Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Your Desire to Help Others Holding You Back?

I wrote a post at the Compensation Café about a year ago called What Can We Learn From Marketing about the similarities between HR and marketing.  This topic was recently picked up by HR Magazine in the UK as well with some interesting insights.

In an article entitled Marketing Versus HR, the characteristics of successful HR and marketing leaders are explored in some detail.  Generally speaking, the qualities that make you successful as a marketing executive aren’t all that different from those that make you shine as an HR executive:

•    Strategic
•    Self-assured
•    Eloquent
•    Good with numbers
•    Balanced
•    Collaborative
•    Optimistic
•    Decisive
•    Innovative

There are, however, a couple of interesting exceptions (besides the fact that the marketing avatar is holding a cocktail and smirking):
  1. Marketers are better with numbers and data visualization –HR professionals tend to have a better vocabulary and command of the language but marketers are better at crunching numbers.  Although surprising at first glance, it actually makes sense: an HR professional must be politically correct at all times while marketing involves LOTS of business trend analysis.
  2. Marketers are more interested in the business than in people – Many HR professionals ended up in HR out of a desire to help others, whereas marketing professionals get their kicks from business dynamics.  This doesn’t mean HR folks have no interest in business or that marketers hate people.  It just means they view the business through different lenses.
As a result of these two seemingly minor differences, marketing tends to be better than HR at demonstrating value to the business and top HR jobs are starting to go to marketing executives. 

There’s some good in this trend, for example marketing professionals know how to formulate strategy to drive business results and generate beautiful graphics that show how they saved the company and cured cancer to boot. 

But there are also risks, such as the risk that compliance will take a backseat to creativity as soon as the expansive marketing personality gets bored with day to day HR.

What can we learn from all this?  For one thing, I should be an HR executive.  I mean, I’ve got it all: HR, marketing, cocktails...  I can’t believe how much I rule.

The other key message is that HR needs to stop thinking of the business in terms of people and start thinking of people in terms of the business. 

Because if they don’t, there’s someone in marketing who will. . .


  1. There was a big todo last year about HR being the new PR. i think i agree with that somewhat. Well marketing and PR are close relatives too. So maybe we just roll them all in one giant "R" department!

  2. R & R, Resources and Relations? Not bad!

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