HR departments will have to use marketing techniques in the coming years to captivate and thus retain staff. In this way they change their communication from transmitter-driven to communicating based on the needs of the employee. Employee marketing is becoming the new trend. It helps organizations communicate more effectively internally. What’s up with that?
Cora van Mora
The world was simple in the 50s. The brilliant as well as the simple transmitter-receiver model described the world as it was. A producer took a nice photo or drawing, added his logo and the brand preference was arranged. In the late 1970s, early 1980s, advertising lands a bit busier. As a result, the need for distinctiveness is increasing. Advertisers deploy ‘the specialist’. Often that is a man in a white coat who tells that something is good to use. Top breeders recommend Pal. Dentists recommend toothbrushes and toothpaste. Cora van Mora was born from the same thought: a role model that encourages purchase.
Deaf and blind
The modern consumer has become deaf and blind to such advertising messages. We get too many incentives. Exactly how much advertising we see remains a mystery. I read estimates between the 350 in 3000 per day. A lot anyway. Today’s people are therefore looking for information online and offline. Of course there are all kinds of service providers that want to entice the searching consumer, but the old sender-receiver model has been completely reversed. The receiver determines which information he takes in.
If you compare the above sketch with the average way in which companies communicate, you will see that in many organizations employee communication is still in the 1950s. The intranet of companies is full of channel-driven information. Employees are often allowed to show up to illustrate how good a new program is, or how they implement the policy. Think of the expert from the commercials of the 80s. Management still address the employees from soap boxes. Employee needs – what’s in it for me? – remains out of the picture.
The result is that the message does not prompt the employee to take action based on his own needs. It remains top down. The message is therefore simply too abstract.
After all, HR departments have the task of informing employees about everything that has to do with their employment. They would do well to embrace the marketing way of thinking.
Who views the communication through the glasses of the stairs of Quirke, sees that a lot of communication gets stuck in the first two steps. This staircase is a handy tool that you can use in change communication. The model connects an abstract change process to concrete deployment of resources. At the higher levels (four and five) there is much more dialogue and equality between the sender and the one who receives. If recipients feel connected to the goal to be achieved, they actively commit themselves to it.
Organizations find it difficult to make the step towards thinking from the employee’s point of view. Everything is set up: days off, work sessions, forms of play. Still, all things considered, it remains nothing more than charming packaging for a channel-driven message. That situation has to change. Employee marketing helps organizations communicate more effectively internally. This requires a good understanding of the employee’s needs.
Alex Osterwalder developed it Value Proposition Canvas. The canvas is used by marketers to find a solid hook as a starting point for a marketing campaign. The model looks at what the customer task is. What does the customer want to achieve? The model then helps to map out what a customer has to gain and lose from that customer task. Only when you have completed and understood the right-hand side of the model can you cross over to the world of the organization and what that organization wants to sell. This model provides a great entry point for employee marketing.
Example: lease arrangement
Suppose: the lease arrangement is being overhauled. Fewer people get a holy cow from the business. Then thinking about communication starts with considering the function of the lease car for the user. Why is that car so important? In the first instance, the employee naturally wants mobility. Traveling from A to B. But for many people a car is also a status symbol. A Dacia Duster takes you neatly from A to B. Yet people choose much more expensive tin to do the same task. This is due to another customer task. Status for the neighbourhood, showing colleagues that you have a high lease amount, an extension of your successful career. These are all customer tasks that belong to the lease driver.
Anyone who touches the lease scheme must enter into a conversation that is broader than mobility. The HR department can enter into a dialogue about the environment, sustainability and a flexible mobility package. This gives employees space and a story to swallow the bitter pill of not having a brand new car in front of the door. Telling the neighbor that you are making more sustainable and that a BMW 5 M version does not fit in the new world, is a better story than saying that it has been cut back against your will. Employee marketing thus helps organizations to communicate more effectively internally.
Employee marketing helps organizations communicate more effectively internally
Getting started with employee marketing is easy. If you follow the following three pieces of advice, you are already taking a huge step in the right direction.
1. Think from the employee’s point of view
The example above makes it clear that thinking from the employee’s point of view is crucial. By understanding what the real customer task is (as marketers do) and starting the conversation based on that need, it is possible to let employees tell a new story in which they are involved. Thinking from the employee’s point of view leads to solidarity between employees and the organization. Employees are then more inclined to think together about solutions to problems.
2. Keep it simple
The messages sent into the organization by HR must also be simple. The customer (the employee) does not have enough time to go through long documents. People decide in two seconds whether or not to open a message. Within 10 seconds they judge whether they continue reading. The marketing principle of communicating in plain, common people’s language also applies to employee marketing.
It is also important to avoid jargon. HR professionals have their own jargon that they find it difficult to let go of when they speak to the rest of the organization.
Marketers prefer to work with a tailor-made message for the target group. The customer task from Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas is of course not the same for every target group. Segmentation of the target group is therefore important. Segmentation at job level is obvious. In communication, a distinction is made between top management, management and employees. It is also possible to segment by front office and back office, so that the different information needs of these groups and the tone of voice can be better determined.
Each of the target groups has a different communication need and a different customer task. Segmentation thus helps to get the message across per target group even better.
Just do it
The marketing way of thinking can help enormously to make internal communication more customer-oriented. Especially HR departments, which communicate a lot internally, have to adopt this way of thinking. It improves the motivation of employees to absorb all kinds of information.
In a world where there is a cacophony of communication messages, an employee only listens to messages that concern and interest him. Taking that need as a starting point leads to people hearing the message, wanting to understand it and acting on it. The receiver of the message has the power. The receiver wants to be served at his beck and call. Employee marketing helps organizations communicate more effectively internally. So start today.
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