HR and Marketing in an organization have traditionally been addressing different stakeholders. If HR is internally focused in attracting, recruiting and retaining talent, Marketing has always been focused on attracting, onboarding and retaining customers. Though it looks eerily similar (except for the stakeholder), its Marketing that has been articulating the need for branding and therefore attracting investments to build and nurture the “customer” brand. With the emergence of ‘employer’ branding, HR needs to don a ‘marketing’ hat if they need to attract the ‘right’ talent and play a strategic role in talent planning for the organization.
There are a few basic marketing principles that HR can emulate and apply in building its employer brand. Though there are enough marketing strategies and tools to draw inspiration from, the attempt here is to restrict only to the following
The generic definition of segmentation is to divide the broad target market into definable subsets who have common needs and thereby devise marketing strategies to target them ( or not target them if they do not have revenue potential ). Though the traditional objective of segmentation in Marketing is to position their different products at different market segments, this attempt is purely aimed at nurturing these segments towards creating the right ‘employer’ brand.
Here is an attempt at segmentation for HR
- Prospects - The new hires you would like to recruit . Who are the prospective candidates you would like to hire ? Is there a way to classify their attributes / experience across different sub-segments ? Your core employer branding and recruitment strategy is devised for this segment
- Employees - Your current employees and the lifeline of your organization. Your engagement strategy is devised for this segment.
- Alumni - Your erstwhile employees who can enhance your employer brand with a positive word of mouth apart from being a good platform for lateral hires.
- Educational Institutions - Ideal for fresh hires and internships, this segment is critical to onboard new talent.
- Consultants - Your network of recruitment agents, talent hunters, trainers etc.
- Media - HR focused media houses
- Industry Associations - HR Industry Associations
The above segmentation is just to give a basic shape for HR segments. However, this segmentation would differ based on the Industry, employee size, talent needs etc. It would be best for the HR team to holistically plan their talent needs across the organization and attempt at segmenting their audience.
The Marketer’s definition of Targeting is simple - Now that you have defined the market segments, choose which market segment you are going after ( rather than trying to address every segment ) and formulate a marketing strategy for the same. Though its difficult to replicate this definition directly, it does provide a sense of focus on where to invest in building your employer brand.
Here are some questions that would help you to arrive at the segments you would like to target or even prioritize your messaging.
- Prospects - This would be a critical segment for most organizations given the challenges on retention and scarce talent. However, there may be times when not so much of recruiting drive takes place and during such phases, you may want to de-prioritize this segment and focus on something else.
- Employees - This would be the most important segment for any organizations and internal branding and messaging is critical to build a sense of belongingness and drive engagement.
- Alumni - A constant nurturing of this segment is critical to build and reinforce positive word of mouth. They would become the ambassadors and a powerful referral source for hire.
- Educational Institutions - There could be mutually beneficial engagements between the campus and corporate during the year to ensure we build a favourable employer brand and be the first choice during placements.
- Consultants - Any organization would need to identify the right consultants be it head hunters, sales trainers who would be able to meet the short term needs in alignment with long term objectives of the organization. This alignment requires investment in relationship nurturing. They should be the extension of the organization to hire potential candidates.
- Media - A strong employer brand could also be an outcome of a powerful HR personality in the organization. A HR spokesperson who can share and interact with media would be an added advantage.
- Industry Associations - Sharing best practices and learning from peers would help an organization to formulate the right employer branding strategy and the key messaging. The Industry Association need not restrict to HR and can also be the ones relevant to the industry.
The HR function can decide on which segments to focus its energies on depending upon business priorities.
A Marketer’s definition for positioning is the place a product or service occupies in consumer’s mind relative to competing products or services. This is the key differentiator on why a person would chose a brand A over brand B and would depend upon how he perceives the brand. The HR interpretation is similar on why a person would like to pursue their career with Company A over Company B despite similarities in the role, compensation & benefits, industry, location etc.
The positioning from a HR perspective would be how the company is perceived as an employer in the mind of its target segment - What is the competitive advantage that would make an organization an employer of choice. The answer to this is not so simple as its a mix of multiple attributes be it the culture, leadership or industry forces. The positioning need to be one statement that defines the employer brand and would ideally be the blank that any organization would need to fill in - “My organization would be an employer of choice because ___________________________________”
This positioning statement would enable the organization to build and drive key messages that are aligned to the market segments. For example, if an organization wants to position itself as an employer of choice based on ‘work-life balance’ the communication strategy across segments could be something like this.
- Prospects - Any advertisement or promotion on corporate branding to emphasize on work-life balance.
- Employees - Creating a culture and enabling employees to practice work life balance and share their stories to drive engagement.
- Alumni - Sharing employee stories with Alumni on work-life balance and its impact on enabling ‘quality time’ at home.
- Educational Institutions - Creating a niche / excitement amongst students on the importance of work-life balance and sharing some best practices from your organization
- Consultants - Enabling the consultant with the marketing messages around work life balance and attracting the right talent.
- Media - One of the objectives should be to rank no.1 in work life balance in ‘best companies to work for surveys.
- Industry Associations - Sharing best practices around work-life balance to pique interest and share positive word of mouth.
This key message would ensure that the employer brand is perceived uniformly and therefore able to attract the desired audience. The core objective of any branding initiative is intiate pull against a push and this is equally critical for HR today. A good employer branding strategy creates a healthy talent pipeline, drives engagement and creates perceptual equity at the marketplace.