What Can Marketing Teams Teach HR?

by Theresa Domato | Posted | Business Impact

What Can Marketing Teams Teach HR?

Tips from an Old Marketer's Road to Transformation

Our marketing team has a unique job here at Saba. Every day we engage learning and talent leaders, doing our best to keep them updated and educated on the latest trends and tools, new ways to achieve desired talent outcomes, and strategies for driving business performance through effective talent management.

Every time we have these conversations with HR leaders, I can't help but notice how similar the "organizational evolution" has been for both Marketing and HR teams. When I first started my career, marketing was mainly focused on managing the brand, running one-to-many communications, and providing support to the "revenue-generating" folks who were on the front lines. Fast forward to today, and marketing teams are made up of digital natives and data scientists, are considered partners in pipeline generation by their sales teams, and are driving revenue and growth for the business. And maybe most importantly, they can prove their impact.

As someone who has been around the block a few times, it seems to me that Marketing teams can do more to coach our HR counterparts as they go through what seems to be a pretty similar transformation. Because let's face it, as marketers, we've learned a lot over the years, including:

Customers hold the power

Marketing used to be a "one to many" activity. We had most of (if not all of) the control over our messages in the market. But the Internet and social media changed all of that, fast. And today, the customer is to Marketing as the employee is to HR. In the new world of talent management, the employee holds the power. They're not waiting for top-down information. They're not waiting for you to ask them for their feedback. If you don't give them information, they're going to find it somewhere else. If you don't give them opportunities to provide feedback, they'll go to Glassdoor and give it to you, whether you want it or not. Embracing this "democratization" can be scary, but it is also a necessary part of the transformation.

It's a noisy world

If anything is now clear to Marketing, it's that customers need the bottom line, fast. Our message needs to be communicated in 140 characters or less. Customer loyalty is determined by a single score based on one single question. Corporate brochures have converted to short burst videos. White papers have given way to infographics. We're all vying for attention in an incredibly noisy world. And let's face it, employees are essentially digital consumers first. The fact that they work for your organization is secondary. So make it micro. Make it fast. Make it accessible. Make it engaging. If you don't, it just doesn't work.

Business outcomes are what matters

The single biggest change to Marketing over recent years is its movement from a creative team to a revenue-generating team. Connecting what we do to sales results and business outcomes has been arguably our most important point of progress. By transforming our entire charter, and by leveraging awesome technology, marketing today can prove it drives revenue and business value. HR is poised to demonstrate that it too is a strategic business partner connected to the bottom line. It will, however, require a change in the perspectives and mission of the department, implementation of smart technology, and of course, some guts to put it all on the line and advocate for the impact your team can make on the business.

You need to prove it

Saying you can drive business results, then proving it, are the two sides of that "seat at the table" coin. And that's why analytics has been one of the hardest but the most important elements of the marketing transformation. Twenty years ago, there was no such thing as a marketing "technologist" and no such thing as marketing technology. Today, that has all changed. We can see how every activity we run, and every dollar we spend, impacts (or doesn't) sales productivity and business performance. HR is moving in the same direction, and will soon be able to prove the value of their investment - reduced time to competency for new hires, a growing pool of high potentials, higher performing employees, even improvements to organizational engagement and culture. And they'll do it all the same way Marketing did - by adding the right skills to their team, by selecting the right technologies, and by proving it all with robust analytics and reporting.

The transformation of marketing was difficult and a lot of times painful. We had to get out of our comfort zone, develop new skills, embrace new levels of business accountability, and adapt to an entirely new landscape where we no longer had control. But at least for marketing, this transformation resulted in more ideas, better ideas, an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, it has allowed us to connect to and demonstrate our value to the business in ways we could never have imagined.

Now sound off with your ideas! If you're an HR leader, how can Marketing help you transform? Or, what could Marketing learn from HR? If you're in Marketing, what ideas or advice do you have for your HR sisters and brothers?

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