“In a world of infinite media choices, the best way to reach new buyers and recruits might be right under your nose. Your own employees represent the greatest opportunity to create meaningful marketing and to develop Human Resources programs that increase sales, while also finding and retaining top talent. Is HR the new Marketing?”
These words, written by Michael Brenner, CEO, author and renowned speaker, in March 2017 sound prophetic: “Is HR the new marketing?”
HR has been progressively adopting strategies that were pioneered by marketing. They create campaigns desired to improve their employer brand. They associate their brand to positive and recognised values such as best place to work in order to attract talent and get their best people to stay. These are all typical marketing activities, only aimed at prospective customers rather than employees.
What is the difference between employees and prospective customers anyway?
#1. Employee experience and customer experience: 2 names, 1 process
Let’s consider two fundamental strategies for HR and marketing: employee experience and client experience.
Employee experience is “the totality of all experiences that workers have with their employer for the entirety of the relationship, from the start until the end of the contract” (The Future Workplace Experience). The client experience can be defined as the “client's internal and subjective relationship with any direct or indirect contract with a company” (Meyer and Schwager, 2007, Understanding Customer Experience, Harvard Business Review). The similarities between these two definitions is clear: in both cases the experience of one or several people in contact with the business process.
The only difference is the employee experience that is directly influenced by the candidate's experience. One way to differentiate your employer brand right from the application process is through pre-recorded video interviewing to provide a more human and engaging experience. It is the sum of these experiences and reactions which determine an employee’s decision to stay or leave a company, to remain loyal to the brand or go to a competitor.
All of this may seem obvious, but it apparently is not when you look at how work is organised in most companies: HR on one side, marketing on the other, with little interaction between them as if they were doing entirely different jobs or speaking entirely different languages. If only the two sides could combine their practices and expertise and pave the way toward a unifying “people experience”.
#2. The employer brand: the first point of contact between human resources and marketing
While many companies still adhere to the traditional HR model, the more dynamic ones are trying to integrate marketing techniques into their HR policy. One technique is by making employees brand ambassadors, within the company but also in their everyday lives. This creates a new channel to help both marketing and HR reach their objectives, as explained by Barbara Galli, digital expert and Doxa ambassador, during an interview with Rosanna del Noce.
“What is the impact of this HR marketing evolution?”
“I imagine HR teams which are attentive and present. They will no longer be about just dealing with internal policies, but will also be looking outward. They will no longer be happy with merely putting up a “we're hiring” notice, but will promote a certain positioning and vision, a story of the people that work there. Putting out as many powerful magnets as possible, capable of attracting those who are willing and able to listen. I can see recruitment happening in a more fluid, specific and natural way.
I imagine marketing teams which will not only target a client or a prospective client outside of the company but also an internal client, working with the HR team and other members of the department. I see marketing which doesn’t only target consumers, but people inside and outside the company, which develops and supports a system of nominated employee ambassadors and why not customer ambassadors?
When I talk about it, I envision offices where people smile more, with employees who are more focused and more relaxed: “totally relaxed and active”. Companies made up of people who are engaged and motivated to develop and improve something that they feel is theirs and of which they make up an integral part. I sense energy that has moved toward being constructive and not defensive, destructive and complaining, as well as attitudes which cause obstacles, gaps, demotivation and detachment.”
Employer branding has become the way to bring these two jobs together. The aim is first to define the characteristics which make the job and the brand unique, and then to communicate this to employees. These are the same values that have to be passed onto the customer to ensure that their choice focuses (as often as possible) on the brand, making them ambassadors for other prospective customers.
Below is an illustration of the similarities between the two strategies.
#3. Everything starts with business culture: it's time to change
When we manage to align and combine the needs of clients, employees and the business, a powerful and natural urge to have an impact on each one of these groups forms. This phenomenon generates positive results because:
- Businesses are looking to develop trusting relationships with their most loyal customers and to attract and grow their talented people.
- Employees want to take active roles in the business, its goals, its development and the environment around them.
- Customers want a relationship with the company that meets their needs and their personal interests.
These 3 steps will help you lead a transformation of your business and work organisation:
1. Create a people-centered vision
Observe and listen to the internal and external organisation: meet and interact with your managers, your team and your peers in order to have a clear and complete big picture vision.. The traditional organisation chart will still exist, but it won't be enough to represent the true leadership culture of the company. And where are customers and employees on this organisation chart? Even if your role within the company doesn't directly involve working with people, your HR-Marketing vision requires it.
2. Create content that employees will want to share
According to Edelman Trust Barometer, 74% of people who answered the survey said that they trusted the opinions of their company’s employees more than those of its management.
This means making social media content easy to share for employees, increasing the receptiveness of messages, the company’s online presence and the effectiveness of marketing programmes and employer branding.
One way to do this is letting employees take an active part in creating content around their recognised expertise. Help them find a skill that is useful to them and to others (clients, colleagues, etc.); letting them create and share content can help them make contacts, network with other experts in the industry and grow their personal brand.
3. Measure the outcomes
Measure the impact of these actions. Demonstrate the benefits achieved for employees (lower absenteeism, lower turnover, more applicants per published job ad). Measure and develop collaboration between HR, marketing and sales teams in order to determine what works best, scale it and make it accessible to everyone in the company.
It is time for marketing to see other departments as their new “best friends” – and for HR to ask themselves how marketing and its techniques can help them acquire and keep the best talent.