Human Resources should take lessons from Marketing, a lot of lessons. You should read Seth Godin, INC Magazine, and Entrepreneur magazine and try to glean some lessons that apply to HR. I came across such an article in Entrepreneur entitled 4 Marketing Hazards to Avoid, written by Dan S. Kennedy & Chip Kessler. I saw this as a good example of four ways to disconnect with your employees.
Good employee relations is marketing
To me HR, especially the employee relations aspect of it, has always has a marketing component to it. Marketing tries to alter consumer behavior and we in HR try to alter employee behavior. The authors Kennedy and Kessler, in discussing their book No B.S. Guide to Marketing to Leading Edge Boomers and Seniors, point out four mistakes that companies should avoid. I think this lesson can be applied to dealing with your employee populations. It is not just to your older workers but to all the generations you have in your workforce.
Lesson #1- Don’t disrespect their heroes
We each have our “heroes” that we look up to, listen to, follow, read or whatever. If we find that someone is “bad-mouthing” our heroes generally we take a dim view of that individual. Bad-mouthing a talk show host, or a TV show, or a politician, or a singer or whatever will start to build a barrier between you and the employee. You don’t have to like their “hero”, after all you are entitled to yours, but at the same time you don’t need to demean who they like.
Lesson #2- Don’t assume you know their beliefs
Kennedy and Kessler actually listed this as “disagreeing with their predetermined beliefs” but quickly pointed out the fallacy in assuming you know someone’s beliefs based upon the generational/cultural/gender category you believe they belong to. My two children, while only three years apart in age and considered to be in the same “generation” have vastly different beliefs in a number of areas. If they happened to work for the same company their employer would be making a major mistake in assuming they had similar wants, desires and beliefs.
Lesson #3- Don’t bother to learn something about their frame of reference
Kennedy and Kessler phrased this as “Oops, You missed it by that much.” Since they were talking about baby boomers they used a phrase from the show Get Smart, where spy Maxwell Smart always used that phrase. The two authors used this to point out that in marketing you need to have some idea of the frame of reference of your target market. It is just as important for HR to understand the various culture reference points for the employee groups they have under their roof. It will help to make communication easier and give you points on which you can craft a message to employees. Touch points or points of reference for each generation in your workforce should be studied and understood by HR.
Lesson #4- I don’t get No Respect
This is a line from Rodney Dangerfield that will resonate with baby boomers. Millennials may have no idea who Rodney was, but they too don’t like it is they don’t get “no respect.” Respect is a basic human condition that many people feel should be given until proven otherwise. Others feel it should not be given until earned. I am in the former school. I was reared to respect people, their feelings and their property until they proved to me they were not worthy of it. If you took the time and effort to hire someone to work for you then you should afford them the respect they deserve. If you feel they don’t deserve it then don’t hire them. Respect is a condition that all good HR people should be aware of on a consistent basis. If you are not then you are asking for trouble. People don’t always use the word “respect.” They use words like harassment, discrimination, or bullying to express a lack of respect exhibited toward them and those words are expensive in time, effort and money.
So heed these four lessons from our marketing brethren and start seeing the employee group as a customer group and figure out how you can avoid disconnecting with them and ultimately driving them away.