Leadership   //   June 20, 2024

Why HR and brand marketing are more connected than ever

Traditionally, HR and marketing operated in silos, with HR focused on responsibilities like recruitment, compliance and employee well-being while marketing was concerned with functions such as brand promotion and customer engagement.

But a highly competitive job market and the rise of employer branding have necessitated a closer collaboration between the two. This, as companies have come to see their employees as the ultimate brand ambassadors — something that requires consistent, strategic messaging internally and externally.

“Marketing is the connector, really, for the entire organization,” says Richard Maclachlan, who was recently appointed CMO at Workhuman, which provides cloud-based software solutions to help organizations build and improve their culture.

Maclachlan believes there is a generally broader understanding of the CMO role as integral to the overall business strategies of companies, not just marketing. 

Despite the obvious importance of the marketing discipline, CMOs have become something of an endangered species in recent years, their average corporate tenure hitting a decade-long low. The title has even been retired at several major brands — among them, Johnson & Johnson, Starbucks and UPS. (Others, apparently, had a change of heart — like The Coca-Cola Co., which resurrected the position just two years after eliminating it.)

Elsewhere, the CMO never went out of fashion, taking on a larger profile and much more oversight. In his new position, for example, Maclachlan oversees a global marketing team and manages duties across brand and creative, product marketing, digital transformation, growth marketing, revenue operations and global communications. Prior to his promotion to CMO in May, Maclachlan was Workhuman’s SVP, global head of marketing.  

The joining of marketing and HR functions has been driven not only by companies’ need to address the modern needs of people management — encompassing responsibilities ranging from hiring to employee engagement — but also by the rise of AI. 

“AI has the potential to address pain points by producing better and faster results,” Maclachlan explains. “By leveraging AI, we can solve internal challenges, improve team satisfaction and boost productivity.”

Far from merely automating repetitive tasks, the technology of the moment can help HR departments personalize employee experiences, enhance recruitment processes, streamline employee communications and develop more targeted employer branding strategies, explains Rick Hammell, founder and CEO of workforce support platform Helios. 

“Effective marketing within HR goes beyond just promoting job openings — it involves crafting narratives that resonate with candidates and employees, highlighting the organization’s values, mission and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” he says. “By leveraging technology alongside powerful storytelling, HR departments can create a more engaging and human-centric approach” to their work. 

Wende Smith, head of people operations at workforce support platform BambooHR, observes that HR and marketing have one overarching factor in common: people. “Both aim to attract, engage and retain individuals by understanding their needs, preferences and behaviors,” she says.

And as Smith sees it, their convergence opens a door to aligning a company’s goals with the capabilities of its workforce.