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Applying Marketing Principles to HR

Today we’re honored to have a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article. 

Marketing 101: You need a product that meets the needs of your target customer or audience, then you need to promote it where it will be seen by and sought out by potential customers.

Branding 101: Define what you are about and what space in the market you occupy. Stand for something you believe in. Build such a strong connection with your audience that they take on your brand identity on as their own.

Wait, this is an HR blog, right? It is. Why are these concepts so basic when building a business and customer base, but relatively foreign in the HR world? Human capital is critical to the success of a company, yet basic marketing principles and resources are rarely allocated to our teams. It seems silly. A business cannot succeed without both the right product or service and the right people to deliver that product or service.

I suspect many of you don’t have marketers on your team, but there are some simple steps you can begin to take on your own to differentiate yourself and strengthen your employer brand to attract a better pipeline.

Understand your value proposition. What value can you deliver to prospective candidates? Examples include: location, work/life balance, opportunity to work with cutting edge technologies, top-of-the-market pay or great mentorship and development programs. Ask your current employees what the best part of working for your company is. And market it! Make sure pictures and language on your website highlight your differentiators. Invite employees to write testimonials or post to Glassdoor. But above all, be honest.

Figure out your market and focus your advertising appropriately. Each position has a unique market and needs to be treated as such. For example, we ask our team to review our job descriptions when we’re adding to the team to give us feedback – the oozing-with-personality job descriptions we use for entry level positions just may not appeal to senior level developers or a CFO. When I’m looking for an engineer, I ask our current team where they spend their time browsing and to tell me about the most effective cold call or email they have received and I tweak my recruitment approach accordingly. Finally, when we land a fantastic candidate, we take note of how so we can better focus our efforts next time.

Deliver. You need your public persona to match the candidate (and employee) experience. If you differentiate by the intelligence of your team, candidates expect to talk to smart people. If you pride yourself on corporate values and culture, the interview experience and questions should reflect that. You cannot attract or retain the right people if you aren’t able to deliver on the experience you’ve marketed. Just think – would you go back to a hotel that showed beautiful rooms and an ocean view but delivered an inferior product? Neither will candidates.

No company is perfect in every area, but you can be much more successful if you are able to identify what your strengths are, how you compare to the competition, and your audience, then relay that message in an effective way. How do you stack up? What differentiates your open reqs and opportunities from the competition?

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

The Best PHR Study Guide: Test Prep Review

I often hear from people asking “What’s the best PHR study guide?” or “What PHR study guide is the best for preparing for the exams?” Today I’m going to help answer that question for those of you who might be interested in taking the exam (or maybe you know someone who is preparing who could use this info!).

If you’re not planning to take the exam any time soon, feel free to skip this post. Thanks! :-)

I’ve been using and recommending study tools for over five years now. The industry has made some improvements over the past few years, but there are also opportunities for improving the existing tools out there to better serve the needs of the consumer.

The exams

When we talk about interviewing people, we discuss the importance of making the interview questions and experience as similar to the job as possible; that similarity helps us to determine if the person will be a good fit for the position. The exams are no different.

I tell people they need to simulate the exam experience as much as possible at various times throughout their studies in order to improve their chances of success when actually sitting for the exam. In order to do that, let’s look at how the exams actually work:

Test environment, number of questions, topics, how questions formulated, etc.

The official PHR study guide

It surprises me, because so many people don’t realize it; however, there is no official tool recommended by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) for test takers to use. Think about it. If I created the “Best HR Pro” test to certify people and then started selling study materials of my own design, that would be suspicious and diminish the objectivity of the certification.

In order to be objective and not open themselves up the possibility of “teaching to the test,” HRCI can not and should not recommend any specific test prep tool. That makes sense, correct? They wouldn’t want to raise any red flags by suggesting one provider over another.

The SHRM Learning System has the largest section of the test prep market, but I think that’s more due to the fact that they have a captive audience than that them having the best offering. There are other providers out there, SHRM Learning System alternatives, and their tools cover the same body of knowledge as the SHRM products. With the eyes-bulging-out-of-my-head price that SHRM charges for test prep, that’s why I have pointed my readers to other test prep tools on the market.

Why HRCP is the best PHR study guide

They don’t have anything to go on but their good name and customer success. Nobody is promoting them to the potential student as a pseudo-official option for passing the test. Check out the video review below where I open a box of the HRCP tools and share some thoughts about them. (subscribers click through to view)

With HRCP, it’s about price, features, and responsiveness. If you’re interested in using the HRCP materials, you can get a discount. More info on that here.

