22. September 2020

Leverage the Skills of All Your Employees! Human Insights for HR Leaders

The secret army

Most organizations have people who could add more value but go unnoticed. Who are these people, how do they form part of an army that can lead your organization towards success and how can HR help activate their inner power? This discussion between Laura Schroeder, Director Brand at Personio, and the TEDx speaker, marketing strategist and author, Gina Balarin reveals the secret of The Secret Army… But first, let's find out what The Secret Army actually is…

What Is a Secret Army?

When organizations have a purpose and everyone is marching forward in the same direction, it’s almost as every group is part of the same business army. "When you think about an organization," Balarin says, “there are different groups of people that exist: your leaders, and your foot soldiers. That’s the same as in an army. However, there’s a difference in an organization. It all comes down to who you are creating this army for.”

Balarin believes that we are all fighting battles – more so than ever, in the world of COVID – but often, in the midst of our day-to-day challenges, struggles and triumphs we forget who we’re fighting for. This should be our customers.

The Secret Army is actually a group of people dedicated to a cause: the cause of finding, embracing, engaging and then satisfying our customers.

Gina Balarin, TEDx speaker, marketing strategist and author

So why was The Secret Army: Leadership, Marketing and the Power of People written? “Organizations can sometimes be unaware of the actual power of people that they have behind them. That’s The Secret Army that drives success.” But, in order to drive business success, Balarin says, “they need to know what that military campaign is, they need to know where they’re going, they need to know why they’re going there. The power of The Secret Army can then be amplified and magnified”.

According to the Mercer 2020 Global Talent Trends Study 37% of employees are motivated by strong corporate values, mission and purpose. But when employees aren’t certain where they fit, what their larger mission is and how they contribute towards that, motivation plummets, and so does a company’s ability to deliver outstanding results. Sometimes, helping people fit in requires identifying how they stand out, as Balarin explains.

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What Are the Secrets of The Secret Army and Why Is the Army Secret?

“There are a few key personas that exist in organizations that can be used with incredible benefit. Some of those personas are traditionally ignored – people like your frustrated storyteller. They can be anywhere in the organization and they’re naturally great at sharing the insights that they have”.

However, because telling stories might not be required in their job, this skill is often underused. “Other personas include the undiscovered idea-generator: someone who sits behind the scenes and no-one really notices them but they have incredible power to help the organization, to connect with your customers,” often these are introverts, Balarin explains. “Similarly, there are people like truth-tellers,” she continues, “If you are ready, willing and able to listen to them, they can actually make you think differently about solving problems, evolving the business or just addressing some stuff that, maybe, should change.”

Seeking out these often-unrecognized personas and giving them a voice can reveal employees’ hidden talents and benefit the entire organization.

Often, these employees might be introverts. As Stephanie Sarkis explains in Forbes, “Introverts are great observers, do not need external reinforcement, tend to be self-starters and are more likely to take calculated risks”. Indeed, introverts may be the business superheroes of our COVID era. But, on their own, they are not as powerful as when they are embedded within an entire army. Sarkis recommends seeking out their opinions, pairing them up with an extrovert and sharing the unwritten rules of the organization: then writing these back into an employee handbook. And that’s how HR can leverage the power of The Secret Army.

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How Can HR Use The Secret Army to Be More Effective?

Balarin explains, “My understanding of HR people is that they come into an organization with a purpose, a meaning, an objective of helping people. And that is exactly what anyone who’s involved in the Secret Army can do. You aren’t just a member of an army, as part of an organization, but every single person also has an army of supporters behind them.

The role of a great HR team is not only to keep people focuzed on that vision, that mission, that purpose and on serving your customers, on collecting the stories that inspire people every single day to do a better job, it’s also about helping people when times are tough and identify the resources that can take people through those challenging times and inspire them, incentivize them, to do bigger and better things later”.

As Balarin explains, “The real secret is who is in that army in your organization, and who is in the army in your personal life? Let’s not forget that an organization consists of people who are working to perform and achieve functions to help a business grow, but it also consists of individuals: people who have hearts and souls and the desire for purpose and meaning.

Ultimately, the secret of The Secret Army is to find the people in your organization who have the power to make a difference and do more of that: Let them free and let them change the world or, at least, change your organization in a way that serves your customers better,” she says.

HR Leaders Are the Heroes of The Secret Army

“HR heroes are being an army for everyone that they touch. The things that bring people to HR: the passion, the conviction that there is a way to help people serve themselves and serve organizations better doesn’t just end when you shut down your computer at the end of each day. I believe that HR heroes are making a massive difference, particularly in our challenging times, and they should be celebrated.

So the lesson to HR here is: Keep doing what you’re doing! Keep making a difference. Keep inspiring people to achieve those organizational goals – whether those are internal people, or perhaps, even your customers. And never forget that, as an HR person, you also have the power of leadership: of marketing your own organization and the purposes of your organization and of leveraging the power of your people.”


If there’s one thing that everyone can learn from Balarin’s message and her book it is this: Every single person has the ability to make a difference – in their organization and in the world – but they can make a much bigger difference if they remember the old TEAM acronym: Together Everyone Achieves More.

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