HR teams often feel like they struggle to be heard. It can be hard to complete with other voices in the business to get your projects moving. I recommend that you step back and take a few pages from your marketing team. Now, at first glance, marketing and HR may not seem a likely pairing, but they share a lot of similarities. However, when you stop and think about all the things there are in common, a great synergy can result. In fact, BerganKDV just announced last week that the marketing and talent teams are joining forces to better serve employees and clients.
It makes sense. They are both focused on making sure that that company is viewed positively, they both need to get people to do things or make decisions that they might not do if left on their own, and they both focus on building positive relationships with the people they work with. Here are a few things you can do to bring a marketing mindset into HR.
Determine who your customers are
In HR we talk a lot about “internal customers” but do have you stopped to think about who they are? You probably have at least four groups with different needs: applicants, employees, managers andleadership. Depending on your business, you might have others like union representatives or safetyleaders. The first step in your process is to think about who you work with that might have different needs and goals. Thinking about who these different customer groups are can help you think about how your message needs to be delivered, how they make decisions and what process you might need to go through to get them to agree.
Understand your customer’s needs
Now that you’ve identified who your groups of customers are, make sure that you know what they need. You might already do an employee engagement survey to get feedback from employees but you should ask your other groups, too. A growing trend is a brief survey to candidates that you interview or new hires about their feelings on the application process. It doesn’t always have to be a survey either,consider something like a 10–minute conversation with a manager after they hire someone to get feedback on how the hiring process went from their perspective and how they are feeling about talent acquisition. Also, it is critically important to talk with senior leaders about how they view HR’s strengths and weaknesses. These can be formal conversations, or quick informal meetings. The key is to have conversations or tools that allow you to gather an understanding of each group.
Manage the message
Also think about communication style and building engagement with what you are trying to accomplish.Let’s take open enrollment for benefits as an example. Different customers are going to have different needs from this process. Employees need to understand the changes that are happening and how they impact them and their access to their doctor. Managers are going to be interested in meeting schedules and length and the impact on productivity and leadership is likely focused on program costs and trends.You need to make sure that you are focusing your communications for each group to address their needs in the process. If a group doesn’t feel heard or doesn’t feel like you are delivering them the information they need to move forward, they back away from the process.
Know how decisions get made
Think about how decisions get made in your work world; now this might seem straight forward but thinkabout who might contribute and who might veto decisions. Using benefits again as an example, your CEO is typically the ultimate decision maker for your plan changes, but can your CFO veto what you and the CEO decide if it doesn’t match the current budget? If you’re working in a unionized environment,you have your collective bargaining agreement to consider as well. Even at an employee level, consider what role the employee’s spouse or partner may play in the decision-making process. You have to consider these other influences in the decision and make sure that you are also working to pull them inor you can find your hard work undone unexpectedly at the end.
Ask for commitment
There are lots of ways of thinking about “closing a sale”, but I personally prefer the view from The Sales Board*, that a marketing or sales person’s goal is to get a commitment; for them it might be to commit to review a proposal, commit to a meeting, or to commit to a purchase. You can use this in your thoughtprocess as well. Think about what you need people to commit to doing and make sure you are alwaysworking with that end goal in mind. Do you need employees to commit to attending a meeting aboutthe benefits plan, or managers to commit to overseeing a project or leadership to commit budgetdollars? No one will give you things that you don’t ask for, so be specific in what you need them toagree to and make sure that you actually ask for that and that your internal customer says yes.
Marketing and salespeople spend a lot of time thinking about how to build relationship and get people to agree with them. HR has many of these same needs in their workday and can use many of these same techniques when thinking about their internal customers and how to build engagement and consensus.
*Reference: The Sales Board (https://www.thesalesboard.com/)