63% of Organizations Have No HR Strategy In Place

Study Shows HR Doesn’t Do Strategy (Shocker)

The other day I was reading some data (be still my heart!) and ran across something that didn’t initially surprise me. However, the more I think about it the more I am puzzled that this is still an ongoing issue. I reported on some other data  a while back that ties in pretty closely with this topic.

HR strategy chartSometimes you have to stop and wonder where common sense has gone. Companies are expecting more from their HR team than ever before, but according to data gathered by XpertHR, companies are increasing the number of employees relative to the number of HR professionals.

This leads to a number of trickle-down effects, but the major one is forcing those human resources employees into a more administrative function. There’s no hands-on, friendly interaction. There’s no face-to-face discussion of what the company has to offer to you as an individual. Read more about the HR to employee ratio.

So, in short, the more employees you have relative to HR pros, the more transactional the HR team has to be. Now let’s take a peek at the latest and greatest on HR strategy:

Only a little over one in three respondents (36.5 percent) say that their organization has a documented HR strategy.

Where such a strategy exists, nearly three in four (73 percent) say it was developed as an integral part of the overall organizational strategy, while just 18 percent say it was developed as a follow-up exercise once the overall organizational strategy was adopted. Just under one in ten (8.4 percent) said that their HR strategy was developed independently of the overall organizational strategy, suggesting a potential disconnect from, or lack of integration with, the organization. Source

Approximately 63% of organizations have no HR strategy in place. That just astounds me. The business world needs HR pros to provide business-minded, strategic leadership, but the profession as a whole can’t seem to get its act together and take charge of setting its own path.

I think the conversation around branding an HR department is applicable here. No matter what you say, your actions will always betray your true motives. Don’t just talk about being a strategic partner–live it.

What are your thoughts on this data? Is it surprising? Why or why not? 

I’ll be at #TNSHRM14 Next Month

Some of the most fun opportunities I have include joining HR professionals like you at events around the country. I can write and speak all I want, but having the opportunity to sit next to other trench HR folks and talk about the issues they are facing is something I truly enjoy. Speaking of events…

Next month, I’m going to be joining the social media team in support of the Tennessee State SHRM Conference. The event will be held at Sevierville Convention Center September 17th-19th (more info here).

Fun fact: I was trying to find a “Huntsville” location for my video background since that’s where I am based. The first thing that came to mind was the NASA Space and Rocket Center. The Center is one of the main tourist attractions in the area and features many artifacts and other fun items from the nation’s history of space exploration.  

Not only will the social media team be covering the event from a social perspective, but we’ll also be participating in two sessions on using social for HR and recruiting. I’m really excited about the opportunity to interact with some of the great HR pros in and around Tennessee and to share with them how we can leverage new tools to improve our HR service and delivery.

If you’re going to be at the event or think you want to participate, I’d love to connect with you! Shoot me an email (ben@upstarthr.com) or comment below.

Differentiation is Critical for Long Term Success

Today we’re talking about the importance of differentiating your HR practices to increase your value and the satisfaction of your customers, both internal and external. Check out the video (subscribers click through to view):

The bottom line? You should explore the possibility of differentiating your offerings where you can. I’ve long said that as technology and globalization make the world smaller, the gap between competing companies shrinks. The best way, therefore, to stand out from the crowd is through excellence in HR service delivery. World class HR helps organizations deliver world class service.

Differentiate your HR practices from other organizations. Customize your offerings to the degree you can.

But beware the trap of trying to be all things to all people. below you’ll see some excellent advice on how to know when to accept or reject an opportunity to customize your HR service delivery.

The argument for and against customization

Here’s a snippet from my friend Kris Dunn on how customization can be used to improve your HR service delivery based on lessons learned in a software development environment.

The bottom line is that customization causes complexity. The same logic holds true for your HR shop.  If you’re good, you’ve got a set way of doing things, and if you do it the same way often enough, it’s going to work pretty well.  But you’ll have requests from your client group often to do it different ways.  It’s hard to say no, but you should say no when you can.  Complexity eats away at your ability to deliver in an efficient way.

You know when customization for your HR client group really makes sense?  The same time that it makes sense for a software company.  When the work that you’ll do to customize creates features that can be rolled out to more than one person/client.

Say yes to custom work that results in your HR practice being deeper and capable of delivering more.  Make sure you approach it like a product manager, to make it replicable.

Run away from other custom work if you can.  But the take above means that if you run away every time custom work is requested, you’re probably transactional – not strategic. Source: The HR Capitalist

I’d love to hear from some of you about what you do to differentiate/customize your HR practices to increase the value you’re offering to your candidates, employees, managers, and customers. 

