Guest blogs | 6 MIN READ TIME

Time for HR pros to embrace their inner marketer


One of the key responsibilities of HR teams should be to persuade employees to buy into the organisation, its vision, values and culture. But to achieve this, HR needs to get to grips with many of the fundamentals of Marketing. After all, Marketing and HR are not that different – whilst Marketing is responsible for consumer communication, HR owns employee communication. Both are key to organisational success.

Often employer branding is considered the responsibility of an HR department alone and that marketing takes care of the corporate brand. This should not be the case.

HR and Marketing: The Perfect Partnership

HR teams understand what matters most to employees, but marketing pros know how best to capture their attention. They also understand how to deliver purpose-driven messages and create engaging experiences with a brand at every touch point. 

HR can learn much from marketers’ finely-tuned approach to winning and retaining consumers, but where to start?

First Define Your Goals

Any marketing plan or tactical communications activity will have clearly defined objectives. Without this, there can be no measures put in place to determine return on investment. Gone are the days where HR teams needed only to tick a box, stating that they had introduced so many initiatives in a given year. Budgets are tight, and employers want to know that the money they invest in people-driven initiatives is being spent wisely.

Seek advice from third parties as to how well each of your initiatives should be going, attend HR focussed forums and events where case study evidence is given from other companies. Try to benchmark your offering against others operating in a similar field, and then put in place SMART goals (those that are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely).

Three key goals that I believe should remain on HR’s agenda year after year are:  

1. Improve Adoption of Benefits

Retailer marketers tackle market uncertainty and competition head-on, by promoting ‘deals’ and ‘special offers’ to drive business and retain existing customers. HR can do the same when it comes to retaining its customers – the employees.

A comprehensive programme of internal communications can drive uptake of any employee benefit. With typical benefits uptake hovering around 20%, and many ‘non-core’ programmes falling well below this figure, it is vital that HR align benefits to the individual needs of employees and communicate them accordingly.

Never rest on your laurels. Assuming that once a new benefit has been launched that the work is done is a sure-fire way to see uptake rates plummet. Employees must be constantly reminded of ‘what’s in it for them’. Attention spans are short, and the working day is filled with other things to worry about, so get to the point quickly and prompt often!

2. Reduce Attrition

High levels of staff turnover affect many industries. But it doesn’t have to be a given that because others in your sector suffer in a similar way that there is nothing that can be done to address this problem.

Seek ideas from other sectors and run trials with your own employee demographic to see what sticks. Layer different initiatives one on top of the other and measure against benchmark figures you can take today. Gauge audience appeal regularly through surveys and quick polls. 

Remember, if you do operate in an industry where retaining top talent is a challenge, then set realistic goals of reducing turnover by marginal amounts. Just as marketers invest heavily in customer loyalty platforms, with each new HR initiative introduced, the more likely it is that your customers (employees) will remain loyal. 

If you’re lucky enough to operate in an industry with low staff turnover you’re not off the hook! Just because your employees stay put doesn’t mean that they are engaged or productive. Be sure to measure engagement regularly to combat disengaged employees that aren’t really contributing to the success of your organisation.

3. Influence Employee Behaviours

Encouraging employees to display desired behaviours, perhaps defined through your corporate values, can be tough. Marketers continually attempt to drive customers up the value chain by undertaking small actions, one step at a time. It is no different for HR. Employees should be recognised for displaying positive behaviours to encourage them to repeat those behaviours and influence others to do the same.

A formal recognition process can aid this, just as a customer loyalty programme aids marketers.

Then Develop a Marketing Plan That Conveys Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Your employer brand must do the hard work of being clear and consistent about its promise (EVP), communicating an authentic, meaningful brand experience across all touchpoints.

Only by treating your internal communications, people initiatives and benefits launches in a logical manner can you hope to make in-roads into this area. A clearly defined employee marketing plan can help you to build a strong EVP.

To get started, follow these steps:


1. Perform Competitor Analysis

Just what are you up against? With top talent more than willing to jump ship for a better deal it is essential that employers benchmark their offer against other organisations.

Be sure to measure your offer against both organisations in the local area and those operating further afield but with a similar remit. You may well be seeking out a healthy blend of local interest and attracting specialist talent from further afield.


2. Segment Your Audience

Support behavioural change and engagement using consumer-style segmentation of the workforce. It may be possible to tap into internal marketing expertise to help with this. 

Tailor reward and recognition initiatives to the interests of your employees. Take a leaf out of the retail marketer’s book and create personas for groups of employees. Retailers are the experts at this and commonly create multiple detailed personas of their customers to target them with products and services that will appeal. 

HR professionals may need to start small, perhaps grouping millennial salespeople or Generation X line managers, then designing rewards and recognition that might work for these groups, within each line of business. Cater for exceptions – such as skydiving 60-year-olds or young mums – by enabling employees to opt in or out of different reward schemes.


3. Translate Top Level Goals into Something Tangible

Work with middle management to define how corporate strategy translates to their department’s day-to-day workflow and objectives. Apply consumer marketing techniques to drive activity to meet specific targets, from increased sales to improved levels of customer service.

Often the vision of the organisation comes from ‘on high’. Without a meaningful translation of the operational goals of the organisation, employees can feel lost. You do not want employees on the shop floor not understanding how their efforts contribute to the wider goals of the business. Get senior management out there with the troops, delivering workshops, presentations, on video and blogging, so that the vision remains front of mind for everyone.


4. Feedback and Survey Target Audiences

Leavers’ interviews, employee engagement surveys and online polls all provide opportunities for HR pros to gather invaluable information about employee preferences. Just as a marketer would perform regular customer research, HR must do the same. 

Huge swathes of valuable feedback is just waiting to be tapped into through these mediums. Give employees the opportunity to voice their opinions and you’re on the right track to company-wide engagement.

Finally, Protect Your Brand Reputation

Websites such as Glassdoor offer employers a prime opportunity to convey the benefits of working for their organisation. If you’re not actively monitoring these then you could be losing the battle for talent attraction before you even realise it.

Encourage employees to be open with their feedback on such platforms and respond to each and every review of your company. If it’s positive, then you’ll draw the eye of readers to the good stuff. If it’s negative, then you have the opportunity to address any concerns and show that you are making in roads in that area. 

Remember, your online brand reputation precedes you when potential employees are doing their pre-interview prep!

A Final Thought

In a buoyant job market, talented individuals have their pick of companies to work for, so what makes yours so special?

If HR teams rest on their laurels then they will fail to attract and retain key personnel, to the detriment of their organisation. But by embracing some of these tried and tested Marketing techniques they can do far more to build an employer brand that they can be truly proud of.


Joanna Tracey is a digital marketing consultant at BeeBrilliant! Marketing.

Joanna has helped many businesses to develop comprehensive communications plans that improve benefits uptake, talent attraction and employee engagement.