Why Marketing and HR Need To Be Best Friends

September 21, 2015by Gregg ApirianLeadership and StrategyAudience & Insights

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I recently read this article in AdAge, “CMOs, Meet Your New Best Friend: The CHRO.” This really caught my attention because it’s relevant to how we work at Vignette. This thinking has guided the evolution of an entirely new approach to helping our clients understand how to meaningfully connect with their employees.

Most of us understand what a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is responsible for but the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) might be a new term and concept for others. Most big companies have a chief HR person, who may or may not be part of the C-suite. The C in the CHRO now represents HR sitting in the C-suite. When the CMO and CHRO are part of the C-suite, it means they are more likely to be aligned in supporting each other’s business objectives and outcomes. That is good news for the evolution of the employee experience.

To date, many business are organized in silos. The practices of Marketing and HR have been considered “separate” areas of a business, each operating in its respective silo. What this AdAge article is calling out is that business has changed so much for most companies that the focus and reliance on recruiting and retaining great employees has become just as important as acquiring customers and trying to maintain their loyalty.

Best case scenario, the CMO is managing the relationship with the customer and the CHRO is managing the relationship with the employee. They are both sharing data, insights, approaches, process, tools, budget and success stories. Some companies might be here already, and kudos to those of you have have reached this accomplishment – you’re ahead of the rest. It isn’t common practice for HR and Marketing to collaborate in this same way, so when they do there is little to no process defined to enable an efficient operation.

Where Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX) Connect

CMOs are extremely focused on architecting and managing what is commonly called the “customer journey” or “customer experience.” From the customer’s perspective, the relationship with the company should be seamless, simple, and cost effective, with exceptional customer service where the customer always wins.

It is a tough proposition to keep up with the ever changing expectations of customers. The key to being ahead of customer expectations is empowering employee engagement. Employees power the customer experience and there are a TON of dots to connect and balance to deliver a seamless and effective customer experience. This all starts with a seamless and engaging employee experience.

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How To Work Together: Aligning HR and Marketing

To enable a seamless customer experience, leadership must be aligned around a roadmap with clear objectives, desired outcomes and KPIs. Leaders must be committed to provide the necessary support and investment to drive this alignment. What is needed are people with the right mix of skills and experience, operating with thoughtful processes and tools. Ultimately, alignment between Marketing & HR/Internal Communications starts with a data-driven approach.

Aligning HR and Marketing approach requires:

  1. Defining business goals, objectives, KPIs and measures of success.
  2. Shared knowledge around the effectiveness of types of channels, tactics, vehicles & tools used to manage effectiveness.
  3. People, process and technology – a wide bench of shared resources, mix of skills and experience, and third party support (i.e. independent contractor or services. firms/agencies). Define and refine the way you work, working towards constant process improvements to enable the greatest efficiency possible.
  4. Realistic budgets to invest in data, people, vendors, projects or campaigns.
  5. Transformation from current state (ad hoc) into a data-driven (process oriented) culture.

It is highly likely that your marketing organization has a leg up on HR/Internal Communications when it comes to expertise. Marketing to customers has seen major advancement and innovation over the past 10 years, mostly due to explosion of digital and mobile technology and the behaviors deeply entrenched in the Millennial generation. If your marketing organization is using data and technology to understand the nuances of your customers, they likely have a process and toolset for generating insights that drive the decision making process around why or how to take action and what the expected outcome should be. They have likely tested new channels, tactics, content and tools to measure and manage the customer experience. They are well informed of what types of solutions work best and gained new learnings that better inform the their path to achieving KPIs.

Change Is Healthy

Change doesn’t come easy to anyone and most of us try to avoid it, but if HR and Communications specialist don’t find themselves advancing their knowledge and capabilities to manage the employee experience; then they will find it much harder to deliver what is expected by their employees, which will ultimately yield a negative impact on the customer experience. But this will take time and commitment to change.

You can’t just turn on the switch and expect someone to become a data scientist or even understand how to interpret data or be creative. On that same note, there does need to be someone or a team of people pushing HR & Communications towards advancement. This is a win-win scenario for everyone involved. The customer wins, employees win, and the company wins.

Taking Next Steps

How can a company make this transformation? Some organizations can do it themselves and others require help, whether an independent contractor or third-party consulting firm, agency or other type of vendor. My recommendations would be to follow the these foundational steps:

  1. Define your business objectives and KPIs – find someone to help you do this if you can’t do it yourself.
  2. Identify gaps in resources from people, expertise, tools, process and budget.
  3. Define your business case to solve for the gaps.
  4. Meet with your marketing partners to explore areas for sharing and collaboration. The outcome will likely deliver great insight into the possibilities of shared budgets, strategies, tactics, channels, resources, process and tools.
  5. Together pitch your plan to leadership and experiment, learn, report and iterate.

Above all, remember solving business issues doesn’t happen in silos, it happens through cross-functional teamwork. Maybe Marketing & HR are meant to work together in some organizations and not in other organizations. But learning from one another and using past success stories to create new ones is what we are talking about here. Advance yourselves and you will advance your business.

Gregg Apirian

As the Managing Director of Vignette, Gregg is responsible for agency-wide vision and strategy, operations and finance, business development and engagement management. With nearly 20 years in entrepreneurial and executive-level roles, Gregg has been an instrumental leader at many distinguished agencies. Prior to Vignette Gregg was EVP, Digital Marketing at Trailer Park, EVP at Schematic (now POSSIBLE), and began his agency career as co-founder and CEO of BLITZ. Over the years Gregg’s leadership and combined experience drove growth, profitability and delivery of innovative and effective solutions for brands like GE, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Target, Verizon, OWN, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, Johnson & Johnson, HSN, Ann Taylor & LOFT, Nike, and Reebok.