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People are too important to be left to the HR department

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More than 84% of the U.S. GDP is service-based. While this is probably not news to most people, one of the derivate implications might give you pause … so stay with me. Few, if any, CEOs have not uttered the words, "People are our most important asset" or something akin to that expression. In fact, a Google search yields over 600,000 entries with that exact phrase. There is well-documented evidence that companies with engaged workforces perform better financially.

And, nowhere is that phrase more important than in the service industry. In the service industry, your brand is your people. It begins and ends with your employees. They are generally the first brand touchpoint. In our business, not only are our people the manifestation of our brand, but they are the manifestation of our customers’ brands—because we deliver their products to market. This must seem pretty obvious so far, and you’re still looking for that flash of brilliance. Bear with me.

Who is responsible for your brand? Most people will say their company’s CMO or a VP of marketing or branding. Or, if you’ve followed the conversation, maybe you replied “my employees.” In both cases, the answer is correct. But, who curates the employee brand experiences, and who gives the employees the brand scripts?  In a few cases, people would reply, “The CMO.” But they are more likely to reply that it’s their HR department.

I have thankfully been driving a different model for the past nine years of my career. During that time, my marketing teams have been responsible for the employee brand experience from before a person is an employee until after he or she has retired and everything in between. As a potential employee is experiencing the company for the first time—in a job posting or on the Web, we start creating an employee value proposition. Once he or she joins the company, and the company begins communicating with the employee, we reinforce and align that employee value proposition with a commercial value proposition. It is the continual reinforcement and alignment of the commercial value proposition and employment value proposition that only marketing can do.  

Don’t get me wrong … HR is important. HR needs to process the human capital funnel. HR needs to ensure competency, compensation and talent models align with corporate strategy. HR needs to keep us out of trouble with labor laws and compliance issues. However, no business leader should assume that because the HR department can write in the native language (whatever language that may be), that it should go it alone. HR and marketing should be in a full-fledged partnership in which HR provides the content and marketing ensures the most efficacious mediums and consistent voice. 

David Packard is attributed with saying, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” I believe that people are too important to be left to the HR department … at least without some help from the marketing department. Let me know your thoughts.

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