Saturday, January 19, 2019

Top 10 Marketing Tips for HR

Over the last decade, HR has successfully re-invented itself as the strategic owner of the 'people agenda’ and (mostly) embraced the cloud.  However, in order to navigate the next wave of technology advancement, they’ll need to once more rethink how they can best serve the business.  Marketing has a few lessons to impart about that.

At most companies, the marketing department is bigger than the HR department and has a much larger programs budget.  Whereas marketers are increasingly in demand, HR jobs are starting to decline.  Both are complex, multi-faceted jobs, so what’s marketing’s secret?

Is it because so many HR functions are outsourced, either to agencies (i.e. recruiting) or service providers (i.e. payroll)?  Nope, marketing gets outsourced, too - everything from SEO to white papers to creative services, just to name a few.  In fact, marketing typically has the highest agency spend in the business.

Is it because there are more marketing people, so they can do more and therefore get more recognition?  Well, yes, but keep in mind most marketing departments start small and grow with the business. 

Is it because marketing adds more value to the business?  Again, no. HR done well adds as much long-term value to the business as marketing, although marketing has an advantage when it comes to demonstrating short-term value because they directly support sales.  It’s a contributing factor, but not the entire story.

Is it because marketing people are better at selling themselves?  Getting warmer, but plenty of people love to hate marketing.  In the words of a CEO I once worked with, ‘Half of what marketing does is crap, the problem is I don’t know which half.’ 

Unfortunately for HR, there isn’t a handy metric they can link to sales revenue like marketing can, but they can still measure stuff with more wow factor than number of performance reviews completed or time to hire.  

*I'm not saying these metrics don't matter, but I am saying they need to be tied to business outcomes.  

Here’s the skinny: Whether you're trying to attract the right talent, deliver a world class employee experience, or create ‘moments that matter,’ HR can learn a few moves from marketing:

  1. BRANDING – Just as marketing is responsible for defining a company brand that inspires positive, trustful feelings, it is HRs job to define – or at least communicate - an employer brand people want to work for.  In industries with fierce competition for talent, this needs to be a priority rather than a side project, and it’s an area where HR and marketing can and should collaborate.  (Just remember, marketing isn’t compensated for hiring metrics so don’t expect them to place the same priority on this as you do. And if you don’t like that, remember HR owns the incentive strategy so it’s up to you to fix it.)
  2. PERSONAS – Marketing learned the hard way that one size doesn’t fit all and spend all kinds of time and money defining personas to ensure their content is relevant for the target audience.  HR has also come to realize personalization matters but has yet to embark on serious workforce segmentation and personalization when it comes to HR programs.
  3. JOURNEY – Marketing loves to talk about the buyer journey, to the point where it’s probably quite annoying for everyone else.  But this is where the rubber hits the road, because it’s the framework you use to design your buyer experience.  How can HR programs be truly effective if HR doesn’t understand the journey an employee takes with the company from the employee point of view? 
  4. NURTURE – A critical aspect of the journey described above is the nurture process, which is how you help someone progress to the next stage.  To give a recruiting example, an organization might promote content about career development to create awareness of their employer brand, then follow up with more specific organizational information to candidates that engage with that content.  How do you nurture candidates and employees on their journey with your company to ensure they are able and inspired to progress to the next level?
  5. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – Since customers are the best marketers, marketing has – or should have - a laser focus on the customer experience, although admittedly with more focus in the buyer experience. So, who are HR’s customers?  Be careful, this is a trick question: If you answered your leadership team rather than your employees and line managers, ask yourself what impact that perspective is likely to have on employee experience. 
  6. DESIGN THINKING – Marketing engages in regular two-way communication with stakeholders and keep ideating, testing different ideas, and iterating to achieve the desired results.  Similarly, HR should be ideating, testing and iterating with business leaders, managers and employees about their needs and tailoring their programs to meet those needs. Practice design thinking when designing and implementing HR programs to ensure the result is customer-centric.
  7. GAMIFICATION Although typically discussed in terms of customer engagement, gamification is becoming increasingly popular within HR to improve employee engagement, create a learning culture and drive innovation.  Taking a gameful approach to work design and skills development can help drive employee engagement, creative problem solving, and competitive advantage. 
  8. STORIES – The secret sauce of any successful marketing initiative is a good story.  Similarly, great stories can help attract, retain and inspire the right people.  What is your company’s origin story?  How do people succeed and progress at your company?  How are you helping customers solve problems?  How are individuals who work for your business making a difference?  There’s a reason so many great leaders are also great story tellers.
  9. OUTCOMES - Stories are important, but marketing pros don't just tell stories, they make sure to back up the information with business relevant facts and figures.  Guess what? Numbers like ‘# of people who completed training x’ are interesting for HR but don’t really have bottom line impact to the business. I grant you it's harder to measure the value of a person than it is to measure the value of a sale, but you can align HR processes and programs with company goals and try to measure their impact on overall business performance.
  10. EVANGELISM – Just as customers are the best marketers for your brand, your employees are – or should be – your best employer brand evangelists.  If you aren’t actively trying to understand who your best brand ambassadors are, you’re really missing a trick.  Who are your most passionate employees and how are you identifying, recognizing, rewarding and developing them?  Those are folks you want to keep an eye on as possible high potentials, but also to ensure their external representation of your company is brand compliant.
One more thing: It takes courage and humility to ask how you’re doing and there’s an unfortunate human tendency to focus on the negative when giving feedback - no one understands that better than a marketer.  Having said that, employees are subject to performance management processes designed by HR, but who’s measuring HR’s performance from the employee perspective? 

Here’s the money question: Do your customers value what you do and if not, how can you improve?

I’ll leave you with that thought.

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