HR Executives Need to Think Like the CMO
By Mike Vilimek on Dec 16, 2013
By Bertrand Dussert - Originally posted on Forbes
It’s no secret that chief human resources officers (CHROs) are playing more-strategic roles within enterprises. I see it in my interactions with Oracle customers: executives in the C-suite are working to grow the business in the midst of economic volatility, increasing pressure to attract and retain high-quality talent. But the competition for all-star performers is intense, and traditional job sites and employee referral programs are quickly becoming as irrelevant as your local video rental stores.
So how can CHROs better serve the business needs of their organizations and win the battle for top talent? For a growing number of CHROs, the answer is simple: think like a chief marketing officer (CMO).
I’ve seen it first hand: CMOs have a lot to teach CHROs in today’s digitally empowered, socially networked world. At a fundamental level, CMOs can demonstrate the value of gaining a deeper understanding of a target audience. CHROs must know their employees as well as marketers know their customers. Without in-depth knowledge, HR people can’t fully engage and communicate with—let alone hire—the talent required to help their organizations grow.
What does it take for forward-thinking HR organization to adopt modern digital marketing techniques? Four elements are key:
- The ability to segment talent into clearly defined groups according to skills, experience, and preferences
- A framework for successfully syndicating and distributing content tailored to the needs and interests of individual groups of professionals
- Tools for monitoring the effectiveness of communications for employees and prospects
- Internal processes for making continuous, on-the-fly improvements to the HR service delivery approach
Fortunately, CHROs have help. In addition to emerging digital marketing practices they can apply to their operations, innovative technologies are making it easier to gain deeper insights about top talent and distribute targeted content to these individuals. And they have access to a C-suite peer who can help them put this all to work in HR, to the benefit of the entire company.
Content Is King
Consider the process of recruiting new talent: referrals from existing employees carry great weight in efforts to identify potential new hires. But many people tune out shotgun announcements, even when there’s a monetary incentive to promote new jobs, because only a small subset of employees may have connections to relevant candidates in their personal and professional circles.
If the HR staff properly profiles existing high-performing employees—not only based on performance but also their influence in social networks and professional communities—it will become easier to connect with outside individuals with similar skills. Based on these professional profiles, the recruiting staff can market opportunities via targeted messages designed to intrigue and resonate with candidates, even those not actively seeking new opportunities. Such messages can be sent to a select group of employees to forward directly via e-mail or social media posts, thus avoiding the shortcomings of traditional employer referral programs that blast requests to everyone in the enterprise.
This approach—one that takes a page from the modern digital marketing playbook—sends key individuals within the organization no more than one or two targeted requests a month. The bottom line: CHROs match each career opportunity with the right audience.
A Three-Step Action Plan
CHROs can successfully incorporate innovative marketing practices into their HR organizations by following these three steps:
1. Develop a strong business case.
First and foremost, the effort shouldn’t look like an attempt to be trendy and glom onto shiny new digital products. In today’s bottom-line world, every new initiative must be supported by a strong business case, so be sure to link HR marketing efforts to C-level desires to hire all-stars. Show how digital marketing techniques will uncover high performers who can launch a new division in a growing market, for example, in contrast to stalwart staffers who will support the operation once it’s up and running.
2. Forge closer collaboration with the marketing department.
It’s not enough for CHROs to understand the value of digital marketing techniques; they also need marketing expertise to help implement their strategy. This will require a strong commitment from the C-suite to ensure that experienced and creative marketing pros cycle in for rotations in the HR department, rather than giving junior marketers a chance for on-the-job training. This is another reason it’s essential to build a solid business case showing positive outcomes from a C-level perspective.
3. Take advantage of the latest technologies.
Several innovative solutions are now available to infuse marketing strategies into the HR department. For example, the Oracle Cloud social sourcing solution provides a syndication and distribution engine for promoting new job opportunities to internal and external candidates. It enables managers to send tailored e-mails to specific individuals, based on their role in the organization; with one click, they can either apply for the opening or refer it to peers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. Then, if any of these contacts apply for that role, the solution will automatically track the response back to the referring employee.
To understand which messages are resonating and generating discussions across these communities, HR organizations are adding Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, a solution for free-form queries across all information sources, including both structured and unstructured information. This solution enables CHROs to ask incisive questions about the effectiveness of employer referral and marketing campaigns and to uncover ways to make adjustments on the fly.
Completing the tools trio is sophisticated analytics, which is important for segmenting and understanding employees and prospects. Analytics tools such as Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition ensure that you’re creating the right messaging for the right people.
With the right digital marketing practices, expertise, and innovative solutions, CHROs can create a continuous feedback loop for finding, recruiting, and hiring top talent. Once new hires are onboard, HR managers can track whether the quality of new hires rises, hiring costs drop, and the time required to acquire talent shrinks. Those are performance metrics right out the CMO’s playbook—metrics that the modern CHRO will certainly learn to love.
Bertrand Dussert serves as HR transformation and technology advisor to Oracle's executive clients, primarly at large global companies with complex HR service delivery needs. When not working directly with clients, Bertrand serves as HR thought leadership speaker and Oracle representative for targeted events, and partners with product strategy to help inform product design.
In his most recent role prior to joining Oracle, Bertrand served in a dual capacity as the global leader for both HR Shared Services and Recruitment Operations at American Express. Bertrand was responsible for a number of key work streams in the American Express Global Recruitment Transformation, and most recently served as a full member of the Transform HR Project Executive Council.
Prior to American Express, Bertrand was Executive Director in UBS Investment Bank’s HR function, led a 125 person strong Global Field Operations team in the HR software industry, and served as a partner in an HR consulting firm that is now part of Korn/Ferry International.