The Struggle Between a Caring Work Environment and Talent Density

Today we’re honored to have a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article. 

Building a caring work environment and increasing talent density: compatible or mutually exclusive?

If you’re reading this entry for an answer, skip ahead to the comments section, because you definitely won’t find it here. The question is of critical importance to where we are as a company and I’m actively debating it in my quieter moments. People – their collective personality and their performance – are our differentiator in a tough tech market.

caring work environment

Is building a supportive environment a goal of your organization?

A little background: our company culture is built on integrity, ownership, simplicity, service and balance. We’ve strictly held to our core values in hiring decisions, resulting in a place that people enjoy working because they get to work with intelligent, driven and truly amazing people they care about. Our people also know that HR, the Leadership team and our co-founders care about them on a personal level, which is both a key to retention and to recruitment.

But to build a successful company that scales, we need the most talented team possible. Talent attracts and retains talent and builds a better product. There’s the idea that winning teams succeed because they have the best players on their team. Successful sports teams cut fan favorites to upgrade their roster and aren’t slow to trade away players when underperforming. It’s all understood as part of the business of winning. But it also feels very impersonal and at odds with the familial culture we’ve built.

Is there a happy medium? Can a company truly care about its employees while remaining committed to increasing the level of “A-players” on the team? How does one handle the model employee that just isn’t up to the task at hand?

As I shared, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think it’s possible for a company to toe the line by investing in “coaching up” struggling employees, being clear about expectations and where the gaps are, and making a genuine effort to get people to where they need to be. To be sure, this requires a genuine commitment from the top of the organization and far more effort than any alternative, but I think it can and should be done.

There will always be cases where things just don’t work out. Treat departing employees with dignity, respect and honesty. Ask yourself, “Does this feel right?” Others in the organization will know if you gave the departing team member a fair shake to keep their job, and will take note of how you treated them on the way out. If you can navigate this maze, I think you can have both talent density and a caring corporate culture. Who knows what success awaits from that point forward?

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

Show Me the Money: What CMOs can Teach CHROs

I got a pitch the other day for some new research from the CMO Council. At first glance I started to trash it (I’m into marketing, but I’m willing to bet most of you aren’t!).

Then I took another look. I think the principles in the summary can shed some light on how HR pros can improve their position, make more money, and be seen as more competent overall. Got your attention? Read on!

CMO compensation is directly related to reporting structure. Those making more… are more likely to report directly to the CEO.

driving results

You have to be more innovative if you want more reward.

This one makes sense, but it’s a good reminder. Want to earn more? Work your way up until you’re reporting to the CEO. Or be good enough to become the CEO, but that’s another post for another day.

The highest paid CMOs have developed strong alliances with CIOs and CFOs.

Success in business is driven in part by the key relationships you develop. This applies to the HR function as well. Learn to connect with CFOs and other executives. Speak their language, earn some credibility, and put that network to use.

CMOs earning the highest levels of base compensation tend to be focused on driving business performance (e.g., top-line growth, market share, efficiencies, etc.).

Want to be successful long term in your role? Focus on driving business performance. The rest will take care of itself.

CMO base compensation is correlated with firm size. The larger the company, the more likely that the CMO will make more in base compensation and the more likely they will have bonus compensation.

Want to earn more money? Work for a larger company (and referring back to the first example, work for a larger company in the top tiers of management).

Digital marketing skills are important. CMO salary tends to increase as their firm’s digital marketing performance improves.

This is an easy one. The more value you can prove your function is bringing to the organization, the more you can command in terms of compensation. Have an HR mission statement that describes your aims and then make them happen.

Marketing titles (i.e., CMO, VP of Marketing, SVP of Marketing, etc.) don’t significantly correlate with base compensation.

Titles matter less than what you do. Your value is not in a title–it’s in your performance and the performance of your team.

Key accomplishments of the top earners… are centered on restructuring marketing to drive results, improving the yield/accountability of marketing, and building digital capabilities.

The top earners focus on results, not “the way things have always been done.” Improving capabilities, driving results in areas that are traditionally not seen as value add, and making tough choices are the activities that are rewarded. Keeping up the status quo not only isn’t rewarded–in many of these types of organizations I’d say it is probably weeded out.

So, what are your thoughts? Anything here that particularly rang true for you? Any action items that stepped on your toes to drive you to action? 

Source: http://www.cmocouncil.org/press-detail.php?id=4882

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