When most of us think of marketing, we think of promoting a business: brand creation, strategic positioning, social media, advertising, pricing, etc. Almost every business makes a strong investment in these practices; and few (if not none) could exist without it. So couldn't these same principles be applied to a line of business?
I think so—and Human Resources, in particular, could benefit from some marketing. We find ourselves at a point in business history where HR is likely the most misunderstood department within any company. You need only look to the media in the past decade to see varying opinions of our utility, from a Forbes contributor claiming we're dead to The Wall Street Journal discussing companies that have found ways to work around us.
Over the past few years, HR has undergone considerable changes in response to the criticism. Consultants have stripped it down to its barest essentials, and a cottage industry has erupted over dismantling and outsourcing it. Walk through the halls of your organization and, at any given point, someone might be complaining about HR. "Antiquated," "in the way," "old-fashioned," "doesn't understand the business"—these are all complaints that you'll hear strolling through the halls of most businesses.
In response, HR leadership is turning itself inside out to prove value: changing business models, outsourcing administrative details and integrating data-driven practices. Yet, how many managers truly know about HR's amazing accomplishments during the year? Do employees understand how to utilize their HR departments? How many CEOs appreciate the sheer business power of strategic HR, and how essential it is to building the company of the future? I'm willing to bet the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "No."
That, my friends, is why HR needs a marketing strategy.
By investing in a branding strategy and execution plan, HR can position themselves as a business within a business. And that's truly what they are: HR manages a budget, services clients and has a direct impact on profitability based on its performance. It stands to reason that it should have a brand strategy, positioning and consistent messaging about its services, benefits and proof of value.
The list of marketing opportunities, or "distribution channels" for this rebrand are simply endless: newsletters, events, company communications, internal social media, employee testimonials, etc. In order to raise the profile of HR in many organizations, talent management professionals need a marketing strategy—and they need it yesterday.
Part of this rebranding can be nomenclature and focus. A 2015 Bloomberg article cites some great examples of HR rebranding, such as MailChimp, the email marketing service provider. The HR director assumed the title of "Chief Culture Officer," and the HR director reported directly to her. Now, in addition to the daily operations of HR, she and her team work on creating a culture of creativity and innovation. They utilize this new rebranding to focus on worker happiness and inclusivity along with employee engagement and regular activities to engage workers. According to the same Bloomberg article, the rebranding of HR isn't just fancy marketing language: With turnover from actively disengaged workers costing firms $300 billion in losses in the US each year, a focus on culture and engagement is exactly what's needed.
This is not to take away from the incredibly hard work HR professionals do every day. The work and proof of value exists, but there's a communication barrier the department needs to overcome. In order for HR to be an integral part of the future of work, industry leaders need to plan a strategy to raise the profile of our teams and of our practice. It is time for everyone to know the power of strategic HR, and it's up to us to get the message out.