Applying Marketing Lessons to HR

Bill Marriott, Sr., is famous for saying (among other memorable quotes) “Take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your guests, and your business will take care of itself.” However, in many companies, HR budgets (excluding compensation and benefits) are but a fraction of marketing budgets. As Bill Marriott told us, the linkage between happy employees, happy customers, and profitability is well researched and demonstrated. Increasing employee engagement must be a key leadership directive in companies who want greater profits.

Over the years, you can trace the evolution of marketing tools and techniques that cross the aisle to be applied to Human Resources:

  • Employee Satisfaction. As marketers, we learned that understanding what satisfied – and dissatisfied – our customers were important in creating competitive advantage. Most companies instituted regular customer satisfaction tracking surveys that identified key metrics for leadership. We even incented management on behaviors linked to customer satisfaction. It did not take long for HR management to mirror their marketing brethren with regular employee satisfaction tracking surveys.
  • Employee Engagement. Originally, we were content that our customers were satisfied. Then we discovered that satisfied customers regularly defect to competitors. And we learned that we needed to go beyond satisfaction to loyalty – customers that were willing to stick with us, and maybe even recommend us to their friends. The same with employees. Satisfied employees leave their employers all the time. We need engaged employees who buy into our mission, and who go the extra mile to make customers happy.
  • Employee Experience. The latest trend in customer marketing is the customer experience, essentially holistically managing how the customer interacts with the business. By understand what is most important to the customer and maximizing their experience, companies can create differentiated brand promises for their customers. Because we are – in many industries – competing fiercely for talent, we are now looking at the employee experience in much the same way.

According to Matthew Wride, the Employee Experience (EX) is the sum of the various perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. He explains, “When we talk about perceptions we are talking about the totality of an employee’s experiences. Thus, EX is much more than Employee Value Proposition, Employee Life Cycle, or casual Fridays. We are also talking about days where there are difficult performance reviews, or how well did a manager support an employee the day she learned her son had cancer? Or consider whether the company did anything to address its employees’ concerns following its last employee engagement survey.”

An article in the Deloitte University Press identified five reasons companies are struggling to implement the Employee Experience:

  1. Many companies have not yet made the comprehensive management of the employee experience a priority for HR leaders, often thinking they can solve the problem with an annual engagement survey.
  2. Some companies have created the C-suite role of employee experience officer. While this is a great first step, it is insufficient. Companies must assign responsibility to a senior executive or team to design and deliver the employee experience.
  3. HR departments may be too siloed to obtain the resources to address an integrated set of priorities. Additionally, an integrated, holistic approach to the Employee Experience covers a wide range of issues, from company culture and management practices to the workplace to benefits, creating an even bigger challenge.
  4. Updated tools to engage employees on an ongoing basis will help HR teams and line leaders understand more fully what the employees expect and value.
  5. Many companies have not yet pulled together the disciplines of performance management, goal setting, diversity, inclusion, wellness, workplace design, and leadership into an integrated framework.

Although creating and implementing the Employee Experience can be daunting, the payoff from increased productivity, improved morale, decreased absenteeism and improved retention are well worth the effort. And HR managers can always look at what their Marketing colleagues are learning in Customer Experience for inspiration and motivation!

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