Bridging the Gap Between HR and Marketing

We’ve noticed a disturbing trend while talking to university HR staff recently. When it comes to issues of employer branding, there’s a gap between the university’s human resources and marketing departments. It is imperative that these two departments work together if they want to develop and implement an effective employer brand.

The role of a university HR department has evolved over the years as higher education becomes increasingly international. Now HR has to work even harder to keep their university top of mind. As we’ve already discussed, developing an employer brand is key to growing a university’s international reputation and remaining competitive. The power balance in the recruiting process has shifted from the employer to the applicant. It falls to HR to earn the candidates’ consideration by making sure that the institution (and its mission, vision, and values) stands out for the candidate. A good employer brand encourages candidates to build a long term career at that institution.

Part of the challenge of developing an employer brand is that employer branding doesn’t entirely fall under the purview of human resources, yet at the same time it’s not the responsibility of communications. Employer branding is a mix of both. When an HR department is left alone to establish and communicate the university’s employer brand, we see them struggle to achieve the full impact. However, employer branding is so connected to recruitment that the marketing and communications team can’t be solely responsible for developing it. Successfully establishing an employer brand requires intense collaboration on both sides.

HR departments have the foundational knowledge required to create an employer brand. They know the institution’s hiring needs, compensation package, turnover rate, employee engagement rate, and employee satisfaction information. The marketing and communications department understands audience segmentation, lifecycle, and behaviour. Marketing also owns the university’s branding activities and are experts in measuring audience engagement, creating campaigns, and telling a compelling story. They also know the best channels and strategies to reach each segment. These competencies need to all come together in employer branding.

It’s not just identifying and developing an employer brand that should be a collaborative process; communication and implementation are most effective when done jointly between HR and marketing as well. Conveying the institution’s employer brand to potential applicants is what helps build a candidates pipeline, attract high-quality candidates, and develop engaged and loyal employees. If universities don’t share their own employer brand, potential candidates will turn to sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor to learn what these institutions are like as an employer. This means that candidates are basing their opinion on information that could be out of date, incomplete, misleading, or even flat out false. Institutions need to take control of their own brand. Engaging current employees with the employer brand is another way to do this. It can increase retention and turn faculty into loyal brand ambassadors.

Some of our clients are starting to realize that HR and marketing need to come together in strategic ways and are beginning to collaborate on interdepartmental projects. The universities that are even further ahead are mimicking the corporate sector by hiring human resources staff with communications backgrounds. Multinationals like Johnson & Johnson and NBCUniversal are creating positions directly related to employer branding in their both HR and marketing departments. These employees have titles like candidate experience manager, talent branding specialist, or even employer branding specialist. Institutions and companies that collaborate have come further in establishing a reputable and effective employer brand.

I want to leave you with some questions which I hope inspire some reflection: How does your organizational structure empower you to effectively promote your employer brand? How do your HR and marketing departments collaborate?

Got a question about employer branding? Send me an email at erik.bjorkander@academicpositions.com.