Marketing your organization – Good Morning HR
The world of marketing today bombards me more than ever with terms such as customer service, brand equity, customer delight, differentiated and superior value to customers and consumers. In an increasingly competitive market, they say, these are mantras for a company to succeed and the era that places a premium on brand building has truly arrived.
Marketers are pressed with brand building in an environment of ruthless competition, more aware, experimentative and discerning consumers; consumers who have a much wider choice. Replace the word ‘consumer’ with ’employee’ and bingo: the same transformation is taking place. Not only are the markets of traditional industry sectors fragmenting; they are increasingly challenged for resources by the sunrise business segments, which by virtue of being new and mystique hold a kind of ‘fatal’ attraction. Added to this is a reality that ’employees’ themselves are metamorphosing at a furious pace ….
It is a period where the employee is fast moving from being the traditional ‘loyalist, to what I call the ‘opportunist’, The psyche of the employee of the millennium manifests itself in a far more complex manner. They are willing to take risks in their careers, want to live it up, and for them the long term is not congruent with words such as retirement and pension. This makes them far more unpredictable, rash and ‘particular’ about the environment that they exist in. In the wake of this reality, organizations will need to market themselves far more aggressively to remain attractive employers and compete for the best.
Is it time therefore that HR transitioned from being a support, staffing, resourcing, central function as it has interchangeably been termed and respond to this call ? To don the brand-building cap, roll up its sleeves and venture out into its market ? The recent past has seen the beginning of the role of some structured marketing in HR, particularly as companies compete to woo talent. This is particularly apparent at the time of campus recruitment, with a war being waged between companies for ‘hot’ talent. However it is only this facet of the function that has received such attention, the seduction is concentrated on getting the cat into the bag.
If business success hinges strongly on the ability to delight consumers, which is that consumers choose to experience my brand over and over again, be it a cake of soap, a washing machine or a hotel, then… Then to drive outstanding performance the organization as a brand must create ’employee delight’; this is the mandate that HR needs to champion.
I do not allege that this is not happening at all. This merely suggests a different look at Human Resource Management, through the lens of the principles of marketing. We as HR professionals will need to have a thorough appreciation and ability to apply these principles. Adhoc surveys on organizational culture and employee satisfaction will give way to an integrated approach where HR sees the organization as a brand for internal consumers, and familiarity with Kapferer and Aaker will be akin to Maslow and Luthens for the HR manager. And as brands evolve to meet the changing needs of consumers, through an in-depth understanding of them; HR will use market research to create, build and evolve ‘ Brand – Organization’. This understanding will enable the brand mix to change simultaneously on various dimensions; whether they relate to work environment, benefits, culture, management style and the like.
Let me try and illustrate this with an example. At a time, it was believed, probably still is, that attrition is motivated primarily by uncompetitive compensation or lack of career progression (‘being sidelined’). We need to understand that the generation that has entered the employment market in more recent times is different. I don’t say this, there are enough proponents of the concept of ‘youth marketing’ and it is acknowledged that heritage brands have to reinvent themselves to meet the needs of these consumers. Therefore, if may be foolhardy for organizations to only feverishly benchmark compensation in times of high attrition. The symptoms may lie elsewhere: Consider this; organizational values and culture are like the lifeblood of any organization. In the current context rapid changes in business ownership and /or leadership, shorter and fluctuating organization cycles of prosperity and adversity, are causing the face of Brand – Organization to fluctuate in the minds of the employees. Or alternatively in sharp contrast the custodians simply justify status quo by saying, ‘Well in our times it used to be like this’. In both cases the net result is grave dissonance for employees. Sure, there needs to be change, but brands must evolve. This will only happen if the custodian of this brand is the HR professional and in him vests the right to nurture it.
This is our Wakeup Call HR: let’s get under the skin of our brand and wake up to shape it for the times to come.