A Love-Hate Relationship? When Marketing and HR Meet: Part 1

With more companies getting into employment branding—both as participants and as providers—there is a lot of talk about bringing the “marketing mindset” to HR. It’s a great concept, but for many, it raises new questions: Does employment branding belong in Marketing or in HR? Who should be in charge? And of course, who should pay for it? Some of the answers are unique to each company, but here are a few principles to help find your best solution.

First, the idea of using marketing principles in HR may be a hot topic, but it is not as new as you might think. When IBM Talent Acquisition & Optimization introduced its first employment branding offerings nearly a decade ago, this was our big idea—that attracting candidates and retaining current employees was a lot like attracting and retaining customers. The smartest strategy, therefore, was to combine the best ideas from both Marketing and HR. In other words, “who should be in charge?” is the wrong question. The best employment branding results come when Marketing and HR collaborate as equal partners.

“But wait,” you might be thinking, “our HR and Marketing departments can’t work together. They don’t even like each other!” But trust me on this—it’s not that HR and Marketing don’t work together because they don’t get along; instead, they don’t get along because they have never worked together. And when they do, you’ll be amazed at what can happen. We have seen it time and time again.

After all, both disciplines have plenty of expertise that can contribute to employment branding success—but neither group knows everything. When they work together, they achieve things that neither could do alone. And they will learn a lot from each other in the process. Want some examples?

Let’s tackle this in two parts. Right now, let’s talk about the top things that Marketing people can learn from working with HR professionals. Next time, we will look at what HR people can learn from Marketing professionals.

What Marketing Can Learn From HR

  1. HR is an industry unto itself.

    Suppose you take a marketing job in the auto industry. You’ve already got the marketing background, but you need to learn a lot about the car business to do your job well. And if you’re looking for an ad agency or other outside partner, you probably seek out those who already have experience in that industry. Well, it’s the same thing here. Think of your HR team as a new client in a completely different industry. They can help you learn the strengths and weaknesses of the product (in this case, a career at your organization), how you stack up against the competition, and what really matters to the target audience (candidates and current employees).

  2. There is more than one brand.

    As marketers, you are the experts on your company’s consumer brand. You know the strategy behind the messaging and the best ways to get your message across. But before you apply all that knowledge to HR, remember that the employment brand is different than the consumer brand. They should be complementary—not contradictory—but they are not the same thing. In fact, in some companies, they are quite far apart. When you think about it, this makes sense. After all, your reasons for buying a product might have nothing to do with your reasons for wanting to work for the company who made it.

  3. These days, people are always looking for a job.

    On any given day, most of us are not in the market for a prom dress, a travel trailer or a personal injury lawyer. These are things you only look for at very specific times. Job hunting used to work the same way, but times have changed. Workers today can expect to change jobs every few years—and maybe even change careers. On top of that, the constant flow of career information online and in social channels means that we are exposed to opportunities even when we’re not looking. The result? For more workers, passive job seeking is becoming a continuous behavior. And if you want to find the best candidates first, you can’t just tell your story in the Want Ads. Prospects are everywhere.

  4. You want research? We’ve got research.

    Marketing professionals are generally very good at using whatever industry research is available. As you dig into this new industry, you may be pleasantly surprised by what your friends in HR can give you. Companies that use a regular engagement survey know a lot about how your employees see you as an employer. An organization that studies its best people and develops good candidate assessments can literally tell what traits make their top performers good at their jobs. In many cases, they even know the right questions to ask to find those traits. And with new social tools like Glassdoor.com, it’s easier than ever to listen to what people have to say about your company. So where should you start looking? Just ask HR.

  5. There IS such a thing as a customer we don’t want.

    When you’re selling products or services, there is always a top tier of customers with the highest recency, frequency, dollars and projected lifetime value. But does this mean the rest of your customers are unimportant? Not at all. Another new buyer, even a marginal one, still adds value. In recruiting, however, you don’t just want more talent—you want the right talent. There will always be some very capable people who, for one reason or another, don’t fit in your corporate culture. Good messaging attracts people who will be a good fit. Ideally, it also helps others recognize ahead of time that they might want to look elsewhere. You may be turning away a “customer,” but in the end, it will save a lot of time, effort and grief—for you and for them.

Of course, there are probably many other things your own HR department can tell you, but this list is a great place to start the conversation. In our next blog, we will turn the tables and discuss what HR can learn from Marketing.

To learn more about how to step up your own employment branding game, keep an eye out for our forthcoming white paper.

Interested in learning what HR can learn from marketing? Continue on to Part 2.