR Strategy

The rapid pace of change with technology is creating a new dynamic for human resources (HR). It is no longer only about “managing the workforce” or “automating HR processes” in order to be successful. It is also about using technology to connect people with each other, connect people with information they need, create better user experiences, and use techniques to build meaningful relationships with employees.

HR should know more about their workforce than others outside of their organization. HR should know more than what can be found out on Glassdoor or any other sources on social media. This is not the reality that exists for many organizations today.

The Future of HR

Operate more like sales, be business oriented: We must develop a human capital management (HCM) strategy that builds a winning game plan, one that energizes the workforce, creates a contagious environment, allows for sharing of ideas easily, and connects people with the purpose of the business.

Sales leaders get it. It is much more profitable to retain and keep current clients than to source and locate new ones. They work extra hard to keep the clients they have and protect the client base. Energy is spent to build out client loyalty programs and to survey clients to ensure they keep close to their needs. Company brands are easily recognized by such efforts. How many of us are loyal frequent fliers, shoppers, and sports enthusiasts?

Too often these fundamentals are missed in the world of HR. Here are four key client relationship management fundamentals for a winning HR strategy.

Strategy No. 1: Use Data to Gain Insights and an Advantage

Use HR data to personalize and build engagement. Think of a product or company that is well known or one to which you might be loyal. They use data to engage us, offer recommendations, build loyalty, and make our experiences even more meaningful. So much so that as consumers it can be contagious and others often want to join in. HR can do the same for employees.

Let’s get away from focusing on outdated ways of engagement – let’s move to a new era of HR – and begin to think about HR as the relationship arm of the organization.

How to:

  • Engage your fellow business leaders in an honest discussion on how you and your team can work together to connect people and build a stronger employer brand.
  • Who are your stars? Why do they stay with you? What is most interesting in what they do?
  • Can you replicate this winning experience to other parts of your workforce to drive better business results?
  • Engage your star employees to offer testimonies to other employees and create visibility for them within the workforce.

Strategy No. 2:  Develop a Campaign to Re-Recruit Your Current Employees All Your Employees

Sales-minded leaders adjust their sales game plan for different clients. We should do the same in HR and encourage conversations that matter. Ask yourself: Are you regularly re-recruiting those employees who have been with you for years? What about those who know your business and who have contributed so much to the organizations’ success to date? Much attention has been placed on recruiting new employees and millennials. We may have missed the mark on also engaging others in our workforce.

Retirement cliff or retirement trickle? Whether it is due to living longer, the need for health benefits, the need to support elder parents, paying down tuition debt for grown children, or just to have more retirement savings – the reality is that people are working much longer than expected. I have several professional colleagues who are still working into their late 60s.

How to:

  • Apply client relationship management concepts and create a multi-prong approach to re-engage your workforce. Not all employees are the same; engagement strategies for new hires and longer term employees should be different.
  • Review your succession plans and create experiences that matter.
  • If employees become disconnected, we miss out on the power of the total workforce. Employees working into their late 50s and 60s do not desire the same type of career development discussions. Their motivation for working and staying with you may have changed.

HR can facilitate and take the lead on identifying programs and ways to use their skills and knowledge as a competitive advantage. Economically it makes sense as you have invested in this talent for years.

Strategy No. 3: Know Your Organization’s Social Footprint

What are former employees saying about your organization? What did they like? What did they not like? The same way we go online to buy something, consumers consider testimonies of what other buyers say about a product. Trends matter in sales and they matter with your workforce. A negative experience is shared many times over compared to a positive experience.

How to:

  • Take to heart what is being reported on social media; be courageous and have honest discussions with your business leaders.
  • Take steps to work on those things that need to be worked on. HR is no longer the gate-keeper of information such as turnover. Today, people are their own managers of information, using technology every single day to make decisions.
  • Re-examine your HR services. As an example, don’t make the mistake of thinking, “I just need to have better recruiting processes” and thus miss out on the fact that so much of recruiting is not “the process” but rather the user experience, marketing, branding, and ability to offer a glimpse into your organization and why folks should want to work with you — or stay with you.
  • Look at each area within HR with client relationship management in mind. How can each area be less about “process” and more about coming together to create a winning game plan?

Strategy No. 4: Using Client Relationship Management, Allow for Greater Transparency of Information

One business leader said to me that he feels like he steps back in time when coming to work. He has to rely on people to give him information and reports, which are outdated by the time he gets them and no longer pertinent to him being able to make quick, meaningful business decisions.

How to:

  • Modernize your HR data capabilities. The more you put this off, the farther behind your organization will become. Technology is moving at a rapid pace.
  • Allow for greater transparency of information; share the voice of your workforce — and your extended workforce — and personalize it at every level. Work on building a brand and purpose that people will want to be a part of.
  • Provide your business leaders with your HR engagement game plan versus overwhelming them with disconnected data. Just like sales, use your HR data to create greater intelligence around the voice of your workforce.
  • Create a dashboard for your business leaders with energy instead of giving them a report that does not tell your organization’s story.

Challenge yourself to sharpen your own skills and become more business-oriented. Incorporate these new skills into your HR role — become more of a client relationship management HR leader.

In every way, it is about connecting your employees with purpose and a reason to be excited every single day and a desire to contribute to their fullest potential.

The heart of the matter: If you are not using client relationship management concepts and re-recruiting your employees, another organization will.


The best run companies have two things in common – good leadership and talent that is connected to their company’s purpose to drive phenomenal results. Shatter old mindsets to turn HR into a data-driven powerhouse for the future of your workforce. Read the SAP executive study, “4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” created in collaboration with Oxford Economics.


Denise Baker is an HR executive advisor for SAP SuccessFactors.