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Internal marketing – not just external – key to weathering the ‘great resignation’

Why are employees of all ages, industries and geographies quitting their jobs in droves? / Albany Capture via Unsplash

We are, some say, in the midst of a ‘great resignation,’ with employers worldwide losing staff and struggling to replace them. That makes internal marketing more important than ever, says agency Strawberryfrog’s head of movement inside Liza Haffenberg.

We often equate ‘marketing’ with external efforts directed at a brand’s customers. But this shortsighted association overlooks the power of marketing to one of the company’s most critical audiences: its employees.

For too long, internal marketing has been given little attention, if any at all. It was treated as an afterthought rather than a core component of a holistic marketing strategy that, when executed properly, could be the determining factor between those brands and companies that flourish and those that falter.

Taking a people-first approach is key. The pandemic was a major culture disruptor, upending the way we do business – both in terms of how we communicate and connect with consumers, but also with each other as colleagues. It put into perspective just how important the humanization of our workforce is. And it uncovered gaps, as many organizations appeared to be out of touch with the drivers of satisfaction for their people. Gone are the days when employers can placate disgruntled employees with a higher paycheck. People want to experience a sense of belonging, a connection to the work that they’re doing and a higher purpose.

The ‘great resignation’

A recent survey conducted by Prudential found that one in four workers plan to look for a new job after the pandemic. And a poll from Monster found that 95% of workers are at least contemplating a job change. As employees of all ages, industries and geographies quit their jobs in droves, it’s worth understanding what motivates them to want to stay; what inspires them to work harder; and what encourages them to want to connect and commit to their organization.

Many of these questions and more can be addressed by applying marketing and consumer thinking within an organization. Traditionally, brands prioritized marketing dollars to optimize the customer experience. But we’re starting to experience a cultural shift toward companies seeing real value in optimizing the employee experience – and finding that better business outcomes often follow. Not only do employees deserve this, consumers are demanding it. According to a recent report, 49% of consumers are prioritizing brands based on how they take care of their workers.

A new type of marketing

More and more, we’re seeing the power of purpose in driving consumers’ purchasing decisions, which has changed how organizations think about their external branding and marketing efforts. Why not apply that same thinking inside a company’s walls as well?

It’s high time organizations put as much – if not more – effort and investment into the employee experience as they do into the customer experience. After all, employees are the ones charged with delivering the customer experience. Critical to this is developing a talent journey that stretches across the lifespan of moments that matter throughout one’s career, both professionally and personally, from onboarding to retirement. Great organizations lead by example, borrowing inspiration from customer-centric marketing to create an internal culture grounded in trust, respect, appreciation and opportunities for connection. After all, it’s impossible to deliver a great customer experience unless the employee experience mirrors that.

Activating people through purpose

Organizations must treat employees as valued stakeholders deserving of the same caliber of attention, resources and strategic thought traditionally allocated to external stakeholders. They must foster an environment built on connection, collaboration, open dialogue and trust. And they must implement a new type of internal marketing – one that conveys what their mission is, articulates their brand purpose and reinforces the role each individual plays in helping the company achieve success.

Fostering a dedicated effort around employee engagement can have a halo effect, with positive ramifications across many facets of an organization – from recruitment and retention to brand trust and all the way down to the bottom line. Employees who believe in the brand and understand the company’s vision and goals and the opportunities they have to contribute to the bigger picture are often intrinsically armed with the resources they need to provide value to potential customers. By leveraging marketing and consumer insights, you can really help your employees become much more motivated, excited and eager to make a positive impact through their work.

Marketing within to make it last

Adaptability has replaced stability as the core strategic imperative. In order to survive, we must approach complex business decisions with an openness to new ways of thought. After all, the best leaders are willing to rewrite the norm, embrace new expectations and accept unfamiliar challenges. And the best marketers are those willing to flex their agility muscles, listen to what’s going on in culture and among consumers, and find new ways to connect with people – both inside and outside their organization.

We must view employees as consumers before they’re employees; and remember that, before all else, they’re humans. Only then can we gain a deeper understanding of what moves and inspires them. By simply leveraging the same consumer insights and marketing principles we’ve long applied externally internally, we can completely reinvent employee engagement and communications. Applying a consumer marketing lens to your internal marketing efforts can translate to employees who are more motivated and loyal, and some of your most powerful brand advocates – positively impacting your bottom line.

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