CMOs, Meet Your New Best Friend: The CHRO

Marketing and HR Need to Work More Closely Together

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Consider this scenario: The CMO creates a brand strategy and positioning, and the marketing team works vigorously to infuse the company's vision, mission and voice throughout every point of communication -- website, advertising, product collateral, press messaging, etc. At some point, the head of human resources catches wind, and given today's massive talent war, wants marketing to create materials for employee recruiting, retention and engagement -- infusing the company's unified vision into all HR initiatives and ensuring complete alignment.

Now turn that around. A human resources lead (commonly called the chief human resources officer in larger companies) completes the annual resource planning process. Again, facing a highly competitive talent environment, which is undoubtedly impacting both recruiting and retention, the CHRO crafts a comprehensive, but independent business-to-employee (B2E) strategy. However, at some point, the marketing folks catch wind and the HR initiatives are quickly retooled and shoehorned to fit the company's vision as best as possible, so as not to appear disjointed.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Far too often, at companies of all sizes -- whether they have 200 employees or 20,000 employees -- the CMO and CHRO operate at arm's length. It's usually not out of malice or territorialism (although perhaps in rare cases). Sometimes it may be due to differences of opinion, but more often than not, it's because they're quite simply different disciplines, operating with two completely different agendas and sets of KPIs.

And that's what's entirely wrong with the picture.

In today's highly competitive business environment, HR must align with overall company branding to fight the massive talent war. Marketing must leverage every last employee as a company advocate to the outside world. Operating in a vacuum won't drive excitement for your organization, but symbiosis will.

YouTube has recently struggled, not specifically with its employee base, but rather in energizing and retaining its most popular cadre of online video creators. While video creators are not technically employees, the concept here is precisely the same. What would happen if the CMO and CHRO actually worked together to drive both company excitement and retention among all constituents? For starters, YouTube wouldn't have a reporter highlighting this issue in The Wall Street Journal.

I'm not suggesting that your company's vision and mission won't need to be tailored into different messages for every constituency: customers, partners, investors and employees. Quite the opposite -- they will. However, your company needs to have a common DNA, one overall, unifying message -- a rallying cry. Allow me to use an admittedly overused example -- Apple -- as it happens to be very apropos.

Whether your relationship with Apple is that of a consumer, an investor, a supplier or a partner, without question you know that Apple is a company that challenges the norm, cuts against the grain, disrupts and creates altogether new industries. Apple has not only radically changed the way we do personal computing, the way we consume music and media, and how we view smartphones, but also transcended the entire experience around each.

Most of us haven't worked for Apple as an employee, but I think we'd be shocked if we learned that new Apple employees are told to perform their jobs status quo. Why is that? Because Apple has a very simple and clear ethos. That ethos doesn't just live as a marketing campaign or as the company's historic tagline, "Think Different." Rather, it's in everything they do -- spoken and unspoken, and every one of their constituents knows it.

Apple has achieved many milestones in its nearly 40-year history, and scores of business books have focused on its many unprecedented marketplace milestones. But the one critical piece of Apple's history that may be overlooked by companies big and small is the connective tissue that must exist between brand and employee.

The additive benefits are immeasurable, but palpable. From an employee engagement perspective, aligning brand and employee diminishes internal friction, because every last corner of the company acts with shared purpose. From a marketing perspective, aligning brand and employee helps to create what many have described in marketing as the "multiplier effect," or one plus one equals three. Your employees become your best advocates to the outside world.

While the benefits are clear, bridging the divide between marketing and HR is not a quick or easy task. Successfully aligning a company's brand efforts requires not only dedication, but will require that two senior members of the leadership team set aside any ego and, rather than one lead the effort, that they lead the effort together.

So if you happen to be the CMO or CHRO of your organization, and you haven't yet taken the critical step to link marketing and HR, you had better be clear on whom your next call should be to.

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