By KELLY GRIFFIN
Contributing Editor, Best Practices in HR
The United States economy is soft, and many companies have weathered reductions
in force, resulting in low employee morale. But there's one management strategy
that has proven effective in overcoming past economic downturns. It calls for
focusing on being more inclusive, sharing more information with staff, and asking
for their suggestions and help.
Taking that strategy a step further - by arming your employees with the information
and skills they need to be part of your company's marketing team - can
build morale and help the organization thrive in a sluggish marketplace.
HR partners with marketing and PR
By partnering with the organization's marketing and public relations functions
to focus on internal marketing efforts, you, as an HR professional, can help
get the word out about the firm's products or services. All employees like
to feel that they're part of the team, that they play an integral role
in the success of the company for which they work.
By determining what your employees' questions and concerns are regarding
the products or services the organization offers and answering questions in
an open, honest manner, you add strength to your firm's marketing and public
relations initiatives. You're unleashing a large team of promotional experts
who are informed about the organization and its products and proud of what the
company has to offer its target markets. The result of your efforts will be
increased value for your firm's marketing dollars.
So how do you get started? Schedule a meeting with your marketing and public
relations team. Explain that HR would like to assist in the promotional efforts
of the firm by encouraging employees, no matter what their function is, to be
part of the tactical marketing force.
Determine baseline knowledge
The first thing you must find out is the level of knowledge your staff
has regarding the history of the organization, the goals and objectives, the
mission, and the services or products offered. To achieve this, you can use
a survey, or better yet, a series of employee focus groups. The groups may be
more time-consuming, but
the payoff is getting some excellent conversation going and making your employees
feel heard and valued.
The information culled from the surveys or focus groups will give your crossfunctional
team (the marketing, PR and HR professionals) a baseline from which to begin
in the education of the employees. You should also become more cognizant of
the concerns employees have related to the company and be better prepared to
Let's assume that the results of the surveys or focus groups indicate
that most individuals have a general knowledge regarding the company and what
it does. Here's what you should do. Schedule a series of brief sessions
for your employees with senior executives, including HR, sharing the overall
direction of the firm, goals for the year ahead, competition in the marketplace,
and the long-term outlook, to give employees a better sense of how their job
functions fit in the organization.
The next step is developing a series of short programs conducted by appropriate
specialists in different product areas to increase employees' knowledge
of all products or services. Involve your HR training staff to make the programs
entertaining and memorable.
Share marketing strategies
Once the staff has a comprehensive understanding of the products, it's
time to identify the target markets, share marketing and public relations strategies
or the tactics that are used to communicate information. To convey this information
and show the employees the promotional materials being used, a combination of
face-to-face or video presentations, articles in employee publications, and
employee websites/the intranet can be used.
The more information the employees have, the more valuable they will be to
your organization. Informed employees will be in a better position to encourage
additional sales in their interactions with current clients or customers of
The entire educational process, including planning and implementation, could
take from a few months up to a year, depending on the size of your organization
and the sophistication of your marketing, sales, and public relations efforts.
The initiative becomes 'SOP'
Once the process is completed, are you done? No. The focus on the development
of employees to become ambassadors for the organization means that keeping your
employees well informed becomes standard operating procedure. Informed employees
are often more motivated to produce, feel as if they're part of the organizational
team, and have a sense of accomplishment when they're participating in
the marketing effort.
Employees should be the first ones to whom the firm announces new products
or services and should see and hear the initial unveiling of new advertising,
promotional materials, and public relations initiatives prior to their being
launched for the public at large.
As an HR professional, your role is to act as the catalyst to make ongoing
communication a reality. Continue to partner with your marketing, sales, and
public relations professionals in planning employee update meetings and coverage
in employee publications and events, such as employee screening premieres for
new advertising and promotional efforts. Remind the promotional professionals
that employees should remain one of their vital, primary target markets in all