HR’s catch-22: can marketing help?

The Biz feature this issue focuses on marketing department and agency HR woes. Agency execs, academics and marketers were tasked with assessing the current situation. They find it challenging - with less staff doing more, there's less time for recruitment and training, let alone succession planning, creating a cycle that our panelists predict will end badly.

The Biz feature this issue focuses on marketing department and agency HR woes. Agency execs, academics and marketers were tasked with assessing the current situation. They find it challenging – with less staff doing more, there’s less time for recruitment and training, let alone succession planning, creating a cycle that our panelists predict will end badly.

While brainstorming solutions, some talked about creating a culture that attracts talent (Saatchi), others spoke of internal training programs (Cossette, Cundari), and all felt more outreach to schools is required to promote the industry and encourage useful curriculum. The resolve: pan-industry collaboration is needed to make strides. The problem: who leads?

In this issue’s Forum column on shoring up Made In Canada marketing from global erosion, that lack of a unified voice was also identified as a barrier. A reader suggested lobbying government to put creativity on the economic development agenda, which columnists Ken Wong and Tony Chapman wholeheartedly agreed with. But the question of leadership arose again.

While you ponder some all-powerful cross-sector super group, I will share one example of how marketing and HR working together can have deep impact. And it applies to both issues. It’s a program that instills employee loyalty, and it indicates an opportunity for marketing to help solve a pressing business challenge: labor shortages (84% of Canadian execs say it’s hard to find qualified employees).

The program is OPEN, Campbell’s fifth affinity network within its diversity program, which is founded on the belief that ‘collaboration of various cultures, ideas and perspectives will bring forth greater creativity and innovation.’ OPEN, an LGBT network and a backronym for Our Pride Employee Network, was spearheaded by Campbell Company of Canada VP marketing Mark Childs. And it was the first affinity network to launch globally via the company’s intranet.

Childs said the idea for OPEN began with the recognition that the Diversity program (which affects all aspects of HR and has women’s, Asian, Hispanic, and African American networks) was welcoming for new recruits, so it would be good to be open about Campbell’s LGBT acceptance – the program has the full support of president/CEO Doug Conant. The intranet site features articles, feedback, resources and Q&As with Campbell’s execs, and has various levels of participation, from anonymity to open involvement.

Internally, the networks serve as a retention and recruitment tool, and educate and instill pride. Jacki Nelson, director corporate communication and government relations, and an OPEN ‘ally,’ says the endeavour results in employees feeling more comfortable at work, which is beneficial to all. Childs says that OPEN has already proven itself as a career decision factor. As for retention, account development manager Daniele Bourbeau, a steering committee member, says, ‘Unless you give me my pink slip, I’m staying. Being supported by my superiors, it’s fantastic.’

Externally, the diversity support stands Campbell’s in good stead with consumers, such as brand-loyal LGBT customers. And last month Campbell was a sponsor of the Out & Equal conference in Washington, manning an OPEN booth showcasing the site.

As the Interweb turns companies’ internal affairs public, expect to see more collaboration between marketing and HR. Greg Smith, VP of HR at Campbell Canada and co-sponsor of the diversity strategy with Childs, explains that tapping HR and marketing expertise results in ‘a higher level of impact and personal engagement of consumers and employees.’ He adds that as the marketplace and workplace change, ‘it’s critical that programs, products and services meet the needs of those changes. An integrated approach between HR and marketing enables us to better understand and act to these changes.’

Childs concurs. ‘I think we can be a catalyst. The edges are blurred, but we can help fuel momentum when people strategy and business strategy align.’ In this case, it’s obviously so.

And maybe it’s as basic as that. Consider HR woes as a branding challenge, and disrupt away, both internally and externally. Cheers,mm

Mary Maddever / exec editor strategy / MIC