While I had every intention of starting with a deep dive into prediction number 1, I was at an event recently which really validated the second point.  So, forgive me for starting with “All change at the top” instead.

The event “Why HR and Marketing need each other” was run by Campaign, Indeed and People Management at the Soho Hotel (side note: I can highly recommend the breakfast canapes of mini Eggs Benedict). Opening keynotes gave each side a chance to have their say, while a panel discussion encouraged a more in-depth conversation. The session was book-ended with networking – “are you more HR or Marketing?” making for a warmer introduction compared to the generic “where are you from?”. The latter often leading to people checking their name badge hasn’t fallen off.

Here are my key takeaways from the opening talks, and thoughts on bringing the two together. 

What can HR learn from Marketing? (with insights from David D’Souza of CIPD’s opening)

David’s talk began with fried chicken. Specifically, thinking about how messy and greasy it is. It's surprising really how few people talk about how disgusting it is when you get it all over your hands. Enter KFC's marketing team's genius “Finger licking good” shifting the dial from gross to delicious. 

Then you’ve got the Japanese pedometer launched in 1965 after the Tokyo Olympics. Marketed as “manpo-kei” which translates to “10,000 steps meter”, the device triggered a global walking craze. Millions of people now aim to walk 10,000 steps a day as, but the majority thought this came from scientists or physicians rather than a marketing department.

And, it was Coca Cola, not tradition, that told us Father Christmas wore red.

In each, marketing has been used to change a perception or alter behaviour. In that sense, marketing is really is leading the way when it comes to understanding people and driving change. HR needs to catch up.

One of the ways Marketing does this is by taking insight and turning into a story that compels. While this culture of data and being results-driven definitely happens in HR (especially in the Employer Brand and CX space), it is not something that is consistent across the industry. The story-telling even less so.

David used the example of comparing the pizazz of a Marketing pitch to enduring a rather apologetic HR one. The noticeable difference here being the language used.  On the topic of the systematic impact of Diversity, for example, you might hear HR saying that it’s “disappointing”. But, what would Marketing say? Probably something along the lines of “completely unacceptable”, maybe even “disgraceful”. HR’s ability to be bold damped by not wanting to offend or create distance.

It's problematic as the art of influence is something that HR needs to have at its core.

David’s advice is for HR is to be much bolder in the way it communicates. If we think about Employer Brand projects, Employee Engagement surveys etc., organisations have an incredible amount of data, but we are not making the most of it. 

David says, “If you want to forge effective relationships within a business, you should solve problems together”. HR should go up to Marketing, not to ask to learn from them, but to share a list of problems and ask how they would approach them.

What can Marketing learn from HR? (with insights taken from Helen Shaw’s talk)

In her opening, Helen made the point that “preconceptions around what HR do isn’t helpful for this conversation”. And it’s true, today that HR landscape is changing really quickly to include Culture, Well Being, Mental Health etc. This has a big impact on the remit of the HR department and increases its impact on the business and employees too.

When talking about ‘brand experience’ we need to move away from just thinking about experiential marketing and start thinking about a brand's collective impression across customer, product, colleagues, social media. “If you’re a brand that’s obsessed with customer service, and then candidates have a bad experience. That dissonance can be really damaging”, she says.

It is this need for consistency that argues the case that HR should be involved in creating values and activity consumer brand as well as the employee proposition. After all, HR are experts when it comes to creating the experience for those who deliver on the customer promise. They drive recruiting and retaining the best people to deliver, as well as encouraging the right culture through reward and performance.

Helen goes on to say "it’s no secret that the creative industry has a problem with diversity”. In fact, a recent Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report showed that BAME representation in the area has fallen 18% in the last year. In a crowded market place, creativity is more important than ever. 

"Creativity is something that AI and automation can’t do. You need that creative tension to generate ideas, and it’s really hard to have new ideas within a homogenous group." 

With rapidly changing consumer expectations, Helen references a need to be “fit for future” with CMOs needing to look at strategy through the lens of ‘People & Talent’, ‘Innovation’, and ‘Data’. When it comes to transformation, HR can help ensure that businesses don’t lose the needs of their people in the quest for customer happiness.

Helen’s advice? Successful marketing teams should add Employee Engagement and Candidate Experience to their metrics to complete the picture.

So, how do we bring Marketing and HR together? 

There are a couple of places where Marketing and HR come together really naturally. Both departments are tied to the concept of advocacy on social, word of mouth, or through employee referral for example. The other is around Brand. Whether it’s consumer or employer, both are constantly looking at their strategy to maintain relevance. It’s all about being attractive to your target audience, and the two often go hand in hand.

In fact, we are starting to see more cross-over between recruiter and product marking. Unsurprising when employees are consumers and consumers are potential employees.

Take Metro bank for example who, in January, launched their new campaign with a series of out-of-home ads touting the benefits of "people-people banking”.  The ads focus on the brand's more human side and depict Metro Bank employees who the company say, "demonstrate the highest standards of customer service".

Another example is HP where HR and Marketing collaborated on “Fathers and Daughters”. The films on YouTube is centre around the corporate brand, ensuring that HP appeals to different consumer segments. But, it also communicates how committed they are to be an inclusive place to work. The message of this campaign is simple: “HP is hiring and talent is their only criteria”.

About the campaign, Sharon Ellerker, VP and Regional Head of HR, HP said: “When it comes to bringing HR and Marketing together, having a joint problem to solve is so important”. 

It’s not a one-off though. HP’s HR and Marketing teams also collaborated on their supplier requirements, deciding to demand the same diversity as they expect for themselves. Initially driven by the CMO in relation to advertising agencies, the legal team then went on to do the same.

Ultimately collaboration has to be driven by leadership. In today’s climate, people want businesses to talk about things beyond profit. That means the CEO needs to outline the vision and how that permeates through the business, it's then over to Marketing and HR to deploy. Whether it's internal or external, ultimately it's all about people.

From a practical point of view, it's crucial to bring departments together in the beginning. Feeling like an afterthought can be a really strong blocker, so bring everyone to the table first, and then flex departments in and out at the right time.