What can HR learn from Marketing?

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By Adam Yearsley, Global Head of Talent Management, Red Bull

"Employee experience is about design and perception, and HR can learn from Marketing about both."

Regardless if your landscape is the holy grail of a single system or a Frankenstein landscape, you can focus on the employee experience to smooth the ride.  To do that you may need to think differently and put a marketing hat on. No longer are employees seen as the "human resources," but rather as collaborators. They are not bound by a lack of opportunity but choose to apply their skills within your company. Fundamentally, they are conscious consumers of the HR products deployed within your organization.

If employees aren't adopting the available HR processes or systems, they are exercising choice. Marketing is all about influencing choices, and so is talent management and modern HR, and this is in stark contrast to the old-school approach of forcing employees via rules and policy to use the HR systems.

This new approach, I found, has some key principles:

1.     Build Tools Worth Embracing 

HR provides products and practices to employees that allow them to be more productive at work. By taking a marketing approach, these can be generated using human-centred design, prototyped and then marketed around the employee needs that they fulfil. All too often, HR tends to over-focus on driving compliance from those who resist when they should design for early adopters. Trendsetting employees use HR products because they work and fulfil a real need. The stragglers then follow the trendsetters for fear of being left behind, and then naturally, an HR rollout looks more like targeted marketing campaign gaining its own momentum. This approach is far more realistic than the old HR mindset of "we will force all consumers to use our product on day one." True, employees aren't queuing overnight to be the first to get your latest product. However, thanks to positive word-of-mouth marketing around HR products, they should be asking to be part of your exclusive pilot. Not only do we need to compete for talent the same way we compete for customers, but we also need to serve talent.

2.     Value the attention of employees and candidates 

In a world of noise and distraction a product or message has to be worthy of someone's attention, if a company does not value the attention of employees, consumers or candidates then quickly those groups will turn away or become inattentive to the message. HR systems often are designed assuming you have undivided attention. You don't.  An example of low hanging fruit is how companies advertise their job vacancies, all supported by systems designed by people that didn't think of the employee experience. If your candidate system says it all about the consumer experience, look at the most important starting point, your job ads. You see many companies producing completely unremarkable and indistinguishable job ads. It's often impossible to tell which company the job ad might belong to, never mind which department within the company. All this homogeneity, despite the fact you're marketing a job to entirely different types of people, both between companies and even between roles within a company. Individualized job ads are a solution we implemented at Red Bull a few years ago to speak to the different needs of our diverse candidates for the different roles we have at www.redbull.com/jobs. Individualization was not offered by any job platform at that time, and few still offer it now.

3.     I will take an insightful candidate choosing a job over an AI match any day .. with some conditions. 

To give candidates insight, we needed to develop what's been recognized as one of the more innovative and valid freely available psychological assessments www.wingfinder.com. Simply, it looks at the candidate experience differently. By providing candidates insight they can make better career choices even before they apply for a job at Red Bull or with any company. After completing the engaging 35-minute assessment participants get a 19-page feedback report and individualized coaching feedback in return for their attention and time. Currently, there is much hype for both candidates and companies that Artificial intelligence, Big data and machine learning algorithms that will match candidates to job openings. Whilst progress is being made in this field it's clear that the most efficient and accurate job matching mechanism at the moment is an accurate job ad and a candidate that is self-aware. Self-awareness can go a long way, and the better people understand their own strengths and limitations, the smarter their career choices will be, don't forget the self-aware candidate is a self-aware employee. When the match is a good one, they will like their jobs more, perform better, and staying in that role longer. Career-related feedback like www.wingfinder.com is also an example of how Red Bull can "give people wings" by providing both job candidates and the public with valuable insight for their development.

4.     Employee experience means the design of your engagement process and systems are probably wrong 

Engagement Surveys and how organisations work with the results provides an example where maybe HR has missed the point and needs to move to greater transparency and focus on what employees want in return for sharing their opinions. In marketing, you understand the consumer segmentation in as much detail as you can so you can best match the product to the consumer need. With HR, we tend to take a one size fits all approach and assume people that work in the same teams are similar; therefore, we can give them an overall engagement result with an overall action.

Employee experience dictates Red Bull runs its engagement surveys' bottom-up' providing results to the employees first. In teams, employees can decide what is important, then share their results with their manager while providing context to the data — no one-size-fits-all, top-down corporate spin announcements telling employees what the average issues are and what the company will do about it. The purpose is to personalize the actions and conversations between a team and its manager, not to create a survey on a generalized concept that represents relationships between thousands of employees. Treat engagement for what it is and be transparent. To focus on employee experience, give employees the results without a spin or your own translation; let them decide what matters as they are both the instigators and consumers of the engagement actions.  

5.     Lipstick on a pig 

HR rigour and knowledge about the intersection between human needs and organizational goals has never been more valuable. The systems and sophistication of the tools we have has never been higher, but many systems are built on a foundation that puts the company at the centre of the experience and not the employee. To identify the lipstick on a pig that is old HR logic with a new front end you need to be clear on the design of your employee experience. Suddenly the HR tech landscape becomes a lot simpler to navigate as you can identify the old HR pig systems, focus on those that employee-centric and leverage techniques from marketing to drive their adoption.

About Adam Yearsley:

Adam Yearsley leads Red Bull’s Global Talent Management function and is an adjunct professor at Ashridge Hult University, he is responsible for innovating how Red Bull attracts, develops and retains people and supporting an environment where they can pursue their potential. Adam believes in taking an evidence-based approach to developing an organisational culture of autonomy, personal responsibility and entrepreneurialism where people find meaning and significance in their work. Throughout his career in I/O Psychology, HR and Talent Management he has been recognized for his work developing innovative tools, approaches and programs in books, conferences, awards, leadership textbooks and scientific publications and patents. Adams experience spans the space industry, financial services, tech and FMCG. He is both Australian and English and has lived and worked in Asia, Australia, Europe and spent a great deal of time working from the U.S.

Photo Credit : Sandra Schartel - www.die-photographie.at/

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