Why HR’s ally in the war for talent can be its CMO

With the tight labor market constricting a tad further last month—and burnout among HR professionals already running high—HR leaders may be wishing they could tap reinforcements to help them attract talent. And in a way, they can, experts say. However, this isn’t a case of hiring additional team members or outsourcing some of the HR functions, but rather taking guidance from another department HR may not typically work closely with: marketing.

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After all, creativity is at the heart of marketing professionals’ work, and HR may need to get creative in the coming months. January unemployment held steady at 3.7% for the third consecutive month, and job growth is surprisingly robust, nearly doubling economists’ expectations last month. This comes at a time when employers are typically scrambling to hire as start-of-year budgets are flush and the roadmap is clear.

This hot competition for talent may be making HR’s job more difficult, but it’s also highlighting the skills and mindsets that recruiters and HR professionals of the future will need—creating new opportunities for cross-functional collaboration, experts say.

For instance, by working more closely with the marketing department, HR can glean advice—and potentially assistance—on better leveraging digital tools like social media to recruit candidates where they are, says Rhiannon Staples, chief marketing officer at consumer insights platform GWI and former CMO at HR platform HiBob.

Marketing professionals can also help HR punch up its prose in job listings, she says, and bolster the organization’s presence on online employee review sites like Glassdoor. That’s particularly meaningful, given a recent Forbes report found that 86% of candidates will look up a prospective employer on a site like Glassdoor.

Rhiannon Staples
Rhiannon Staples, GWI

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HR professionals may be increasingly recognizing the value of working more closely with marketing. According to a Workleap report, 46% of talent acquisition professionals believe recruiting is becoming more like marketing, and 28% of survey respondents think employee turnover can be minimized by investing in employer brand, a core responsibility of corporate marketing.

What HR-marketing partnerships can look like for attracting talent

“HR and marketing departments have a lot more in common than you would think,” says Matt R. Vance, co-founder and CEO of Mobrium, a technology company that helps organizations build and protect their online reputation. “But I’ve observed there are too few HR departments collaborating with marketing departments.”

The similarities are clear: Marketing departments help their companies attract customers to grow the business, while HR departments attract talent to do the same, says Vance, who will speak at HRE’s Evaluate People, Ignite Change (EPIC) conference this spring on the power of employee reviews for culture and hiring success.

Matt R. Vance
Matt R. Vance, Mobrium

Collaboration on improving online employee reviews, Vance says, is a natural place for HR and marketing to partner, especially given how important such reviews have become to candidates. But Vance notes of the 2.5 million company profiles on Glassdoor, only 15% have profiles that employers actively manage, such as by sharing details on leadership, organization size and the employee value proposition.

“That means 85% of companies are just leaving their reputation, that perceived employer brand, to circumstance—and whatever is shared by former and current employees,” Vance says.

Marketing consultant Terra L. Fletcher has been giving presentations to HR audiences for more than five years about the value of using marketing techniques in HR. During the pandemic, however, she noticed a lull in consulting inquiries from HR, but interest has grown post-pandemic. Since last summer, for instance, she has gotten three to four calls per month from HR professionals looking for marketing help.

“A lot of HR people just don’t have the background in creating social media posts or doing design, or even knowing which outlets to share their posts with,” Fletcher says. “So, working with their marketing team to create all these things is going to really help the HR department to get the message out.”

Terra L. Fletcher
Terra L. Fletcher

It’s a topic that is especially important given the influx of younger talent into the workforce. Social media is key to recruiting Gen Z and millennials, according to a CareerArc report, which found 48% of this combined group have applied to jobs they discovered on social media platforms.

While an HR-marketing partnership can be a boon for recruiting, it can also benefit existing employees, Staples notes. Over the past six months, more than half of GWI’s workforce of approximately 500 people have visited its HR hub on the GWI intranet, an initiative of the company’s marketing department. With a total of 1,595 visits to the hub during that timeframe, it is the second most-visited page on GWI’s portal.

During the same period, 36% of the top 100 searches on GWI’s intranet were for topics under HR, which allowed employees to self-serve and find what they needed more quickly.

The success of the collaborative work on the GWI intranet, Staple says, highlights the impact of leveraging marketing professionals’ messaging expertise for HR purposes.

“We can help HR make sure that the message lands effectively with employees, whether it’s about open enrollment, return-to-work policies, making sure people understand what you’re asking and why you’re asking it and how it benefits them,” says Staples. “This is what we do every day as marketers to the outside world. And we can help HR as well.”

Dawn Kawamoto, Human Resource Executive
Dawn Kawamoto
Dawn Kawamoto is HR Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist who has covered technology business news for such publications as CNET and has covered the HR and careers industry for such organizations as Dice and Built In prior to joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected] and below on social media.