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Emerging HR Challenges in 2017 Part Three: Employees as Consumers

Of the many challenges facing human resources in 2017, there is no doubt that some are more pressing than others. This is the third in our series taking a look at what many consider to be the ‘top five’ for 2017Employees as Consumers

Ask some HR managers and recruiters and they’ll tell you that they are starting to feel more like they should be working with their colleagues down the hall in the marketing department. This is because increasingly employees – and potential employees – are being seen more like consumers in an effort to gain, and retain, the very best possible talent in an increasingly competitive market for that precious commodity.

Just like in marketing, this newer concept involves creating an employee value proposition that meets the needs and wants of the employee (the consumer) but is also well aligned with the strategies and long term goals of the employer (or ‘seller’) Though it’s not quite a sale in terms of an actual final conscious decision to buy (as in join and or stay with) a company this sale is supposed to manifest itself in other ways; in the form of lower employee acquisition costs, lowered attrition and increased productivity.

The big challenge for companies and their HR people is, in 2017, finding ways to give these consumers – their employees – what they want (within reason) and yet still make sure that the company is  getting sufficient ROI on those efforts in terms of employee value and productivity.

The Current State of Consumer Employee Engagement

Many companies across the globe, large and small, have already made great strides in this area. When it comes to recruitment many now harness the potential ‘marketing power’ of social media outlets LinkedIn, Twitter and even, to a smaller, but growing degree, Facebook. By doing this they reaching out to potential employees in a similar way that their favorite brands do, a tactic that can be especially successful when seeking to reach Millennials and Generation Z’ers.

Once the talent has been hired – or the sale been made if you like – some companies are trying to ensure employee loyalty via things like flexible work days or the opportunity to complete at least some work remotely from home. Some are even offering perks like free gym memberships and free lunches. But as there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution the personalization of these perks is a challenge that most HR people are still trying to figure out in 2017.

Looking to Netflix for Inspiration?

One interesting suggestion being put forward in some circles is that HR leaders may be able to take a look at the way some retail or service companies engage with their customers and use their methods for inspiration. Take Netflix for example. As soon as a customer signs up they are asked a series of questions and from those answers Netflix offers movie recommendations. As he consumer watched more movies those recommendations change, and according to many, improve, leading to hours and hours or consumer engagement with the platform and a strong customer loyalty that sees thousands paying for their monthly subscriptions every day.

The idea is that an app, or software, or even just an algorithm, could be created that works in a similar way for HR managers to make use of. One that could recommend the right benefits and perks to offer based on a potential employees lifestyle and interests. Or the right training courses and development programmes based on their core skills. It’s an interesting idea to think about going forward at least, and may even be the blueprint for finally making the idea of marketing to employees to benefit the company truly successful.