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HR and Marketing: Shaping the New World of Work Together

Posted By Anna Tavis, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

HR and Marketing:  Shaping the New World of Work Together

By Dr. Anna A. Tavis

Work is not just a paycheck; it’s part of who we intrinsically are. According to Gallup polls collected in the past 20 years, more than half of working Americans (55%) and the majority of those with college degrees (70%) reported deriving a strong sense of personal identity from their jobs.  

If all HR professionals reimagined their roles with that profound insight in mind, we would be guiding senior managers to become better custodians of people’s working lives.  We would also help redesign company cultures to be positive and highly inclusive. Thriving at work is what we would all be wishing for ourselves and for all our employees.

Ironically, HR may be last arriving at the realization that making work more human is good business. Marketing got there ahead of us, and we can certainly learn a few lessons from our agile marketing colleagues. Could it be that we used to hold customers and employees to a different standard?  That gap is beginning to close fast. We are witnessing an unprecedented erosion of silos as bridges between our two functions are being built fast.  

Steve Jobs’ leadership taught Product Marketing a few important lessons. One of those “aha” discoveries was that detailing out product features when trying to gain new customers had serious limitations. Making someone feel smarter and more successful as a result of buying what you sell them, turned consumer experience into something much more personally elevating.

“People don’t buy products. They buy better versions of themselves.”

This adage penned by User Onboard guru Samuel Hulick has become the new product marketing mantra.  Applied to the workplace, this insight becomes prophetic and changes everything HR does. What if we listened to the new behavioral insights and embraced the fact that:

People do not join companies, they seek to become better versions of themselves.” 

Would we then re-write HR manuals with employees as learners and purpose seekers in mind? Would we transform our organizations to become places where we, the humans, thrive?

If the People Function borrowed a page from the marketing playbook, what would change?

As marketing experience is becoming generally better understood and broadly shared, it is gradually making its way into day to day HR.  HR is uniquely positioned to connect the organizational dots and tell a persuasive story that gives employees figuratively a place “to hang their hats.” HR can show every working person their potential for contribution, career opportunities, and focus them on critical performance areas where they could make a difference.  Your people would feel connected to the larger company purpose, would be less unhinged when things need to change around them, and most importantly, understand “what’s in it for them.” Only then would they give the organization their true 100 percent effort.

The new employment formula calls for the following new equation:

Regular Employees + Feedback and Development = Empowered, Motivated and Better Skilled Employees (high performing employees and teams with new powers).

The next generation of companies are focusing their employment brands on new employee experience above all else.

One of the exemplar companies that successfully blends HR and Marketing to deliver superior company culture is Horizon Media, NYC-based largest private media services firm. At Horizon Media, “Business is Personal” and they mean it.

Eileen Benwitt, EVP of Talent at Horizon Media, tells the company’s HR story in the Perspectives for the special fall issue of People+Strategy Journal (v. 4, 2017)

Even though tapping into employees’ personal brands seemed obvious to the media agency professionals, it remained initially an underutilized resource for HR. Most recently, a strong collaboration between Horizon’s world class marketing and innovative HR teams was forged to lead the creation of the company’s singular employment identity. This is how Horizon HR and marketing partnered to create the role of Director of Talent Branding

The Director of Talent Branding role included responsibilities for curating HR related content, including developing digital job profiles as well as producing videos that promoted personal brands of both employees and company leadership. As employees engaged in helping shape employment branding, they became more ardent company brand loyalists.

Horizon Media’s journey in bringing HR and the company’s expert marketers together illustrates that the gap between internal and external approaches is narrowing fast. HR is picking up on the skills and techniques traditionally reserved for marketers. 

Today, we may still be in the uncharted territory when it comes to the blurring of boundaries between HR and marketing.  To me, “the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed,” and companies like Horizon Media are showing us what that future might look like.

I am convinced that the future of the HR function will be decided at the critical intersections between data, technology, brand, and marketing.  The new rules of engagement are emerging and we can summarize them as a set of three:

  • We need to compete for talent (internal and external) as if we are competing for customers
  • We must seek to personalizing employee experience as if it were customer experience
  • We must provide transparency to employees similar to what consumers are demanding

The ball is now in the HR court. In closing, I want to quote Dr. Tomas  Chemorro Premuzik, the CEO of Hogan Assessments:

“As we look at the world around us, we see a closing gap between employees and consumers, an evolution of how brand is shaped, fueled partly by technology, but just as much by those who see the possibilities of a new future.”

Dr. Anna Tavis is Clinical Associate Professor and Academic Director of Human Capital Management Program at NYU.  Her article with Peter Cappelli of Wharton, The Performance Management Revolution is in HBR's "Top 10 Must Reads for 2018". The second article on Agile HR will appear in HBR in March of 2018.

Tags:  Culture  Employee Branding  Marketing  Talent 

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