Why HR Needs to Think More Like Marketing

Why does Amazon seem to know more about your employees than you do? Okay, that’s hyperbole. They likely don’t know more, but they certainly use the data better than you are likely to at your organization.

Most advanced marketers of today are using data to drive highly targeted and relevant communications that match the needs of each unique consumer. A 2012 Forbes article documented how Target learned they could predict a pregnancy even before other family members could, through an in-depth analysis of buying patterns. In fact, the advancements marketers have made over the past 30 years have been nothing less than stunning - from billboards on the highway and mass-marketing TV ads, to targeted, behavioral-driven digital marketing, marketers are getting better at tailoring messages to the people who are most likely to be receptive to them using segmentation and analytics.

In the field of human resources and talent management, we certainly have access to lots of data, and people analytics is becoming a discipline on which many of us are focused. However, we’ve still got a long way to go, and many organizations rely on shouting over the cube wall, or convening at the watercooler to find talent or uncover opportunities in their companies. In fact, our survey of 150 organizations showed that a shocking 94% rely on word-of-mouth when it comes to finding skills inside their organization, while just 23% had internal resume databases. Many organizations are still relying on outdated intranets, chaotic chat software, and mass email to drive engagement, participation, and productivity. Unsurprisingly, these general, non-targeted approaches to connecting with employees often fall short of the organization’s original goals.

For marketers, dissecting behavior to predict motivation is crucial to delivering campaigns that perform. Over the years, better segmentation and access to data has made it easier for marketers to get people to take action, whether that means buying new shoes or donating to a non-profit. HR leaders can employ the same strategies to improve compliance, drive participation, and deepen connections between co-workers.

Everyone in your organization is unique, but they do fall into some recognizable patterns of characteristics and motivations. Imagine you want to roll out a new piece of talent management software. To design the most successful roll-out for any internal technology, you need to develop personas for your internal audiences. For example, your motivations in HR might be to ease your administrative burden, while your executive team might be more focused on analytics. Employees will focus on ease of use and the need to be empowered with self-service. Whatever the use case, your internal technology will have to meet the demands of each individual, and deliver ongoing value throughout the employee lifecycle to be considered a success.

The bottom line is to be successful with your internal HR initiatives, you need to start using the data you have, building centralized tools to access that data, and designing for segments and personas. Once you have the data connected from their disparate siloed sources (think HRIS systems, payroll, CRM systems, even employee-volunteered social systems plus data and interests) then you’re able to deliver much more effective communications, engage your employees, surface talents, and drive much more relevant and successful initiatives.


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