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What can HR learn from marketing?

There is still a battle going on for HR to have greater influence within organisations. Marketing used to have a similar problem. Yet in the past 10 years stereotypes around the left-brained "colouring-in department" have evaporated as marketing professionals have increasingly vied with finance for strategic influence on their organisations, and won.

So what can HR learn from the success of marketing in the fight for influence? Here are five themes which I think have helped shift the influence and perceptions of marketing in organisations and what they mean for HR.

Superb insight matters 

Data has had a transformational impact on marketing allowing organisations to understand and predict people's needs and behaviours. If you want evidence, then you need look no further than the meteoric rise of Tesco under Terry Leahy (a marketer), which mined its Clubcard data to make better decisions about what it sold. HR can mirror this by putting more science into its decision-making around talent, people and performance. That means seizing the opportunity presented by big data to get better evidence for HR strategy.

You can never be too close to your customer 

Another big trend in marketing in the last 10 years has been the obsession with customer intimacy: getting as close as possible to your customers through feedback. Focus groups, customer visits, store walks, working on the front line and email/social feedback are now at the heart of fine-tuning and improving marketing activity. There may be finite resources for HR professionals to do this, but the importance of staying as close to employees as senior managers is a critical investment.

You can't stand still

Marketers recognise that innovation and new product development gives competitive advantage, strengthens brands and so attracts customers and clients. HR can learn from this by recognising it is better to drive change with your own ideas and insight rather than responding to it.

Personalisation isn't the future, it's the present

Social media and online communications have changed the way we talk and interact. Marketers have recognised the place for peer reviews, informal language, fresh interactive ways of communicating and - critically - the importance of personalisation in driving results. A shift to personal communications away from the formal policy-based norm is a huge opportunity for HR to better serve employees and peers.

Pull vs Push communications

Marketing to customer communications have progressed from mass 'one-to-all' messages, through to segmented messaging, into one-one communications, and is now responding the challenges posed by the demands for personalisation referenced in trend four. Customers want to be able to 'pull' communications relevant to them, through their channel of choice and at a time that best suits them. The businesses that achieve this best, often lead the way when it comes to acquiring, engaging and retaining customers. The same is true with employees.

Of course, we can't assume each of these aspects will be right for every organisation. I also recognise that there are organisations who are already well down the road in some, if not all, of these areas. That said, as long as there is a debate around influence of the HR function, the case is clear for looking outside of our silo and learning from other disciplines.

Andy Philpott (pictured) is sales and marketing director at Edenred