Why HR and Marketing need to get into bed together… fast.

Traditionally HR has had more in common with Finance than Marketing – systems, payroll, forms and data.  But rarely any analysis from it; rules, regulations; what you can and can’t do. All a bit dull…

Marketeers tended to sit with Sales and care most about budgets, products, and consumers (in that order). HR practitioners were interested in future and current employees rarely thinking of them as customers in the way that the Marketing department did.

Despite apparent differences between the functions of HR and marketing, the digital world has brought them closer than ever by eliminating differences between employees and consumers who may actually be one person at the end of the day.

So much so, that most businesses should seriously consider bringing their HR and Marketing departments much closer together as it could be a healthy collaboration.

Firstly, Marketing truly understands the brand in the way that HR should.  Brands reflect a company’s reputation, embodying its values and DNA. When consumers are attracted to a company’s brand, they will probably identify with its culture too. And cultural fit drives employee engagement, and productivity. When employees share the values of the organisation, work fulfills important psychological needs and motives; and consumers achieve the same when they buy products that align with their idealised self and identity.

Furthermore, since employees are also brand ambassadors – they share both good and bad experiences of the job and the organisations via Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Facebook – engaged employees are an important asset, not only to marketing but the whole organisation. Conversely, if you hire people who have trouble fitting in they will sooner or later be tempted to harm your brand or work for your competitors. And in an age in which brand loyalty is easier to pursue than employee loyalty, marketing is well placed to teach HR about loyalty.

Secondly, the two keys to successful recruitment are (a) attracting good candidates and (b) assessing their future potential. Thanks to technology and digital advertising, marketing departments are now better placed to accomplish these two goals than traditional technology and analytics free HR departments.

Indeed, most businesses have a strong online presence with consumers, and with it comes the capacity to mine behavioural data that can be translated into valid profiles. Importantly, these profiles can be used not only to predict consumer behaviours, but also employee performance.

For example, knowing that a person has unconventional preferences and is an early adopter can predict not only their likelihood of buying innovative products, but also their ability to innovate, which would make them suitable for a creative role.

Likewise, if companies want to hire emotionally intelligent employees, they could mine consumer transactions that reflect cool-headed and smart purchasing decisions, and refrain from hiring customers who spend a lot of time complaining.

However, there is an important caveat: although the same data point may represent an employee and a consumer, the segments and typologies traditionally used in marketing are not always relevant to HR. Marketing can learn from HR to assess more relevant aspects of human behaviour (eg, the bright and dark side of personality, competencies, personal values and motivations) together with their experience of living with decisions.  If a company loses a customer, it is very different from a big Employee Relations issue that can impact badly on moral and profitability.

Thirdly, it is clear now that employees increasingly want consumer-like experiences. They don’t want a job; they want a meaningful career.  Money matters less than fun, purpose and work-life balance. Regular staff surveys are conducted to monitor employees’ involvement and engagement levels at work – just like sentiment analyses, but of employees rather than brands. And the very futures of employees depend not on their qualifications and skills, but their capacity to self-brand and sell their brand to future employers.

It seems, then, that marketing departments can play a key role in engaging, managing and developing employees.  The businesses revered by consumers will be the best places to work, and being employed by those businesses will strengthen employees’ personal brand, which in turn will strengthen the business. Traditional HR products like clunky appraisal systems; exit interviews and the formal one-way interview need refreshing and replacing. 

Ultimately, marketing is about storytelling, influence and differentiation. But the story of brands is the psychological journey of organisations, and each organisation is its people: their values, ideas, and reputation. Marketing and HR could be a powerful force in any organisation. Bringing the brand in-house to shape and create a culture that individuals wish to join. Marketing it externally. 
Looking at employee data to identify new ways to engage with employees. Creating a place to work driven by individuals not corporate needs.

It’s a very exciting thought.