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From crafting recruitment campaigns to ensuring service excellence, a collaborative relationship with the human resources department can go a long way.

The relationship between human resources and marketing can be contentious: "Who are they to tell HR what to do?" Or indifferent: "What does marketing have to do with HR, anyway?" Or even disastrous: "Who cares if HR just sent out a press kit to 100 news organizations with the wrong logo on it?"

But some hospitals and health systems are finding ways to build a more successful relationship. At Hamilton Health Care System in Dalton, GA, marketing and HR work together on recruitment efforts, internal communications, employee satisfaction, service excellence, and more.

When HR "goes rogue," says Jason Hopkins, director of human resources at Hamilton, it makes the organization look disorganized and undermines the brand image. "It's not a matter of being territorial," he says. "A collaborative effort just seems to make more efficient sense, rather than an adversarial approach."

Keith Jennings, who worked with Hopkins as marketing director at Hamilton before leaving to become the executive director of Taléntum Alliance, a healthcare professional services firm in Kennesaw, GA, says the marketing department appreciates such collaboration, as well. "It helps to have somebody you can trust help you find your organization's stories and tell them."

Dinner and a movie
If marketing and HR are willing to form a new partnership, recruitment efforts are a good place to start. At Hamilton, marketing and HR worked together to produce career fair handouts, create the employee benefits brochure, and design a recruitment Web site and online employment application tool. The idea was to "make sure we were all telling the same story, using the same language, and that the visuals complemented each other," Jennings says.

Beyond the creative aspect, however, there was a more strategic purpose. "Recruiting top-notch talented people should be the No. 1 goal in any organization. Then they're going to be the best marketers you're ever going to have," Jennings says.

Looking inward
Internal marketing efforts are a natural next step. If a Hamilton employee has a problem or is dissatisfied, HR borrows a classic marketing technique. "We do a service recovery, just like we would with one of our patients," Hopkins says. "We want to know what our customers think about us, and our customer is anyone who walks though the doors—especially the employees."

Hamilton's HR and marketing departments also craft internal messages, introduce the Hamilton culture to new employees during orientation, and educate the staff about service excellence. Together, they created a tagline that's become the department's mantra, Hopkins says: "Serving you to service others."

That's the end goal, of course—to better serve internal and external customers. And employee satisfaction has a positive impact on both.

"My argument would be ‘You're only as good as your people.' And so it all boils down to the people you have there and their personalities and how they represent the organization," Jennings says. "The real marketing is what goes home to the dinner table every night and what comes up in church on Sunday."

Gienna Shaw


All in One

At Twin Cities Orthopedics in St. Louis Park, MN, the human resources and marketing directors don't work together—they're the same person: Kim Strandlund O'Neil. The two departments also combined to create a patient experience committee and employee service training.

"As an organization we want to exceed the expectations of each patient and each family member who walks through our doors," says Allan Woodstrom, the practice's marketing coordinator. "We believe that if patients have an excellent experience they will in turn recommend our care to their friends and family members." Marketers are always trying to get new customers, but it's "a waste of money" without a staff that promotes good service, he adds.

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