What is People Marketing?

Talent acquisition has changed.

Today, organizations can no longer just post available positions on a job board and wait for the applications to roll in.

Low unemployment and a culture of mobility, particularly amongst millennials, have given people choice and it’s harder than ever to attract top talent.

Companies, as a result, are having to completely re-think the way they approach recruitment and talent acquisition.

The answer? It lies in People Marketing.

At Sage People, we talk about People Marketing as applying the principles of marketing to HR, so that companies can know their people as well as they know their customers, marketing themselves effectively to potential and existing employees, enabling them to attract and keep the best.

So, what are these ‘principles of marketing’, and how do they translate into the HR discipline we call ‘People’?

The CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) defines marketing as: ‘The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.’ Substitute ‘employee’ for ‘customer’ and we have a clear starting point.

People Marketing means applying this approach to your workforce and how you engage them, creating great employee experiences for them, ultimately boosting company performance. It’s about anticipating and satisfying employee requirements to attract and keep the best.

Why People Marketing?

Building a business is hard when there’s so much competition for great talent. With the ongoing skills crisis and war for talent, it’s not easy to find good people when the supply is constrained. Finding and hiring top talent has become ever more competitive, as organizations struggle to attract people with the right skills and get them productive as quickly as possible.

People Marketing means looking at the whole ‘buyer journey’ – the experience a candidate or employee has from beginning to end. It means using a single CRM system to use data to properly know your employees.

Companies which pull out all the stops to market themselves to potential and existing candidates in this way will stand out from the crowd, at a time when people care about organizations that value them. Our research found that whilst 55% of senior executives think their company is people-orientated, only 29% of employees agree.

That’s why we call an organization where people are the most valuable asset, and where company success is dependent on their workforce being successful, a People Company.

People Companies grow candidate relationships and deliver great experiences throughout the entire recruitment process. They go beyond free lunches, great workspaces and generous holiday. They know their people and what drives them – and they use this information to create an employee journey that constantly continues to energise their workforce and get the best from them.

People Marketing versus employer branding

People Marketing is more rigorous and effective than employer branding.

People Marketing goes further than traditional employer branding because it’s about creating and sustaining great workforce experiences that keep employees engaged, through every aspect of their association with your company.

The CIM makes a useful observation: ‘Sometimes people assume marketing is just about advertising or selling, but this is not the whole story. It is a key management discipline that ensures producers of goods and services can interpret consumer desires and match or exceed them.’ It’s a similar story for People Marketing versus employer branding.

Employer branding is to do with communicating and promoting a company’s defined values, principles and ways of working. That’s important. But pushing out these messages through recruitment ads, social media or web pages doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality experienced by candidates and employees.

A good brand and communications plan by itself is just talking a good talk. Employees and candidates can see through that and undermine a carefully curated reputation if their experiences don’t match up to the company’s stated intentions.

People Marketing is a critical part of the wider recruitment process; not just brand marketing to candidates, but personalizing communication throughout the recruitment, selection and onboarding journey.

People Marketing means knowing what your target candidates and employees need

To attract and retain the people your business needs to succeed, you must not only meet and exceed their expectations at every step – but also exceed them. That means designing every aspect of your recruitment, onboarding and the experience of working for your organisation to satisfy and delight employees and candidates.

It’s not enough to define values, culture, behaviours and benefits, document them and tell the world about them through communication campaigns. You need to make sure they’re relevant, appealing and thoroughly embedded in your people operations, so employees experience exactly what you claim to offer.

People Marketing is a responsive activity. Just like properly executed customer marketing, it means making sure you understand, meet and exceed expectations continually and consistently. In the same way that customer markets and preferences evolve, so do employee needs and perceptions. So, you need to listen and re-evaluate constantly to remain relevant and competitive to your current and future employees.

It also means providing a seamless candidate and employee experience throughout the end-to-end employment journey: from someone contacted by a recruiter in the first instance, right through to their last days in their role should they leave. People Marketing is crucial to support and sustain a flawless and consistent end-to-end experience for people, from the moment they start to even consider working for a company.

People Marketing in action

For Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, maintaining corporate culture is an important part of the hiring plan. Zappos has two sets of interviews: the skills interview and the culture interview, and candidates must pass both. The culture interview is based on Zappos’ 10 core values. If an applicant doesn’t pass it, they don’t move forward in the process, regardless of how good a technical fit they may be.

Creating an interview process that reviews more than just technical skills allows companies and candidates to develop a better understanding of each other’s values.

Everyone that’s hired at Zappos also goes through the same four-week training program, part of which is taking calls from customers. At the end of that first week of training, they’re offered $3,000 if they decide the job isn’t for them. Very few take it.

Cloud computing company Rackspace’s orientation comprises a week of presentations, company information, games and activities. Sessions involve the founders, C-level execs, VPs and directors who share their experiences and explain why they love working there.

At Spredfast, a US social software platform, all new employees start on a Friday rather than Monday. The theory goes that most people are in a better mood on Fridays, which makes the onboarding process much smoother.

People Marketing is a strategic business activity

People Marketing is a fundamental management process that will power your future business success. It means looking strategically at your employee ‘market’ and finding ways to satisfy demand and outperform the competition to attract the people who will operate your business and drive its growth.

Like customer marketing, People Marketing should directly support your business strategy and goals. Who are the people you need to create and deliver your products and services to meet commercial objectives? What do you need from them in terms of skills, attitude and commitment? To get those people on board and retain them as loyal employees and ambassadors for future employees, you need to know what they want from you in terms of culture, work-style, facilities, development, remuneration and benefits.

You’ll need to use data and analysis rigorously to understand your current and future workforce and develop a strategy for engaging people, supported by processes and initiatives that deliver the experience your people need.

It will include continuous review and improvement to make sure your employee proposition remains relevant and compelling to your current and future workforce and fit for purpose to deliver your business goals.

People Marketing will attract and keep the best people to power business growth

Communication and employer branding campaigns can raise awareness and generate interest in your firm as an employer. But you can’t control what your people say and feel about their everyday experiences.

If they don’t match the public promises you make, formal and informal networks of employees will share those direct experiences, online and offline. In today’s networked, digital age, that carries more weight than the slickest communication campaign or carefully crafted corporate messaging.

Through strategic People Marketing planning and delivery, you can craft and deliver great employee experiences. That’s what will define your reputation as an employer and workplace and contribute to positive brand perceptions – assuring your success in attracting and retaining the people your business needs to grow and outperform.

Trouble with talent? Get our research from 500+ HR leaders on their challenges attracting and keeping high-fliers.

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