HR thoughts

From: Kenneth Wong

From: Kenneth Wong

[kwong@business.queensu.ca]

Sent: Friday, August 03, 2007, 11:50 AM

To: Tony Chapman

Subject: thought starters

Just gave a talk on Marketing approaches to HR. Reminded me of the brain drain issue you raised. Any thoughts on how we can use marketing to attract and retain the best?

From: Tony Chapman

[tchapman@capitalc.ca]

To: Ken Wong

You don’t have to be a demographer to realize that the greatest crisis facing Canadian business in the coming decade

is an aging and retiring workforce resulting in a scarcity of talent. Attracting, keeping and building the right talent base,

calibrated to the needs of the business, might become as important as attracting, building and keeping the right customer base. Am I overreacting?

From: Ken

To: Tony

I know every CEO poll says this is the #1 issue. But HR seems to look for a silver bullet. They know different employees want different things but they insist on one-size-fits all. Maybe they’re focused on maintaining ‘internal equity’ but the problem cries out for positioning and segmentation and some ‘precision marketing’.

From: Tony

To: Ken

I think you are absolutely right. This is an opportunity for the marketing departments and their agencies to step up and answer their CEO challenge. In an increasingly commoditized world, aggravated further by deflationary pricing and inflationary costs of goods, innovation will become the lifeblood of business. Innovation can only occur in cultures populated by employees who are motivated, inspired and passionate about creating the future. Therefore, if the acquisition and retention of talent is a competitive tie breaker, it deserves the type of investment you are calling for.

From: Ken

To: Tony

But we have to recognize that different

types of talent want different things – money may be a universal, but for some, the quality of work and work-life balance are equally or more important.

If so, we need to embrace innovative ‘promotions’ (i.e. benefits) such as allowances for continuous training in areas like business writing and leadership, which Urban Systems does, or emulate Environics, which offers paid vacation travel to stimulate new thinking. Accenture and Ernst & Young LLP provide concierge services to help achieve some work-life balance, while Intuit offers paid volunteer leave.

There’s also assorted wellness programs – Microsoft offers personal trainers, massage therapists, acupuncturists and nutritionists – or even something simple like Sandvine’s welcome basket for new hires.

But the trick isn’t just to be creative in new programs but to link these to specific objectives related to how we want to be positioned as an employer. Sandvine is a perfect example: their founder, Dave Caputo is said to have designed his company’s corporate culture before they started designing products. This thinking led Sandvine to give every new employee a box of Timbits to share with co-workers: it’s a lot easier to leave a company than it is to leave friends.

In short, it may be HR but we can do it with a marketer’s touch. I’d love

to hear people’s ideas about how to segment employees, how to brand internally, and what kinds of benefits they think would be appropriate given their company’s positioning.

From: Tony

To: Ken

CC: Mary Maddever

[maddever@brunico.com]

How about an open invitation to strategy readers? We ask them to send in their best idea for deploying marketing strategy or tactics to attract or retain their employees. And publish the best.

From: Mary

To: Ken, Tony

Kay. I expect lots of brilliant HR ideas landing in my mailbox, and predict whoever we include will either get lots of resumes, or job offers.

Ken Wong is a career academic at Queen’s School of Business where he’s obsessed with practicing what he preaches.

Tony Chapman is an entrepreneur/career brand guy, and is obsessed with protecting and promoting Canada’s role in the global ad biz. As CEO of a Toronto-HQed indie agency, he will always resist the overtures of the multinationals.