During the past decade, the limits between HR and marketing in corporations have been difficult to define; both functions are crucial to a company’s fame and both can enhance, or decrease, profitability. But how have we reached this point?

It was around 2010 that the term “HR marketing” started being discussed in the corporate world, describing the activities undertaken by an organization in order to attract and retain the best talent. As mentioned in Vivek Jothi’s recruiting blog, HR marketing applies marketing concepts to HR and, thus, makes it easy for an organization to hire and retain resources.

“HR marketing” made it obvious that HR professionals would be left behind unless they participated in the company’s branding and marketing activities. So, important marketing decisions had to be made by human resources departments, like selecting the media in which job ads are placed, creating the appropriate jobs ads content and phrasing, promoting training activities, communicating employee benefits, showcasing the company’s work environment, etc.

However, long before the term “HR marketing” started being used, it was a prestigious corporate competition that had led HR professionals to start thinking as marketers: the Great Place to Work® competition, which officially was held for the first time in 1997. The Great Place to Work® unexpectedly began in 1981, after a New York editor asked two business journalists – Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz – whether they could write a book called “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America”. The business journalists agreed to find a way to evaluate companies, and embarked on a research journey that would lead to more than 25 years of investigating, evaluating, identifying, and creating great workplaces.

Today, the Great Place to Work® organizes its internationally renowned competition every year and assesses the business environments of approximately 5,500 organizations, representing over 10 million employees around the world. The lists with the best workplaces in every country are published in leading media around the world and the companies that make it to these lists use this achievement as a remarkable marketing and communications tool.

And it truly is so, since the dimensions across which the companies are evaluated, indicate that these organizations are actually a great place to work. In the first OWIWI blog, we had mentioned that design thinking along with the improvement of the employee experience, the human capital’s well-being and resilience, and flexibility, are included in the critical HR trends for 2016. So, an organization has to let the world know that it offers all these in order to attract the best talent, which will in turn enable the company to reach its goals and improve profitability.

In fact, it is the interaction between a company’s employees and its clients that creates certain perceptions on the corporate image. And for that reason, it is essential that the HR and marketing departments cooperate. As Lucie Mitchell , Contributing Editor in Sift Media, describes it in businesszone, HR and Marketing need to work together so that HR understands what differentiates the company’s brand in the marketplace; by doing so HR can then help support the brand.

In other words, supporting the brand is part of the Human Resources function. And how can this be done? By treating the employees and potential employees like consumers! While marketers are in charge of services or tangible products offered to customers, HR professionals are in charge of a very special product. Sev Keil, Chairman of TrueChoice Solutions, Inc. and Managing Director of PL Venture Management GmbH, and Tim Glowa, top executive of Aon Hewitt, describe this product in one of their articles at the AON website as “a complex product comprising culture, environment, and reward elements – each element having different cost/value drivers, communication channel needs, process and delivery components, varying preferences across segments, and even shelf life (flexible spending accounts for instance)”. So, in order to strategically develop the employee value proposition, HR professionals have to adopt tools and techniques used by their marketing colleagues.

Going one step further, we can say that marketing and HR have lots of things to learn from one another, always keeping in mind that they both have the same purpose: to enhance the corporate image and reputation. Estela Vazquez Perez Colombo, Employer Branding and Marketing Strategist of Scotiabank, and Leandra Harris, Managing Director of Blu Ivy Group, have identified the “lessons” that each function can learn from the other in their blog post titled Why Marketing and HR need to work together on the employer branding strategy: HR can learn from marketing how to segment talent and how to embrace technology in order to engage with employees and prospects. The latter is more than true as far as the usage of social media is concerned. On the other hand, marketing can learn from HR how to put people first and how to influence business behavior and strategy.

All four aforementioned “lessons” are of major significance and they all affect corporate culture and strategy. What happens is that segmenting talent, embracing technology for corporate purposes, putting people first and knowing how to influence business behavior and strategy, lead to both an improved corporate image and an improved way of doing business. Therefore, the HR and marketing functions are constantly supporting each other and are constantly affecting business performance.

This explains why the relationship between marketing & human resources is today stronger than ever. It all has to do with convincing people: marketing tries to convince them to choose a product or service, over the competitors’ products and services, while HR tries to convince them to join a company and to stay within it, ignoring the competitors’ business offers. As Colleen Reinhart of Demand Media states in her article The Relationship between Marketing & Human Resources, “whether you’re after their dollars or their working hours, you need to position and market your proposition so it looks attractive”. Colleen also remarks that marketing and human resources aren’t as separate as you might think. And it is very interesting that they coincide in functions that are essential to human resources management and overall corporate strategy, including employer branding, attracting the right talent, keeping people happy and embracing change.  

All the above have led to what FORBES calls the Consumerization of HR. As explained by Jeanne Meister, the consumerization of HR it has to do with creating a social, mobile, and consumer-style experience for employees inside the company. According to MIT research, social and collaborative tools in the workplace are no longer expected and requested only by Millennials. Since we are all digital citizens, we have adjusted to the new reality and the new objective of the HR departments is to create an employer brand that provides a unified experience for current employees, potential employees, and consumers. This suggests that HR and marketing have blurred and are expected to do so even more in the future.

What this implies, is in fact the emergence of a new type of HR executive: this new type of executive will of course be qualified with all the necessary HR skills and will be savvy concerning human resource techniques and metrics. But, at the same time, this executive will possess marketing and communication skills. HR departments will seek employees that can successfully position their intangible “product”, are able to create attractive digital content, understand the basic PR functions and consistently create a superior quality employee experience. This will in turn create different needs in human resource education and training, since HR students will have to take marketing and communications courses.

Consequently, the fact that HR is becoming a critical function of Marketing has brought changes in the everyday business reality and is about to do so in business education. What remains to be seen is how these new HR executives, which will possess strong marketing skills, will be called. Digital HR executives? HR marketing executives? Of course, time will tell; but I believe the new term for HR executives will soon be created!