As anyone within the world of human resources can tell you, HR specialists wear many hats. Today’s HR departments are staffed with cross-functional employees that manage everything from complex benefits administration to workplace safety, employee morale, and much more. But there’s one area where the average HR department comes up short: marketing skills.

The reason for this is the fact that marketing skills aren’t traditionally associated with HR work. But in the age of digital HR, the lines between marketing and HR are starting to blur. Today, a business’s reputation stems not just from how well it manages customer interactions, but also from its internal culture and reputation among employees – and that means HR now has to add managing those perceptions to its ever-expanding list of roles.

To make the modern convergence of marketing and HR clear and to make the business case for bringing HR professionals with marketing skills into the fold, here are three major ways HR can achieve its strategic goals by exploiting digital marketing tactics.

1. Bringing a Customer Acquisition Approach to Talent Acquisition

Right now, the current labour market conditions are unpredictable at best. The coronavirus pandemic has turned one of the tightest labour markets in history into one featuring near-record unemployment in mere months. But that doesn’t mean that HR departments can afford to let their talent acquisition processes grow weak due to the sudden availability of so much talent. And to make sure they’re always attracting the best of the best; HR needs to take a page from the tactics that marketers use to attract high-value customers.

Those tactics include content marketing to create opportunities for engagement with potential job candidates, designing candidate personas to define exactly who that content is designed to attract, and creating a recruiting funnel that narrows the field to only those candidates that fit the company’s precise needs. All of these tactics require a marketer’s skill set and aren’t always easy to come by in the average HR organisation.

2. Developing and Maintaining a Consistent Brand Voice

Another way that HR can benefit from having marketing skills in their toolkit is in developing a brand voice that can represent the business in the desired way across multiple channels. For HR, this means having the expertise to unify messaging in a consistent voice through job postings, social media efforts, company blogs, and more. It also means having an understanding of how to shape and nurture the company’s talent brand, as well. Getting it all right has a direct effect on employee retention as well as recruiting, with surveys showing 94% of job seekers are more likely to apply for roles in companies that actively manage their employer brand online.

And because HR doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it’s more important than ever that HR organisations find ways to see that they’re speaking in a tone that doesn’t conflict with the business’s broader brand voice, and that the talent brand remains in sync with that. Making that happen ensures that the tone and message that reaches existing and prospective employees is always uniform and that the messaging coming from employees reinforces it. And, all of this is best done in conjunction with the business’s marketing department, so having someone with a marketing background operating within HR can help facilitate the needed give and take.

3. Bringing UX Expertise to Onboarding

For some time now, HR organisations have been aware of how critically important it is to develop and maintain an engaging and functional onboarding process. It has been shown to have a major impact on both employee retention and new hire productivity. And getting it right is especially challenging right now, as HR organisations now have to contend with conducting onboarding in an entirely remote setting.

And onboarding is yet another area that can benefit from the skills of a marketer. That’s because modern marketing has come to recognize the key role that the user experience (UX) plays in the success or failure of campaigns, and that knowledge applies just as well to onboarding. By bringing UX expertise to the onboarding process, HR organisations can increase employee engagement with that process and create better outcomes.

Making the Case for Marketing in HR

It’s important to remember that the three ways HR can benefit from bringing in some marketing know-how mentioned here are by no means a complete list. There are countless ways both large and small where marketing skills can increase the output and performance of HR functions. And they needn’t bring someone with masters-level marketing skills into the fold to see immediate benefits (although that certainly would help). Many of the needed marketing skills can be acquired by having existing HR staff take some additional training to up-skill in the needed areas.

However it’s done, though, forward-thinking HR organisations that take proactive steps to make marketing skills a part of their in-house expertise can gain a substantial edge over those that don’t. And there’s a good chance that doing so will come to be an accepted best practise industry-wide in the near future. So, the only question that remains is: which HR organisations will choose to take the lead and reap the earliest rewards?

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