Philip Kotler once said, “Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customer become better off. The marketer’s watchwords are quality, service, and value.”
In the above statement, replace Marketing & marketer with HRM and customer with the employee. Read again.
Of all the management functions, I reckon Marketing is a sibling of Human Resources Management (HRM) and in my firm opinion, the seven Ps of Marketing are equally relevant for and applicable to HRM. A company needs to attract profitable customers to achieve decent sales numbers, but getting good talent interested in your company is also critical to success. The common thread between the Marketing and HRM functions is "the need for influencing, attracting, delighting and retaining". We are talking about consumers in the case of Marketing and employees, existing and prospective, in the case of HRM.
Let us try to unfold each P with reference to HRM.
What does HRM make? Policies, norms, systems, processes, guidelines, values, informational services, development programs, events, work climate, etc. The key elements of all these are customization, portability (self-service or counter-service), ease of use, employee friendliness quotient, need-focus, relevance, etc. The design of policies, programs, events, etc. ought to be in line with the company's HR ideology and employee (the end user) demographics, etc. Further, it is vital to obtain feedback from employees on their experiences with these products. This helps in gauging their acceptability and effectiveness. If products do not address employees’ requirements and aspirations, they require either alteration/overhaul or withdrawal. Employer branding campaigns for enticing talent are an important product that calls for appropriate design and pilot before roll-out across the (employment) markets.
This refers to techniques that HRM employs for communicating and connecting with employees for different purposes. Akin to Marketing, here also the aim is to educate employees and create/reinforce the company’s brand. For an effective promotion, HRM must design the message and deploy the most suitable channel. For instance, an invite for a mass training event would be different compared to an invite for training to a management leader. Another case could be a new HR policy on a subject like Prevention of Sexual Harassment. Transmission of such a policy requires a mini-workshop format where communication can be more personal. Some companies have experimented successfully with ‘Mela’ format for policy awareness. Leading IT firms regularly carry out promotional activities for students from their 3rd year onwards (esp. Engineering courses) on reputed campuses.
Warren Buffet has aptly said, 'Price is what you pay. Value is what you get'. So for all the hard work the employees put in, they must clearly perceive that they are being 'valued' and ‘rewarded’ by the company fairly and justly, right through the different stages of employment. Employees experience this P in tangible and intangible forms. It is of utmost necessity to make sure that employees get information on this critical P as and when required. The key to the success of this P is speed or even spontaneity. If employees are not adequately clear about this P, it could make them more disengaged without any other stimulus. Whether in Marketing or HRM, Price is always a hygiene factor.
Now is the time for ‘doorstep’ and ‘on-demand’ service delivery concepts in HRM. It is about ensuring that employees get essential services and information when and where they need them. Gone are the days when employees would come to HRM for their requirements. Today, it is about a tailored approach and deployment of pertinent IT tools including (customized) social media, for delivering quality services to employees at a faster pace. HRM must ensure that all its services and the latest information are available virtually online. HRM must transition from an ‘administrative’ orientation to an ‘enabling’ orientation by making maximum use of IT tools. Outsourcing service delivery to reliable partners like greytHR is a rapidly emerging trend.
Here, ‘People’ refers to the members of the HRM team as well as employees. The HRM team is responsible for providing services and information to the employees. These team members, apart from possessing sound domain knowledge, must have adequate expertise in designing and delivering HR services, must be creative and good at interpersonal skills. Employees are the final ‘consumer’ of HR services and therefore deserve full attention right from the planning to the delivery stages of HR products and services. Many services tend to be produced and consumed at the same moment and that makes employees ‘prosumers’. The future success of HRM will greatly depend on this collaborative aspect.
This refers to the means of providing services to and obtaining feedback from employees. The most employee-friendly HR policy or program would not serve its purpose if delivered ineffectively. Interpersonal skills, rapport building, empathy, listening and the humility of the HRM team are critical aspects here apart from technology. Hitches in availing of HR services affect the employees’ perceptions of HRM and in turn of the organization. ‘Process’ in HRM is where many companies have faltered, especially while carrying out mid- to large-scale interventions. In a way, this P is comparable to the last-mile connectivity in mobile telephony.
- Physical evidence
As the idiom goes, “Seeing is believing.” Employees ought to see (tangible dimension) or experience (intangible dimension) products and services of HRM in order to believe in them. This, in turn, influences the perceived quality of HRM. So, what does this denote? It denotes ‘Walk the Talk’. When employees witness that HRM is delivering reliably and verifiably on their promises, implied or expressed, they invariably turn brand ambassadors
All Ps are manageable and have profound implications on HRM’s effectiveness. HRM must remember that employees with legitimate dissatisfaction are no different from disgruntled customers, who can adversely influence the company’s image. In other words, satisfied/ delighted employees are an equivalent of satisfied/ delighted customers. Attracting prospects, engaging current employees emotionally and psychologically and retaining them are tough tasks and a slip-up on any of these 7 Ps can jeopardize HRM’s efforts. In a nutshell, HRM must customize, continuously monitor and re-calibrate these Ps depending on the company’s business requirements and its human-force (can’t we replace the word workforce with this one?)
This blog is written by Ketan T. Bhatt. He is a management graduate (IRMA-92), and over 20 years, has gained inclusive experience and expertise in HR and OD domains. Since February 2014, KT is an independent HR professional.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org