5 Things HR Can Learn from Marketing and Why

Human Resources and Marketing are very similar functions; in fact, they are as close as siblings. Whenever I express this line of thought, I encounter an expression of dismissal or disbelief. Careful analysis reveals that both are tasked with similar responsibilities, i.e., to attract and retain people. While Marketing is outward focused (customers), HR is inward focused (employees).

The way corporates operate is changing across the globe; technology is making a lot of processes obsolete. No other function is impacted as much as HR due to this change. This is because, unlike other functions, HR is staring not at the adoption of technology but at a rapidly evolving mind-set of the Gen Y workforce.

There is no doubt that HR has to change the way it operates or else it will be forced to. Gen Y has started viewing work and work/life in a new light. Unlike the baby boomers or Gen X, work is not the only motto of their life; it merely is a part of it. Also, with the Gen Y loyalty cannot be demanded, it has to be earned. Organisations should now design New Age work practices to attract and retain the Gen Y workforce.

Should HR wait for some consulting giant to come up with a framework to start working? No, all HR needs to do is pull a few pages out of the marketing folks’ book. Here is what HR change agents can learn from marketing teams of their own organisations.

Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP)

The marketing team has been doing this for ages. They have been profiling customers and targeting campaigns aimed at them. It is time HR starts working along similar lines. This can be done in two ways:

1. Do STP for the talent pool available during recruitment.

This will make sure that the job posting reaches the right audience; hence, you get better profiles. This will also ensure that the candidates who apply have greater alignment with your organisation’s culture. For instance, assume you are looking for creative people for a particular role. You may segment your potential applicants, not just on skills, but also on their other activities like hobbies and then target them for the subsequent rounds.

2. Do STP for your own employees.

This is very much applicable for the L&D team. Instead of rolling out generic programmes, profile your employees based on their interests, skills, aspirations, company requirements, and accordingly, plan for internal organisational / department level initiatives. This would make training more relevant and ensure higher return on investment.

There is no doubt that HR has to change the way it operates or else it will be forced to.

Consider this, wouldn’t working moms appreciate a workshop on work-life balance and time management that would help them add more value in limited time? Not only will it up-skill your employees, but also demonstrate that the organisation cares for the welfare of its employees.

Develop a USP

Gone are the days when people went around looking for a job. Today, if you want the right talent, you have to go behind the crème de la crème. But the average Gen Y person doesn’t work for salary. He/she knows that if he/she is skilled, livelihood will not be an issue. An attractive package to a Gen Y is not necessarily the deal breaker. HR today needs to rethink and develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), like marketing does for your customers. This USP would tell a potential employee why he should choose you instead of your competitor.

Developing a USP ensures that you attract only those people whose vision and objectives are aligned with those of the organisation’s. This USP could be a culture of entrepreneurship, an environment that encourages creativity, fast growth rate, or it could be flexible work options. HR has to choose one that would aid the implementation of the organisation’s strategy and also appeal to the segment identified in the previous step.


Once you have identified your USP, you have to create a brand around it. As marketing folks would tell you, nothing adds more value in the market like the brand. A good brand can turn the tables around and make the right talent seek you instead of you running behind them. Branding will also infuse a sense of pride in your employees and knit everyone together in a strong cultural bind.


We have to bear in mind that Employer Branding is not just for people who are yet to enter the organisation; it is also for people who are already inside. It is common knowledge that it is costlier to acquire a customer than retaining one. The same applies to employees too. In a way, this point is more important because when you lose a customer you lose business, but when you lose an employee you lose vital latent knowledge.

HR today needs to rethink and develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), like marketing does for your customers.

HR has to keep updating itself in terms of offerings, benefits and creating a better work environment. It has to create relevant developmental opportunities that engage employees. To do this, we may have to focus on the next step.

Reaching Out

No one does this better that your marketing team. Weren’t they the first ones to leverage social media to understand the psyche of the customer? HR should replicate the same and develop multiple channels to reach out to their employees. There are two types of channels : formal and informal.

Usually HR does an employee satisfaction survey and collects information. Though this is an important source, there are other channels which can enhance the effectiveness of reaching out. The immediate managers are the most critical formal channel; HR has to engage with them regularly to know the team better.

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Informal channels like internal social media and open house will give HR a treasure trove of information which will help to dive deeper into the minds of the employee. Inputs from this step can help us design retention strategy, welfare initiatives, L&D programmes etc.

Now, wouldn’t you agree that your HR folks should undergo a basic course in marketing?


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