Human Resources is Marketing: Content Strategy for Recruitment and Retention

As a human resources leader, you’re faced with growing requirements for tools and content to support your employee recruitment, training and ongoing communication needs. And in our experience, HR teams aren’t always equipped to execute on the content creation that your recruitment, training, employee engagement and retention efforts deserve and require. So unless your marketing team colleagues share the same urgency and priority for developing human resources content and tools as you do, it might be time to consider working with a content production partner who is committed to ensuring brand consistency, content quality, audience relevance and channel effectiveness – specifically for you and your HR content needs.

I’ve previously written about the psychology of content and what makes content connect with audiences and lead to their engagement and action. Because audiences are people and employees are people, too, the same rules hold true when we speak of employees as our audience. As a result, we can apply these same best practices of content strategy to our employee recruitment, engagement, training and retention programs as we do for our other content programs, taking into consideration variations in channels, tone and conversion actions and behaviors we intend to achieve.

So how do you get and keep your best employees on board and engaged?

The answer varies, depending on who you ask. But when you look at the available information, several consistent themes emerge.

In the words of the legendary Zig Ziglar, “Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

And according to Andrew Chamberlain, Ph.D, chief economist at Glassdoor and director of research at Glassdoor Economic Research, “While pay can help get new talent in the door, our research shows it’s not likely to keep them there without real investments in workplace culture: making a commitment to positive culture and values, improving the quality of senior management, and creating career pathways that elevate workers through a career arc in the organization.”

Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox, places significant focus on the responsibility of management to drive employee engagement and company success, “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

More simply stated, the things that all or most employees seek include:

  • Clear career path
  • Interesting work
  • Culture/values
  • Recognition
  • Communication
  • Counsel/quality senior management
  • Compensation

While these needs must first be met operationally and through the employment experience, that same experience should also be a focus for the content programs that reinforce your ongoing recruitment, training and retention investments.

To further complicate matters, this audience can span skilled or unskilled hourly workers, entry-level office workers, veteran executives and everything in between. Not everyone wants the same thing or the same dosage of each. How do we meet the needs of this diverse audience that seeks information about your organization? How do we provide content that supports their choice to accept the position, or engage more deeply, and ultimately succeed in the role and grow at your company over time? By creating appropriate content and distributing it through the channels that meet those employees’ needs consistently and effectively. And that takes strategy, skill and persistence.

HR is Marketing. And vice-versa.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us that the process of attracting talented candidates, developing them into high performers and keeping them engaged over time is so similar to a sales and marketing funnel. But it is surprising how many companies’ employer brand efforts are so disconnected from their customer-facing experience.

So let’s dig in further to break it into bite-sized pieces.

Attracting and keeping top talent isn’t just dumb luck or the result of a rockstar recruiter or a well-written job description. Employer brand content is a significant contributor to a candidate’s ability to decide whether to work for you – or your competition. Develop a talent-centered marketing plan – and take into consideration how varying levels of skill and experience will require a variety of styles, formats and channels to accomplish successful audience engagement.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”Stephen R. Covey

How hard are you making your best employees and candidates work to figure out whether your organizational culture and leadership is a match for their personal values and work ethic? Start with an audit of the content that is available to a potential candidate. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What content is available, whether directly on your website, in your social channels, on employer review sites or other third-party sources? And what other content should be available?
  • Is your employee/candidate content optimized for all of the channels where it can be found? For example, do all of your links or shared content appear in the best possible formats, across all potential platforms? It’s surprising how many brands’ LinkedIn content, for example, includes broken links, poorly-sized images (e.g. people’s heads half cut off in the preview window) and untargeted or unoriginal copy and messaging.
  • Is your employer brand content present in channels/locations that are meaningful and accessible to each of the types of candidates you want to attract? Have you appropriately matched your audience demographic, engagement style and channel selection to the production style of your content?
  • Are you telling your best employer brand stories and are you producing it in the most appropriate formats, i.e. are you relying on simply written copy when video or images would make it more effective? Is it boring or outdated? Is it positive and welcoming? Is it authentic and unique to your organization or does it come across as generic and sterile?
  • Does your use of stock imagery and static corporate logos outnumber your use of original photography, fresh video content and people-centric stories?

If your audit reveals gaps in quality, quantity, tone or accessibility, your candidates probably already noticed that or are building conclusions about your organization that may be either incorrect or unnecessarily negative.

Content focus: There is a real and underutilized opportunity for companies to tell stories that demonstrate positive organizational culture in action. For example, show and tell stories of colleagues and leaders actually demonstrating the organizational values. Investing in employee-centered content isn’t just an HR and talent investment; the entire organization can see a lift from genuine culture-centric lore. While the primary audience for these stories may, in fact, be attracting and keeping top talent, there is no doubt that top customers will also see themselves in these stories and be moved to deepen their connection to your organization.

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” — Henry Ford

We feel your pain; keeping up with the ever-changing need for engaging, interesting and impactful employee resources can overwhelm the already full workload of your human resources and talent development teams. Foxtrot is a content strategy and production studio whose mission is to make content creation more accessible and scalable to brands with stories to tell – whether those stories are internally facing or externally facing. Effective storytelling is a crucial part of making your company’s recruitment and retention tools really connect with your new and veteran employees alike.