Managing Talent: Why You Should Treat it Like a Marketing Portfolio

How defined is your brand?

“I have always believed that great brands are built on improving the lives of the people they serve; I wanted to prove that maximum profit and high ideals aren’t incompatible but, in fact, inseparable,” said Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Proctor & Gamble and author of GROW.

While reading a recent issue of Advertising Age, I came across an interesting article about branding — not from a qualitative state but from an analytical and quantitative approach. The article was based on work done by Stengel (along with Millward Brown) identifying the 50 fastest growing brands in terms of value and consumer preference.

They designed an analytical, rigorous method that tested corporate ideals as the core of an organization’s success. Their findings were called the Stengel 50 — brands that built the deepest relationships with customers and achieved the greatest financial growth from 2001-2011.

Superior growth for businesses built on ideals

“We define ideal as the higher-order benefit a brand or a business gives to the world,” said Stengel. “Some companies are very explicit about their ideals, like Zappos – their ideal of delivering happiness is on their boxes, all over their offices, even on t-shirts employees wear. Other brands, like Louis Vuitton, are more implicit about it. But all their actions – throughout their products, stores and communications – amplify their ideal to luxuriously accentuate the journey of life.”

I have always admired marketing professionals and how they have almost seamlessly transitioned from a communications endeavor to research-based methodology to provide strategic value that can make their organization more successful over time.

After reading more about the study, what I realized was that this study demonstrated how brand ideals aren’t simply about altruism. Those who centered their businesses on ideals had a growth rate triple that of competitors in their categories.

Human Resources disguised as Marketing

Marketing has a way of slicing and dicing customers in such a way that shows a profound analytical understanding of their customers. The successful companies leave no stone unturned in taking that information and building an airtight relationship that is constantly being monitored.

I think that Human Resources can learn a lot from the ways of the marketing industry. The relationship between organization and their employees must be strengthened, now more so than ever.

If organizations would spend time and resources getting to know their employees as well as they know their customers, there would be no hand ringing in trying to come up with solutions based on qualitative findings. But finding an engagement score and turning that into a successful intervention will take a further look.

So many of HR metrics are “after the fact,” where the numbers represent what has happened. I have often thought of what behaviors or drivers caused the actual number. What is the reason behind the number? Is it the organizational structure that dictates or drives a major component? Is the leadership culture at the front of the equation? Is the culture too rigid or faceless?

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Pulling the curtain back on the numbers could yield a treasure trove of information. This finding allows us to frame a narrative and tell a credible story.

Managing talent and organization as a portfolio

Thoroughly understanding the talent within the confines of an organization would allow us to manage it as if it is a portfolio: high potentials, high performing, executive leadership, critical skills. There are special needs for all.

Managing this involves deciding what resources to include in the portfolio based on the goals of the business and the ever-changing economic conditions. This approach allows for maximum return on limited resources

Our field of endeavor is going through so much change that we must try much as we can to look into every nook and cranny to stay abreast of new techniques. But in a lot of cases, we do not need to necessarily reinvent the wheel. The methodology is out there, and what better way is there to examine than the relationship between your organization and its customers and use what you do there to better manage your talent?

The model is there, and with a little tweaking, we  can raise it to another level.

Hear Ron Thomas as he leads the first-ever TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX this coming Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


2 Comments on “Managing Talent: Why You Should Treat it Like a Marketing Portfolio

  1. This article provides a lot of insight into how our organizations already have the tools they need. I am particularly drawn to the last two paragraphs which draw parallels between the expert job of identifying of verticals that happens in marketing, and the need to do so in HR. I also agree that HR is reactionary and that this is an interesting solution to the problem.

  2. Great post. I do think the challenge for organisations is knowing how to measure what they slice and dice when it comes to their people. If you are clear about the benchmark and can measure performance it is fairly easy (hence quantitative data can tell you a lot). When it comes to people and behaviour it gets very hazy and inconsistent hence the tools may be there, but the ability to measure accurately remains a problem. It’s been done well by some, but mind a boggling challenge for others.

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