HR Roundtable: Should HR Be Selling and Marketing, Too?

Chip Ramsey, who works in sales for Everstaff, filled in this month for Steve. 

With such a great crowd, a great topic and a great discussion, it was actually quite easy to step into Steve’s role and fill his very large shoes, literally, and fill-in as facilitator.

At the July Cincinnati HR Roundtable, we discussed the role of HR when it comes to sales and marketing.

  • Should HR be selling and marketing as much as the next employee?
  • Should everyone in the company be “tasked” with selling and marketing?
  • Is there an opportunity for everyone to sell?
  • Why are we so scared to sell?
  • And, why are we so intimidated to sell?

As the discussion got underway, it was awesome to hear the “dynamic” between the HR professionals in the room and those in sales roles.

Is it HR’s responsibility to sell and market its company?

Of course the obvious answer to this was yes, but the group got into the “how and why” of it!

  • Candidates are the first to meet HR. The HR department is at the “forefront” of the company and will typically meet every candidate coming through the door. They should be doing a great job selling the company … even if that individual is hired or not. Any candidate even considered for employment will spread both “good and bad” about a company and how they were treated.
  • HR is an ambassador. Are you a goodwill ambassador for your company? The HR professional should be spreading great news about the company at all times, all venues and all opportunities.
  • HR should be seen a profit center. HR should be able to talk about how much money they save the company, what types of things they are doing to make the company money and talk about the financial support they give the company to both its employees and everyone externally.
  • Recruiting. HR should constantly be recruiting for all positions. They should be on a mission of good will to bring the top people in at each position. They should be talking about the positive experience they are having internally and what they are doing in the community…and using everything available to them through social media to do so. The question was posed, “can you honestly recommend someone to come work for you company?” Powerful!
  • HR leads the way. HR must have a great training and development infrastructure not only to make employees feel comfortable with the company, but train and develop everyone to talk about the company the right way and give them the tools and knowledge to carry forward the company’s message. Another point was brought up that HR NEEDS to be trained properly to talk about the company as well … by a mentor, senior management, etc.
  • HR must motivate those around them. Take a look at yourself. Are you looked at as the company’s goodwill ambassador? Do others want to be around you? Are you portraying yourself and the company in a positive manner? The answer to these questions was, YOU BETTER BE!!
  • What sets you apart? As with any sales role, during any presentation, talking with a prospective client or making a recommendation to someone, you have to set your company apart and point out what makes them unique. HR has to be able to do the same. Do you know what sets your company apart?
  • Do you understand? HR should know what their company is selling, the goods and services they provide to their market and their industry as a whole. This gives HR a competitive edge in a very large and cutthroat world and should be constantly looking for opportunities for their company to grow.

How can HR show results in this area?

  • Employee surveys. This was the obvious answer and first thrown out. HR needs to get feedback from their employees, at all levels. The surveys, if presented correctly, can capture honest feedback to see where a company is and how the employees feel about their work environment.
  • Lead by example! HR should be “showing the way” for others. By having a working knowledge of their products and their goods/services, and well, knowing all there is to know about the company, HR becomes a resource and leads the way for everyone around them!
  • Employment benchmarks. If you are able to show positive employee retention, low turnover, a constant influx of talented employees and quantifiable results, it’s very easy to sell and market your company, and your employees, and those “outside looking in, will want to work for your company. The consensus in the room is that if you’re exceeding numbers and expectations it’s OK that the HR group is “over” budget and they should be allowed to perform “above and beyond” as long as they are producing positive results.
  • Get promoted. The group threw out the idea that if there is a constant trend of promoting from within, this is a key indicator for personal and company success. This promotion “trend” is an excellent way for HR to sell and market the company.
  • Refer somebody. HR has to look internally at their own employees to see if they are referring their friends, business associates and personal connections for employment at their own company. After all, if the employees are referring good talent, then they’re definitely “selling” the company. Think about your company now; would you refer your best friend to work at your company? If not, there’s work to be done.
  • “Get out of your cage.” We all get stuck at our desks and there’s no way around some of the mundane tasks we have to complete during any given day, week, month or year. But, are you making time to “get out of your cage”? Make sure that you, as an HR professional, are getting away from your desk to meet those in other departments, get to know as many people within the business as possible and work “across the silos” so you don’t force HR into its own silo.
  • Networking. Last, but certainly not least, was the idea of networking. Our fearless leader, Steve, has always said you must get involved. Our fearless substitute, Chip, put a new spin on things: you must get involved but focus on a couple of networking opportunities that are within your own time management “realm.” Pick two or three opportunities that you can manage, truly enjoy attending and would be more than happy to share the information/connections you’ve gathered with those in your HR group.

