Marketing — Not TA — Should Own Employer Brand

For years, HR and talent acquisition teams have been told to “think like marketers.” That’s mainly because marketing is known for adapting to changing market conditions and leveraging new technology to create differentiation and competitive advantage. Brand and customer experience (CX) are prime examples where marketing shines. 

But do we, or rather should we, flip this thinking back on HR and TA? Maybe we’ve had it all wrong. Maybe marketing should actually own all aspects of the organization’s brand. And at that point, if marketing is taking ownership of the employer brand, then what about the employee experience (EX)? Should marketing own that too? 

On the one hand, marketing has already demonstrated that they understand brand by offering unique experiences to customers. They are accustomed to driving profit and loss outcomes, whereas HR and TA are not. Plus, marketing holds the budget and skills for branding, and therefore all brand activities could fall under marketing to provide a cohesive, measurable experience for candidates, employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

On the other hand, HR and TA have the domain expertise with candidates and employees and organizational insights that aren’t readily transferable. But that doesn’t make a case for thinking like marketing so much as giving marketing more control of…marketing. 

Everything Is Related

Brand, CX, and EX are already related. Recent research from Salesforce and Forbes Insights surveying 300 executives across EX and CX roles found that “companies that prioritized EX to deliver a premium CX achieved 1.8 times faster revenue growth. Conversely, focusing solely on customer experience did not correlate to a higher employee experience or revenue growth.”

Taking this rationale at face value, as long as organizations continue to keep EX and CX separate, experiences and revenue are likely to remain about the same. But it seems doubtful that any company has “maintain homeostasis” on its business plan. Salesforce growth and innovation evangelist Tiffani Bova appears to echo this, explaining in the research, “The fastest way to get customers to love your brand is to get employees to love their jobs.” 

So, what would marketing owning the employee experience actually look like? It would start with a unified brand at the center, surrounded by distinct audiences — customers, prospects, partners, employees, job-seekers, students, etc. For each audience, marketing develops a set of expectations about the experience the brand will deliver. 

Already, forward-thinking companies are starting to think in terms of “total experience,” accounting for the complete set of audiences, with trailblazers like technologist John Maeda leading the way, emphasizing that the employee experience is the driver of customer experience.

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If communication is about motivating action in others, then the brand’s job is to “talk” via experiences to encourage desired behaviors. Having one brand — a single voice able to speak to all audiences about the topics each cares most about — will work as the driver of attraction, engagement, and retention. Plus, this approach will effectively tie CX and EX to innovation, productivity, and positive business outcomes. 

Making It Happen

Where does this leave critical stakeholders like HR and TA?

They will need to collaborate closely with marketing so all parties understand strategic objectives and desired business outcomes. The marketing plan will also need to support the talent plan for the organization. That is, HR and TA provide requirements based on what they need to meet the organization’s people goals — like driving productivity, boosting  retention, attracting talent, etc. — and it will be up to marketing to make that happen by leveraging their strengths in branding, communication, experience design, and technology. 

All this will require a rock-solid relationship between stakeholders, something many organizations struggle to achieve. Without agreement and buy-in from the respective sides, the brand will splinter, and customers and prospects will hear one story while candidates and employees get another. That’s not that different from what’s happening now. 

To avoid this, marketing, HR, and TA need to combine skills and develop a strategic vision together. One that marketing owns, and everyone executes. It’s not about HR and TA giving up power. It’s about redirecting and reaping the rewards together. Silos smashed, brands coordinated, and experiences elevated.

Karl Wierzbicki brings 20 years of technology and marketing experience to his role as Director of Marketing for InFlight, where he is responsible for marketing strategy and execution. Karl has launched dozens of new consumer and B2B products and is passionate about creating 'a-ha moments' for customers.

Prior to joining InFlight, Karl led the Research and Insights team at BlackBerry, where he managed a portfolio of global projects to support marketing and product development teams.

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