Large companies throughout the world are increasingly focused on developing their brand not just with prospective customers, but also with existing employees.
To develop and communicate an “employer brand”, corporate human resources executives are leveraging many of the tools traditionally managed by marketing departments–social media, internal communications and advertising.
Because human resources departments may lack the depth of expertise in brand development and management that exist in marketing departments, large corporations have begun leveraging their internal marketing expertise in the development of their employer brands.
This has forged growing collaboration between the two functions:
1. The internal communications functions of large companies often are already a shared or collaborative responsibility between marketing and human resources, especially as large companies struggle to define their direction to employees, explain corporate objectives, and contribute to employee contentment and retention.
As the New York City-based human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt has concluded: “To guide the strategic development of the employee value proposition, many in HR are now starting to embrace the same sort of tools used for decades by marketing.”
2. The development of a company’s employer brand has come to be known as “employee engagement,” which is part human resources and part marketing. It rests on the fact that employee effectiveness and commitment requires highlighting internal accomplishments, soliciting input of employees through surveys and other means, and ultimately treating each employee as ambassadors of a company’s brand.
Blu Ivy, a Toronto-based consulting firm that provides employee engagement guidance to companies, has observed that a company’s brand is first developed internally–and then communicated externally. “The brand lives through its employees’ thoughts, communications and behaviors,” the firm says.
3. Experts even say the ultimate marriage of HR and marketing is inevitable. One such expert, Felix Wetzel, the marketing director for the United Kingdom-based job board Jobsite even has a prospective name for this functional consolidation: “Peopling.” The ultimate merger of HR and marketing, Wetzel has written, is a logical outcome, “triggered by the behavioral changes that have been magnified and accelerated by social media, mobile and my core belief about business and life.” As Wetzel writes: “It’s all about people.”
There are many precedents for the combination of the two functions. For instance, at Lincoln Financial Group, the United States-based publicly-traded financial services giant, both functions report into the company’s CHRO. “The expanded scope includes not only managing Lincoln Financial’s brand, enterprise communications, and corporate social responsibility activities, but also all of the functions traditionally associated with HR,” Forbes reported earlier this year.”
The growing synergies between HR and marketing are also expanding opportunities for emerging HR technologies, including new cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) systems. The U.S.-based job site Glassdoor estimated last year that this market is “red hot,” comprising an estimated $90 billion in sales.
Then come the hard questions for corporate executives and directors: Is expanded investment in the development of a company’s employee brand worth it? And, if so, can operational cost synergies be achieved by leveraging the growing commonalities of HR and marketing? As companies wrap up their fiscal year, they are opportunities that are already included, or soon will be, in 2017 operating budgets and business strategies.
Representatives from the top 10 venture capital firms have reported that investing in the employee brand is one the best investments to grow a firm and a brand. VCs also report that they are investing in employee perks designed to increase employee contentment, engagement and retention.
Some of the examples are off the beaten path of traditional corporate benefits, such as free food, free bikes, free hairdressers, free concierges, free saunas and the like all with the goal of increasing the perception among top perspective employees that their company is a great place to work.
Even if many startup employees are often so busy with their work obligations that they cannot find time to enjoy these benefits, the approach does work. Employee motivation tools such as these and others contribute significantly to their image as an employer of choice.
At a moment when it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between these employers, these incremental investment—increasingly implemented by both HR and marketing executives and personnel—are often proving a competitive differentiator.