What is your company’s competitive advantage? I’ll venture to say that most CEOs I know would probably answer that question with phrases that include, "customer service," "quality products," "our competent people" or "our strong corporate brand."
But those are tactical end results. The key question then becomes, how are those positive results achieved?
Authors Will Ruch and Pat Nazemetz recently led a Greater Milwaukee Committee discussion by sharing snippets from their book, "HR and Marketing: Power Partners." The book’s tagline reads, "The Competitive Advantage That Will Transform Your Business and Establish a Culture of Performance."
In this age of social media, companies participate in their brands, rather than control them, according Ruch, the chief executive officer of Versant, and Nazemetz, the former chief human resources officer of Xerox Corp. The authors contend that companies that align their internal brands with their human resource policies can gain a competitive advantage.
After all, if your people don’t buy into your brand, how will your customers?
The book has a strong Milwaukee flavor, with chapters featuring insights from ManpowerGroup CEO Jeff Joerres, Kohl’s Corp. executive vice president of human resources Telvin Jeffries and Qualres & Brady LLP chairman John Daniels.
Joerres said in the book that the key to ManpowerGroup’s staffing success is matching the right candidates with the right company, in terms of both skills and culture. Joerres said the pressure to do more with less through the Great Recession has forced employers to realize the true power of human potential.
"With the right people in the right place at the right time, organizations can achieve all they did before, and more. Employers need to ensure that they have the right people practices in place to attract, retain and unleash the inner human potential of the right people to succeed in the Human Age," Joerres said.
Jeffries said the missions of human resources and marketing need to be intertwined. "The head of marketing and the head of HR should meet on a regular basis…They should talk to each other about a diverse array of topics that over time grows in scope," Jeffries said.
"One of our taglines at Kohl’s is, ‘Expect great things.’ When we developed that, our CMO (chief marketing officer) and I spent a lot of time talking about what that means, and especially how it would affect our associates. There was a clear partnership about the messaging and the tools that we would use to roll out the new tagline to our associates."
Daniels said organizations flourish when their people understand and believe in their team’s mission. "When people believe in the organization and commit themselves to its success rather than their own, the chances of accomplishing superior achievements multiply, and then success breeds yet more success, including that which reflects back on each individual," Daniels said.
"And when people feel strongly connected to an organization, they’re proud to talk about it with others, which brings more people together in pursuit of common goals, expanding the effect geometrically."
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.