Bringing a Marketing Mindset to HR

HR teams often feel like they struggle to be heard. It can be hard to compete 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 combined our marketing and HR forces to create one team to better serve our 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 have you stopped to think about who they are?  You probably have at least four groups with different needs: applicants, employees, managers, and leadership. Depending on your business, you might have others like union representatives or safety leaders. 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 customer groups 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 

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 their access to their doctors. Managers are going to be interested in meeting schedules and length and the impact on productivity. 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 straightforward forward but think about 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 in, or you can find all 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 salesperson’s goal is to get a commitment; for them, it might be to commit to reviewing a proposal, commit to a meeting or to commit to a purchase. You can use this in your thought process as well. Think about what you need people to commit to doing and make sure you are always working with that end goal in mind. Do you need employees to commit to attending a meeting about the benefits plan, managers to commit to overseeing a project, or leadership to commit budget dollars?  No one will give you things that you don’t ask for, so be specific in what you need them to agree to and make sure that you actually ask for what you need and that it aligns with your internal customer.

Marketing and salespeople spend a lot of time thinking about how to build relationships and persuade people to agree with them. HR has many of the same needs in their workday and can use these same techniques when thinking about their internal customers and how to build engagement and consensus. Having a strong HR team starts with having efficient processes in place. If you are curious about what an HCM software like K-Pay can do for you and your HR team, BerganKDV can help. Request a free K-Pay demo here.

*Reference: The Sales Board (


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CATEGORIES: Human Capital Management
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