It occurred to me today that maybe internally facing groups at many companies – like HR – need to follow more of an outbound marketing model to develop and market their ‘offerings’ to employees and that perhaps if they did so ‘employee satisfaction’ scores could rise dramatically.
Here’s what I mean. It’s well known that my employer has some, er, challenges when it comes to employee sat scores. It’s not that everyone is miserable and ready to bail – I know quite a few folks who LOVE working here and are happy as clams whatever that means – but it’s well known that the ‘one size fits all’ model of the typical large company doesn’t really fit anyone well and you ultimately wind up with a ton of folks wandering the halls with stuff that fits them ‘well enough’ – sort of like any garment purchased from Old Navy. It’s cheap, it covers your body, but it’s never going to fit like a high-quality designer garment. Please note that as I write this at least 50% of the clothing parts I’m wearing RIGHT NOW are, in fact, purchased from Old Navy.
But I digress. What I’m trying to get to is that in marketing often we develop ‘personas’ that represent certain sets of customer needs, attitudes, and behaviors which we then use to develop feature sets and marketing materials for. The premise is that one size doesn’t fit all but that marketing to each unique individual isn’t realistic so finding commonalities and developing offers and marketing to some of those groups of commonalities comes closer to making and selling things that fit people ‘better’ than one-size fits all. Make sense? Let’s say that within my target market for my software offering I develop a persona for a ‘remote information worker’– I’ll call this persona Betty. Betty works remotely from her home in a as a marketing manager for a technology company and talks on the telephone for over 3 hours a day. Based on Betty’s remote work status I might feature remote access to files and easy integration with her telephone as key features of the software product I sell to her. I also want my product to be purchased by people who work in financial services – a persona I’ll call Stewart. Stewart is always connected regardless of where he is – on the beach – in the office hallways or in his office. Stewart’s very job performance relies on this software product delivering him the most up to date information available FASTFASTFAST and securely as he’s governed by federal regulations set out by the SEC. This is a gross oversimplification and missing many variables but what I’m trying t get to is that I would market my software very differently to Stewart and Betty – in fact – I may change the offering completely for Betty & Stewart. Betty’s all about remote access and Stewart needs SPEED and security otherwise he could wind up in jail. So I might just feature different aspects of my product in my marketing to Betty vs Stewart or, depending on the business opportunity, I might offer Betty a remote portal on top of my software product and Stewart an encryption or other security offering.
So now that I’ve set that up what we understand is that folks have different needs, desires, and what I’ll call ‘drivers’. It’s no different for people making business transactions or people being ‘employees’ – many of us have different drivers making one-size-fits-all benefits and performance review programs fit no one. Some employees are working to support their families and the most important driver for them is great health insurance, others are just starting out and want some cash in the bank so they can build wealth, while others might be later in their careers with grown or no families and really value flexibility in their work lives. Companies today tend to offer a standard package of benefits that they pay for whether you are a single person or have 5 children. Clearly those two things cost the company different amounts of money _and_ I would argue that often those two employees value very different things in a potential employer. In marketing we develop ‘personas’ to reach target audiences with a relevant offer in a scalable fashion. Why not at least go so far as to develop a similar program for your company benefits? Then employees can choose between health coverage for 7 family members OR a higher contribution to their 401k by the company OR a full month of vacation a year AND then as employees migrate through different personas as their careers & lives change they can migrate to different ‘benefits packages’. At this level it’s clearly more about creating the unique offer than marketing the product – and maybe it’s just me but I think it’d be mega fun to start at a company and choose the “Robin” package with extra 401k cash then change over to “Sarah” with killer health coverage and discounted day care for my 3 children and then migrate on to “Winnie” when my children have left the nest and I still want to work but would really also like to have a bit of flex time to go back to school and earn my PhD or travel extensively. I certainly think that employees would be more satisfied with these semi-custom offerings and I also suspect that perhaps companies could find some cost savings. I'm not suggesting going to a full a-la-carte offering as I'm not sure that's scalable but some semi-custom groupings could add a ton of choice and come closer to offering what individuals value and ultimately getting what you value is what satisfaction is all about - right?
Maybe your company already has something like this? Give me a shout if so – I’d love to hear about it.