In the quest to attract, engage, and retain an ever-changing workforce, Human Resources executives have increasingly turned to marketing concepts and insights to plan their talent strategy. As far back as 2016, articles like the Harvard Business Review’s "Why (and How) HR Needs to Act More Like Marketing” have pointed to the fact that HR teams can better understand and engage with their audiences when they consider the employee-employer relationship to be similar to that of a buyer and a seller. Of course, we’re not about minimizing the value of human relationships to a transaction; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Talent Marketing is about having a well thought out plan for how to better understand your customer and how to engage them meaningfully, humanly, throughout the employee life cycle and beyond.
However, ensuring the success (and funding) of any business agenda requires more than just a plan; it demands the ability to measure its impact. As a non-revenue producing function, it’s even more relevant for HR to have data that can demonstrate ROI. In this blog post, we will delve into the HR metrics that executives should employ when assessing the effectiveness of marketing-inspired practices to attracting, engaging, and retaining talent in new creative ways.
Marketing Concept #1: Audience Segmentation and Targeting
HR Metric: Candidate and Employee Demographic Data
Obviously, we’re not talking about discriminatory targeting of applicants. This is about doing things that can help you diversify and expand your candidate pool by simply understanding who is and isn’t interacting with your employment brand, and what you can do to change that.
To strategize your workforce plans, you must first look at the demographics of your population. Basic data such as age, educational level, and tenure in their chosen profession can provide insights into how they interact with your employment brand. Analyze the movement of each segment throughout the employee lifecycle, such as acquisition, retention, performance data, promotion, and attrition. Compare that to your candidate or applicant data and see if there are any concerning gaps. If your HRIS and ATS capabilities are limited, or you are unable to collect the data, enlisting the help of a digital marketing partner may be a cost effective - and confidential - way to obtain market research into available candidate pools.
Marketing Concept #2: Branding
HR Metrics: Employer Brand Perception, Employee Satisfaction Scores, and Exit Interviews
It’s important to understand that companies have two brands – that which is known to consumers/clients of its products and services, and that which is internal and experienced by its employees. Often, these are two very distinct sets of perceptions.
To understand what employees think of your company as an employer (your internal brand), it’s important to ask the right questions. Conduct surveys or feedback sessions with different segments within your organization and ask how your brand is perceived. Questions such as “Does our employer brand inspire loyalty?” or “Does the annual review process inspire confidence in our employee experience?” could be very effective in uncovering the sentiment towards your company’s employment brand.
Another way to test your internal brand is to find out if all employee groups feel the same way about your employee value proposition. What are your employer brand promises? Are they more relevant to your mid-level managers vs corporate groups? The answers may provide insights about how to activate your brand and promote retention for each group. Asking exiting employees if their experience matched their initial expectations would prove useful when planning Talent Strategy and HR Communications for the future. The goal is to find out if there is a correlation between brand perception and attrition, by looking at areas of brand disconnect or “incongruence” and analyzing the attrition patterns over time. You would also find meaningful insights by cross-referencing those trends with employee satisfaction scores.
Marketing Concept #3: Number of Leads
HR Metric: Number of Applicants
This is one area where marketing and HR are almost identical; recruitment is also a numbers game. Whether you do high volume recruiting due to expansion plans or niche/specialty hiring, having enough people in your funnel will always determine your hiring success. Quality of applicants is also important, but it can only be addressed when you have quantity. Not having enough qualified candidates to support a growing business is the kind of problem that keeps CEOs and Talent Acquisition (TA) leaders up at night. It’s been said that people don’t grow on trees, so why are you still hiring like you’re watering the orchard?
The key to effective Recruitment Marketing is to understand and re-define your qualified candidate market, actively work to attract as many as possible to your brand, test new lead sources, measure what is and isn’t working about your strategy, make changes, measure again, then rinse and repeat. Sounds like sales prospecting, doesn’t it? If you have an unlimited advertising budget this iterative process may not be a problem, but for the rest of us, every recruitment advertising penny counts. Digital marketing professionals are experts at maximizing media campaigns across multiple outlets, and they can make your dollars stretch farther by repeatedly measuring the results of each approach and optimizing the elements of your campaign. Whether it’s trying new creative, new messaging, adjusting frequency, or targeting a specific website that your market visits, they are experts on campaign analytics and management.
Marketing Concept #4: Ad Campaign Effectiveness
HR Metrics: Career Page Metrics, Recruiting Source Metrics, Job Posting Metrics, Job Ad Metrics, Number of Candidates, Number of Hires, Lead to Hire Ratio
Although looking at the number of applicants is important, ignoring other TA data can limit effectiveness of even the best recruiting campaign. This is a common mistake, typically driven by a lack of resources to obtain and analyze key digital data, or due to the absence of a cohesive digital employment brand strategy. For example, understanding what online behaviors lead or inhibit a completed job application could determine whether or not you can invest in a mobile-friendly careers page. These valuable insights can also help determine if your investments in recruitment advertising and job boards are enough, or if you are leveraging digital tools to your advantage. It is this type of data that companies find most helpful when drafting a business case for investment in HR technology and digital tools.
Marketing Concept #5 Personalization and Flexibility
HR Metric: Benefits Utilization and Work Arrangement Choices
Want to get more for your benefit dollars? Track the utilization of personalized benefits and the choices made by employees from different demographic segments. For example, if you are experiencing attrition of your most senior employees, find out how that segment feels about your benefits. In the same way, you can measure the adoption of flexible work arrangements by different employee groups and monitor how they impact job satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
Effectively measuring the impact of marketing-inspired HR strategies on attracting, engaging, and retaining a complex workforce requires a commitment to relevant metrics and data-driven decision-making. By understanding the relationship between HR metrics such as demographic data, onboarding and retention rates, employee satisfaction scores, and their relationship to employer branding, HR executives can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their initiatives. This consumer insights-driven approach not only ensures the success of engagement and recruitment practices but also allows HR teams to continuously refine their talent strategies. Having an engaging employment brand that meets the needs and experiential preferences of a diverse workforce is the new business currency.
Partnering with a digital marketing agency like Roger West can help shape your talent strategy by providing insights about which segments of the available workforce are interacting with your brand (or not), formulate your employee value proposition, and reach the target skills you need to support your growth plans. Let's talk!