 What holds us back from doing this?

  • Fear. It’s human nature to make mistakes especially within HR. Heck, it could cost us our jobs. We don’t want to over sell or over market. That might take us away from our HR responsibilities and those in a management role could reprimand us…or worse, terminate our employment. During the discussion the “turtle mentality” came out. Why should I stick my neck out if I could get my head chopped off? Just stay inside my shell, it’s easier to avoid all “situations” that way.
  • “It’s not my job.” Why should HR sell or market? It’s not our job to do that. How many times have we heard that or said that ourselves. Our days become so overburdened with “stuff” that it’s easy to fall back on this “go-to” catchphrase and let someone else do it.
  • You’re not drinking the company Kool-Aid. Sometimes we’re forced to toe the line and sell the company. You’re either with us or against and if you’re against us, you need to be forced out. This is not good. HR should be trained accordingly, feel appreciated, and be positioned as a resource within the company.
  • Lack of engagement. At times, HR seems to be on an island. No one from senior management on down to those at entry level never communicate with HR and feel that HR is only used to be a “watchdog,” or viewed as the company “police.” If we’re not being engaged by our fellow employees, let’s engage them.
  • Lack of belief in the product. How can HR “sell” the company if they don’t believe in the product(s) the company processes and sells? This goes back to any sales role. If you feel the product or service is substandard, you can’t talk highly of the company.
  • HR is forced to be the most connected. We are so desperate to work across all the silos and work well with every group and department at the company. Sometimes this can be too overwhelming especially at the larger companies. Sometimes HR doesn’t want to be put into the “silo that works with all silos.” They just want to be able to have the autonomy to work freely and do what they can.
  • How do we engage the “engager?” We’re supposed to be able to communicate with everyone at the company, but what can we do when it comes to talking those who are on the front lines everyday and talking about the company to our internal and external customers? Working with sales and marketing can be intimidating, but they can be HR’s greatest ally to move the company forward. All we have to do is take the time and make the effort.
  • Lack of integrity. This comment was echoed by many in the group. If there is general lack of integrity, whether it’s senior management, the sales and marketing team or even from those in HR, no one working for the company will support its goals or mission. There is “good and bad” with every position at a company, but it’s HR’s job to look “internal” and help build a strong ethical infrastructure.
  • Recession. This is still going on within many companies. HR is overworked, spread way to thin and taking on too many “other” duties and responsibilities. We don’t have the time even come close to spreading good cheer about our companies.
  • “It’s the little things.” What are you doing in your workplace to make it a better environment for everyone? Do you smile and say hello to your fellow employees? Do you have a positive mental attitude, and have you made the conscious choice to do so? Do you say please? Do you say thank you to other for a job well done? Are you complimentary of others? Yes, we all agreed this is easy to do in theory, but sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on “the little things.” Just put forth a little effort everyday and it will make it really easy to sell and market your company!

That was the perfect way to end the discussion. HR is one of the many faces of a company and many feel that we should be leading the charge. We should know our products, goods and services “inside and out,” so we can continuously recruit good people and grow our companies.

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HR has to concentrate on what’s good about the company so we can consistently bring in great talent and increase employee retention. Get involved in all aspects of your company, get “outside of your cage” and network both internally and externally.

Keep in mind the good things the company is doing and how our fellow employees can help us in our “day to day” and HR will be able to sell anything.

It was truly my pleasure to fill-in for Steve while he was gone and I look forward to seeing everyone again very soon!

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio area with 16 locations and over 1,200 team members. Steve has been an HR professional for more than 30 years in the manufacturing, consumer products, and professional services industries. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an Internet message board for HR pros that reaches 7,800 plus people weekly. Steve joined the SHRM Board of Directors in January 2016. You can contact him at, or on Twitter (@sbrownehr). You can also read more on his personal blog, Everyday People.



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