Future HR leaders need to think like marketers

The disruptive age of customer centricity means the pressure is on businesses to be agile and take a more holistic view of both their employee and customer experience. Traditional, siloed ways of working in HR and marketing working are no longer relevant, as fresh opportunities emerge to collaborate and attract the best talent, while fostering an inclusive culture that drives greater brand advocacy.

The success behind HR and marketing working together stems from a mutual understanding that customer experience and employee experience go hand in hand. Those who are getting it right know what it takes to form a natural bond and create an employee engagement programme with the same level of care as client-facing initiatives.

The way our brand is promoted externally matches the experience we deliver to our people every day

Just as marketers use data, insights and net promoter scores to understand their customers, build loyalty and optimise the customer experience, HR can use similar tools and methodologies to uncover employee satisfaction trends or issues.

Employer brand strategy best practice

For Sage, the largest technology company in the FTSE 100, which recruits more than 13,000 employees worldwide, HR and marketing working together is an integral part of cross-functional best practice. This approach is critical for ensuring a high-performing and scalable approach to both customer and employee success.

By applying the strategic lenses of customer success and colleague success, Sage’s HR and marketing teams are encouraged to share best practice when it comes to ensuring both clients and employees are provided with an experience that enables them to thrive.HR Marketing Funnel

“Employees increasingly expect the experience they have inside their company to reflect the consumer experience they have in their everyday lives,” says Sage’s chief people officer Amanda Cusdin. “By making Sage a great place to work, where our people can bring their whole selves and do their best work in an inclusive culture, we will have happy colleagues who also deliver the best experience for our customers.”

For a global corporate brand such as Adobe, the partnership between HR and marketing isn’t new, with the two functions working together like a well-oiled machine. The company actively fosters a culture where HR and marketing work together to communicate any promotional activities and achievements internally, and inspire their people to be great advocates for the company.

“The most important thing for us is ensuring the way our brand is promoted externally matches the experience we deliver to our people every day,” says Tania Garrett, Adobe’s senior director of employee experience, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “It’s a big part of what attracts customers and new talent into our organisation, and keeps the existing workforce happy and motivated.”

Making the recruitment process a collaborative campaign

In a fast-churn environment where companies are working hard to attract and retain top talent, using marketing efforts to reach only customers and not as part of the recruitment process is missing a massive opportunity, says James Dodkins, customer experience specialist and founder of Rockstar CX.

“HR and marketing should be working together to also build innovative, creative marketing campaigns targeting the type of employees they need,” he says. “This is especially critical when trying to attract great, future leaders in today’s crowded market.”

Ben Plomion, chief growth officer for computer vision company GumGum, agrees. He highlights that just as marketing maps customer journeys, HR should have a similar strategy to optimise the candidate journey to attract and retain them. The functions are particularly similar when it comes to the “top of the sales funnel” concept of raising brand awareness to draw both talent and client interest.

“In many ways at the brand awareness phase, HR and marketing departments behave in the same way,” he says. “For instance, PR-related activities, like media coverage and awards, amplify positive public conversations and really serve a dual marketing and HR function, attracting talent just as much as they attract new clients.”

Building brand advocacy from the inside out

At grassroots level, the main difference between HR and marketing has been that human resources focuses more on engaging with internal audiences, while the  marketing team works with external audiences. But experts agree both function with a shared goal of clearly and consistently communicating the vision, mission and values of the organisation.

“Marketing is great at wrapping up ideas like value propositions into easily digestible packages, simplifying them so they become real assets for nurturing and maintaining a happy, productive and committed workforce,” says Kelly Batelle, GumGum’s vice president of people operations. “Distilling these key business ideas, so everyone within the organisation embraces them, means HR needs to think and operate like marketers or, better yet, work in collaboration with marketing.”

For Ryan Bonnici, G2’s chief marketing officer, unpacking and simplifying the company’s values has formed a critical part of how HR and marketing work together, not only to attract great talent within his team, but also to help the business grow in exciting new directions. Having started with a team of five marketers in 2017, Mr Bonnici now works with around 65 in his department alone, and growing. The change started with rethinking the company’s key values.

“When I joined the organisation, the values were long, complicated and nobody remembered them,” he explains. “It was hard to find the ‘clear compass’ to guide us collectively. So we created a new simple acronym, PEAK, which stands for performance, entrepreneurial spirit, authenticity and kindness. We’ve found attracting candidates who embody these values are the ones who stay with us and become great employees. It now forms the basis of everything we do. We sell on our PEAK culture, we build product on it, we even use it as a verb to inspire change.”

But like any cross-functional effort, there are always going to be clashes in opinion and some reluctance to adopt change. This is where the C-suite have a role to play in helping to steer and align the vision to drive transformation from the inside out and top-down.

“The difference between HR and marketing is that human resources isn’t as upfront in asking for what they need, whereas marketers are used to asking for budget or validating additional support,” says Mr Bonnici. “Don’t be afraid to ask the CEO, like we did, to tear down a big hole in the middle of your building, if it means you can create a brilliant, campus-style space where your people and your customers love to collaborate and be genuinely proud of being part of your brand.”