Why aren't you supporting your marketing team?
Your marketing team isn’t getting what they need to support your customers.
"How’s that, Erdie? Clarification, please?"
I’m referring to your HR team. Whether you realize it or not, they are an integral part of your marketing organization. HR develops and deploys marketing and communications strategies daily to attract talent, develop leaders and managers, raise benefit awareness and utilization, and improve employee retention and engagement. Plus they deliver critical messages from your management team on a regular basis. That’s quite the responsibility.
Here’s the thing - they don’t get the help that they desperately need to plan and execute marketing tactics, which is incredibly ironic. By not supporting HR in this respect, companies are putting their relationships with their customers at risk.
“You lost me again, Erdie. By not supporting HR we’re jeopardizing relationships with our customers?”
Yes, your internal customers - otherwise known as your employees. They are equally as important as your external customers.
Think about it - your employees ARE your brand AND they are a critical part of your business. Do you want them to rave about your company to their neighbors and friends in person and on the Interwebs? Are you hoping they’ll encourage their super smart friends to join your company? Do you want them to “crush their number” this quarter? Are you committed to help them balance their work and life responsibilities? Then you need to help HR so they can help your workforce do all of the above - and more.
Ask any HR leader, regardless of their role within the organization, and I’d bet they’d say that marketing to employees is one of their biggest challenges for three reasons:
They don’t have the necessary resources and support.
They don’t have the time (often because they’re fighting for resources and support).
While they market to employees, they aren’t marketers in the traditional sense.
To show you that the struggle is real, here are actual challenges from HR leaders that I’ve worked with:
A newly hired head of talent acquisition:
“I was hired to create and amplify our corporate brand, which I was so excited about. Everything related to talent acquisition is in desperate need of a refresh. Our recruitment materials look like they are from the 1980’s. We’re in the middle of a growth spurt and we need to attract and hire the absolute best people. When I came on board I was told that the company’s Creative team would help us with the strategy and execution. When I approached them about the project, suddenly they didn’t have time to take it on. I had some budget for marketing and could have hired an external agency, but then that was cut too. At the same time, I got sucked into the vortex of hiring which has kept me crazy busy since then. Establishing the corporate brand was relegated to the bottom of my to do list where it has stayed, unfortunately. It’s frustrating to have to put something so important on the permanent back burner."
A benefits coordinator at a leading technology company:
“One of our employee benefits is fantastic, but utilization has been lower than anticipated the past two quarters. The vendor I’m working with said companies like ours see a significant increase in engagement when they send out emails to employees with messages targeted to their specific needs. My Account Manager has a great team of marketing experts who know what they’re doing. I trust their recommendation. I approached our Creative team about it. They said they could create the email in seven weeks! I can’t wait that long. Then I approached our Email team, and they said the number of emails that can be sent to employees has been limited to one a month. Another member of my team already reserved the slot that I need. The benefit is really critical to help employees balance work and their responsibilities at home. It’s up for renewal in a few months. An email could increase usage, but my hands are absolutely tied. I don’t know what to do.”
An HR leader who specializes in employee and management training:
“I absolutely love building the curriculum for and running our management training sessions. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the professional growth - especially when I’m working with employees who are new to management. Developing leaders is one of our tenants from the C-level, as well. To create an effective curriculum, I need to create handouts and really stellar PowerPoint decks to engage employees and drive the messages home. I’d also like to be able to plan some fun workshop exercises with someone who has a creative mindset. Every time I ask for help from the Creative team, my request is deprioritized. I have budget, but I just can’t use it for external marketing help this quarter.”
Maybe your HR team has raised similar concerns? Or maybe they have never broached the topic? Either way, here are a few essential questions ask in your next meeting:
Tell me about your experience spreading the word to employees about our various initiatives? What works well? What challenges have you faced?
What marketing initiatives are top priority for you this quarter/year?
What marketing materials would help you in the short- and long-term?
Have you had to reprioritize or deprioritize marketing initiatives? And if so, why?
What internal or external resources might help?
As we plan for budgets next year, what kind of funds might you need?
Would it be helpful to add a marketing role to your HR team? How could I support you to make that role and new hire successful?
Marketing is such a common challenge for HR, but it really doesn’t have to be. Whether you are a CEO, VP, or CMO, initiate a conversation with your HR leaders. You’ll take a huge step in the right direction. Free up or add resources to help them - whether they are human or financial - and consciously continue the dialogue. Your HR leaders and your employees will thank you for it.
P.S. Don’t just take my word for it…
Why and How HR Needs to Act More Like Marketing from the Harvard Business Review (as you read consider the art of the possible if you help your HR leaders with marketing!)
10 Common HR Mistakes Startups Make on Medium.com (hint - see #3)