Agile HR Contributor: Tanya Legault
HR and Marketing – Commonalities through a Business Agility Mindset
As a HR Professional and Teacher of HR Management, I invite my Students to connect the dots between Functions within a Business.
To some, the word Marketing may be synonymous with advertising, tv commercials, and swag bags. Others may summarize it as the promotion and sale of a product or service.
In my classroom, we have a different definition, let alone a different vision. I have presented my Students the perspective that Marketing is like HR – it is about People! Considering our like-mindedness, we both see the connection between the two Business Functions. If the link I’m describing seems abstract at the moment, allow me to illustrate it.
Understandably, expressing feelings, dissolving fears, and creating connections do not represent typical marketing objectives or practices. The question therefore is why? Why can’t marketing invite candor, vulnerability, courage, and connection? Why does a correlation with human resources seem more plausible? When did the activities in one functional area become isolated from the other? Why can’t marketing and human resources be integrated?
The current context certainly cannot validate the segregation since the globalized economy highlights the links amongst processes and practices. The interconnectivity of it all is quite evident, yet even more necessary for its performance. Hence, a need arises for marketing and human resources to connect if they aspire to operate amidst globalization. The two must align, flow with one another, and more importantly, understand that they influence and highly impact each other. Therefore, we are discovering and beginning to witness the mutual benefits and value of a common purpose as some organizations embrace and deploy Business Agility.
Link Between HR and Marketing
Beyond Agility as a Collaboration Driver, to propose a natural connection between HR and Marketing is not that outrageous. In fact, examining humans and studying their behaviour already represents a form of marketing. It is known as consumer behaviour and can be witnessed through customer satisfaction surveys, focus groups, and brand awareness polls.
These efforts collect insight on a target audience, which allow companies to better promote their product or service and enable them to develop new, coveted products. In this scenario, the link between an attentive ear (human resources practice) is potentially leading to a product launch (marketing effort).
The breakdown occurs in unusual circumstances or uncharted territory where the link is not as visible. To elaborate, the answers aren’t available on spreadsheets, graphs, interview recordings, or polling results. These instances test companies as they force firms to search deeply for what their cherished market needs from them.
In grey zones, a firm’s obligation is to meet the needs of their consumer, not their wants. Wants were fulfilled by previous marketing campaigns, former products or services, and other tried & true practices. But now, we are in a new space, a world of possibility where the rules have not been written yet and everything is permitted.
It is this abundance of freedom and liberation from restraints and restrictions that destabilize companies, send them in a whirlwind, and leave them disconnected from their audience or market. Without their usual reference points and metrics, companies miss the opportunity to introduce their faithful client base to new marketing techniques. Techniques that are progressive, innovative, refreshing, and most importantly human.
Calling the Human Side of Marketing
For decades, marketing efforts have sold to humans without necessarily recognizing their humanity. This wasn’t problematic as sales were present, clients were seemingly happy, and representatives were meeting or surpassing objectives. Yet today, the scenery has changed and the buying market has altered. Five generations of individuals currently possess a purchasing power, which means strategies must adapt to their uniqueness. Approaches must be revisited to respond to the various ideologies, values, and wide array of realities.
In modern day, a company that does not practice what it preaches will endure significant backlash from consumers. Employees might leave their jobs if they don’t feel connected to the company’s mission or values. What a firm does or does not do will be highlighted on social media. A globalized world means more eyes on each company. It demands a higher level of performance by organizations. It requires more transparency, consideration, and ultimately more humanity.
Agile HR Meets Agile Marketing
Now more than ever, it is imperative for marketing and human resources teams to collaborate and exchange information. Each possesses insight that is extremely valuable to the other, if not crucial. Without cooperation amongst these teams, a company’s solvency and viability could be seriously compromised. Imagine the aftermath of the following scenarios if human resources and marketing do not perform any knowledge transfer:
- A candidate does not have a positive interaction with a firm’s recruiter.
- An organization’s recruitment process lacks integrity and rigor.
- A prospective employee is discriminated against (voluntarily or involuntarily) during pre-employment examinations.
- A supervisor or manager deceives, lies, or betrays their employee.
- A promising and ambitious employee receives no leadership from senior management.
- A news article showcases a company whose actions blatantly contradict its corporate values or mission statement.
All these examples can constitute public relation nightmares for organizations if not dealt with in an Agile Manner.
PR Considerations in Applying Agile HR
The implications of poor public relations can encompass loss of market share, plummeted sales, reduced or eliminated profits, hindered brand image, diminished social acceptance, difficulty recruiting talent, and employee retention struggles. Combine such bad publicity with the launch of an IPO, a new product or service, or an eminent merger and a perfect storm is born. In a situation of business acquisition, the negative outcome can be even more catastrophic. If the backlash from the bad press is highly severe, then the buyer could end up being the firm being purchased. With the stakes so high and the possibility of tables turning so drastically, human resources attention must be given to marketing efforts about to be deployed.
Agility Bridges the Gap
The easiest way to bridge the gap between historically distinct entities, HR and Marketing in this case, is to recognize and honour the fact that clients are people. In fact, the Agile Manifesto reminds us to focus on “Customer collaboration” and we find the same sentiment in the Agile Marketing Manifesto and the Agile HR Manifesto Values & Principles.
It’s a simple concept, yet its simplicity might be the exact reason it is forgotten or ignored. Marketers know that their consumers are human beings yet with all the bad publicity seen over the years, one must conclude that this fundamental point was hiding in plain sight. Plus, with any project completion, product launch, or other important corporate reveal, it’s easy to get tied up in the nitty gritty details or be so close to the situation that the big picture is lost.
To be a thriving, sustainable, and successful marketer today, a company must appeal to its Customers through Authenticity. It must authentically warm their hearts, inspire them, and gain their trust. An effective, modern marketer will captivate its clients through its integrity, transparency, and vulnerability should they opt to be so candid. People vote with their wallet, yet they choose with their heart. Never assume or even less expect to get the sale, if you don’t appeal to your client’s values, beliefs, and needs first.
Just remember that your human resources colleagues are equipped to help you with that approach. Human Resources Professionals know people, they understand fit, they are well versed in comprehensive communication, they aren’t strangers to accommodation or adaptation, and certainly are experts in engagement. Employees and Customers are both human beings. Finally, bridging the gap comes from recognizing and embracing the commonalities and unifying sense of purpose that exist in HR and Marketing, through the ever-growing adoption of Business Agility. Bridging gaps enables the Business Disciplines to jointly overcome Organizational challenges. To be Agile, Marketers must value their customers and adapt to their changes, all the while planning with flexibility in mind. Adopting Agile HR practices, will help the marketing team achieve that level faster and more organically. After some time collaborating, Agile Marketers may discover that they are Champions of Recruitment Marketing while Agile Recruiters could transform into professionals in the Marketing of Employment Opportunities by fully leveraging and promoting the desirable as well as unique strengths inherent to their Organization and Culture. Ultimately, success comes from doing what you do because it’s who you are, it provides an authentic testimonial of your corporate culture. It doesn’t result from just doing the politically correct thing.
Agile HR Contributing Author – Tanya Legault
Photo Credit: Clay Banks