How the Chief People Officer is the CMO of the Employee Experience

December 7, 2018

PUBLISHED BY Jennifer Trzepacz

SOURCE Wildcat Venture Partners

New people I meet always ask me what I do for a living. When I reply “human resources,” they say something along the lines of, “Oh ….” There’s always that pause.

When I start working with people, they say, “I don’t understand why you are in HR. You can do so much more!”

But the thing is, I already do so much more. As a Chief People Officer (a.k.a. CPO) we handle many C-suite functions–you’d be surprised . . . it is so much more than payroll and benefits . . . as CPOs, we create experiences.

I got into this line of work because I believe everyone has a purpose, can experience an emotional commitment to their work and can tap into their potential through community, camaraderie, and connection. After more than 25 years of experience at brands such as Salesforce, Electronic Arts, Yahoo!, LivingSocial and Rocket Fuel, I was exposed to a variety of industry sectors, business models, talent markets and cultures. My journey also placed me in operational positions outside HR, where I felt the most vulnerable, challenged and inspired to bring those experiences back into leading the HR function.

So what have I learned . ..

In many ways, a customer lifecycle mirrors the employee lifecycle.

It doesn’t matter if it is a tech startup or a large public tech company, the customer lifecycle is fairly similar: create brand awareness, which generates leads, that requires pipeline management, eventually negotiating and signing the deal, then on-boarding, implementation and ongoing account management, resulting in account growth which hopefully delivers strong Net Promoter Score (NPS) and little churn.

As a CPO we are responsible for enabling that exact same lifecycle for our employees and therefore must wear and operate many functional hats. In particular when wearing the “marketing hat” we promote, build, and enhance the overall business, culture and outcomes.  Below are three examples of how the CPO is the CMO of the employee experience.

We shape the brand. Whether through advertising, content marketing, online and offline multichannel distribution, community building and, most importantly, the people — every touchpoint matters. What you say, how you say it, how you package it, when you respond and what emotional connection is created for your audience are essential marketing considerations when building a candidate and employee experience.

When I was at Lithium Technologies, we had a hard time distinguishing ourselves at first. We’d get the typical questions: Are you a battery company? An antidepressant drug? A Nirvana song? (“We love that song!”)

 We began by creating a multichannel advertising push to raise brand awareness. We were everywhere.

 We harnessed the employee base to share their pride and their stories about the company on Glassdoor. We wanted prospective employees to get a glimpse of our culture and happiness factor.

 We encouraged the executives and hiring team to personalize communication to the target candidate pool, which resulted in a higher response rate.

 We were responsive, respectful, thorough and deliberate with our interview experience, revealing key trigger points essential to close the candidate and generate a high acceptance rate.

 As a result, we were able to hire 30 engineers within a 90-day period (with an extremely reasonable cost per hire) and won over candidates that had competing offers at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. That’s a big deal!

We trigger engagement and activation. For years I worked in the digital media business and regularly heard from product, sales or marketing: “We strive to get the right content to the right people at the right time.” I call this relevance.

In a highly connected workplace, we marry words and technology to form experiences for employees. We create communication opportunities including surveys, reviews, advisory groups and individualized information for unique employee audiences to connect to the business objectives, company values, customers and employees. While this all sounds so formal, we can also create a place for those employees who love cat videos.

While at Rocket Fuel, we were launching a new strategy and needed a more effective way to generate awareness, engagement and ultimately belief. We looked at our corporate communications as a marketing campaign, with digital assets, print, video, CEO blog, internal PR, leadership whitepapers and a sequencing plan over time.

 Through this campaign, “Fuelers” became knowledgeable, inquired, and engaged in dialogue around how it personally translated to them and how they would contribute. That year, we saw an 80%+ increase in our new business focus as a result of the organization activating on our agenda.

We create connections.  Marketers are storytellers who connect people to their brands. Similarly, HR connects employees to the company brand as represented through culture, workspace, quality of leadership and management, the caliber of colleagues and the various programs that support an employee’s career and growth.  All of these attributes contribute to stories and sentiment an employee will experience and share with their network, creating pride, loyalty and viral marketing.

When I was at Living Social, we called ourselves the “Living Socialites.” We translated company values of “surprise and delight”, “make strong moves”, “champion good ideas”, “recognize others” and “live hungry” into everyday experiences. From interviewing, on-boarding, goals, performance reviews, rewards and development programs we incorporated the brand essence into the experience to create connection and pride. All this generated strong employee referral activity to assist in our high growth from 500 to 5000 in six months and also got us on The Best Place to Work list. 

So as you can see, like a CMO, a CPO creates an engaged community of people — people who are all working together toward the common goal of making an organization the best it can be.   Not only is it a critical strategic responsibility of the CPO, it is also essential to the business, customers and investors.

Stay tuned for Part 2, “CPO as the Chief Customer Officer”

Connect and learn more about Jennifer Trzepacz, here & here.