HR Leads Business

Mar 16, 2017 | Kerry Morgan, CMO of HRCI

It's Time for HR to Learn from Marketing's Journey

The human resource management function is changing. The pendulum has swung from HR’s focus on administration to an emphasis on HR practices that are aligned with C-level business goals and values. This is not unlike challenges recently faced in marketing, and there is much HR can learn from marketing’s recent journey to the proverbial "seat at the table."

The Intersection of Marketing and HR

Thirty years ago, marketing was not yet an established major at many colleges and universities. Marketing was a concentration in the business school and has grown into a huge industry with many marketing specialists. We see the same happening to the HR profession. In fact, some would argue that the HR profession is now an industry as it too has developed into many specialized areas of HR-related services and products.

HR and Marketing share similar perceptions and generalized labels, as well as tasks. Marketing is the logo cop and HR the policy police. Both functions are equally celebrated and lamented as functions that have fun, make it look good and are mostly tactical. And, both HR and marketing professionals are most successful when they understand the demographics and psychographics of their audiences. This is the only way we can ensure the best talent management policies (for HR) and the best campaigns (for marketing). Yet, unlike marketing, HR continues to suffer more from the perception that it remains a cost center versus a critical strategic partner to the CEO.

Like marketing, HR must understand business goals, align HR efforts to maximize goals and find measurable ways to illustrate return on investment. I urge HR professionals to team up with marketers to better understand how they can show how HR efforts are moving the organization forward more effectively.

At HR West, I asked the audience: "Can you name something you see your marketing department doing that you believe HR could take a lesson from?" What HR notices about marketing, said one attendee, is that marketing is the one department you see going to every other department in the company. Marketing, he said, pushes the envelope, even when it's not popular to do so, to gather information from all groups to make sound recommendations.

“HR could stand to be more like that,” the attendee said, to much head nodding.

Aligning With the Business Journey

Business goals, marketing goals, HR goals and company success must all be aligned. HR, like marketing, must understand what drives customers as well as employees, and how the different perspectives of other departments come into play.

Once these things are understood, it's about clearly communicating your analysis to upper management and intentionally using data to firmly support a position. As both HR and marketing increase the level of automation needed to keep pace with a younger and more digital workforce, along with the driving need for more data-driven analysis, it’s easy to lose the forest in the trees.

HR and marketing are departments that survive on their ability to understand the audience they serve. The opportunities to work together to drive the company workforce to meet the needs of the external customer are limitless.

HR ― your marketing counterparts need you at the table. So, step out boldly and take your seat.  Marketers are eager to help you succeed.

Kerry Morgan, CMO of HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®), recently addressed a crowd of HR professionals at HR West 2017. The event, led by the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA) was held March 6-8 at the Oakland Convention Center. The following are highlights of Morgan’s remarks from the presentation.