Sign up for the Marketer QuickLook Newsletter
SMPS Headquarters
625 North Washington Street
Suite 302 Alexandria, VA 22314-1936
back to top.svgprevious.svgnext.svg
Flip the Script:
Win the Talent War by Treating Employees Like Customers
Win the Talent War by Treating
Employees Like Customers
By Elizabeth Tuico
When developing internal content, try to think about your employees as customers. By applying marketing and brand content strategies to communications written specifically for staff and recruitment, your organization can win the talent war race.
In the last few years, companies faced widespread challenges finding and retaining the right talent. Consequently, many workplaces began to transform into employee-centric organizations. To gain more momentum, leaders should reflect this culture shift in all content, particularly in internal communications. By thinking of employees and potential candidates as customers, you can attract and retain more quality employees.
According to benchmarking data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost per hire came in at nearly $4,700. However, many employers estimate the total cost to hire a new employee can be three to four times the position's salary. (That means that it could cost $225,000 to hire a marketing coordinator at a salary of $75,000 per year.)
One of the best ways to cultivate a thriving workplace culture is by adhering to clear processes and brand aspirations. Below are some examples to make the most of collateral you already may have and suggestions to strengthen your overall messaging to employees.

Keep the Employee Handbook Compliant but Also Brand It

Updating an employee handbook can be exhausting and requires a thorough legal review to maintain compliance and incorporate ever-changing employment policies. But your brand personality can be an integral part of the document.

# 1 Draft policies that reflect company values.

Many employers set a higher standard than what's required by law. This advantage can be reflected in the language used and the policies selected. More employees expect to work for companies with a purpose. If the company doesn’t live up to the values it purports to believe in—for example, if it doesn’t make a concerted effort to hire and promote women and other underrepresented groups — rockstars probably won’t stick around.

# 2 Provide the right tone.

Don’t make your welcome statement a generic exercise. Consider it more than an overview of the history, mission, and values. Put a creative spin on your approach to really showcase your culture by using your brand voice. Set the tone by implementing the same messaging reserved for client introductions and proposals.

# 3 Set realistic expectations.

Just as you would with customers, clearly define what your company expects from employees and what employees can expect from leadership and colleagues.

# 4 Create better onboarding documents.

All the paperwork required at the beginning of a new job can be overwhelming – and unmemorable. Add photos and graphics to org charts and company directories as well as positive messaging that reinforces the power of your unique corporate culture. Even after the inks dries on the offer letter, you can support that the candidate’s decision was the right one.

Deeper Dive into Hubspot’s Culture Code

An excellent example is Hubspot’s Culture Code which was last updated in June 2021. This employee manual is considered revelatory because Hubspot combines culture and product. This public document remains on Hubspot’s website for anyone to read. A developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing, Hubspot was founded in 2006. Today, 180,000 customers in 120 countries use their platforms.
Culture tends to be largely intangible, but Hubspot transformed their culture into their product. They operate with a customer-first mindset that debunks a natural balance and harmony between customers, the company, and employees.
Below are some highlights of Hubspot’s Culture Code:
“This document is part manifesto and part employee handbook. It’s part who we are and part who we aspire to be. When something is still aspirational (not yet true) we’ll own up to it in this deck.”
SFTC: Solve for the Customer.
It’s not an open-door policy. It’s a no door policy.
Culture exists whether it’s intentional or not.
We like learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls.
Customer > Company > Individual
We don’t just build software. We help build careers.
“We’re on the right path as long as we sell to customers that we EXPECT TO DELIGHT. This is the key. Don’t sell to customers we’re not justifiably confident we can delight.”

Navigate Uncertainty

It’s tough out there – in every industry at every level. Therefore, clear communication about transitions and pitfalls prevails as invaluable. Marcomm teams are uniquely positioned to take a leading role in helping their organizations plan for, and respond to, these bumps in the road.
According to Gartner, communications leaders who take the lead and listen to employee feedback spot potential crises before they become critical. This real-time response saves money and valuable time.
Leaders should not only share information in enterprise-wide communications to keep all employees aware of relevant news, but also include how certain organizational decisions were made. This way, employees understand the why behind organizational strategy, which provides transparency and helps the C suite better navigate uncertainty.

Don’t Forget About Wikis

Wikis remain excellent knowledge management tools for documenting personal information, articles, and details pertaining to projects, tasks, and teams. A web-based collaborative platform, wikis enable users to store, create and modify content in an organized manner. In short, it is a web page with an open-editing system.
These documents promote internal information sharing between employees and provide another vehicle to promote your culture. Wikis present another opportunity to produce employee content with a customer’s focus. Wikis aren’t a new technology but still drive a huge internal communication trend for organizations that focus on creativity and shared ownership. This type of content establishes a platform where everyone, from support staff to senior management, can search and locate contributions from around your company.
Microsoft’s insights on wikis include:
Boosting employee productivity and autonomy: Wikis are searchable, making it easy for staff to quickly find the info they need. They won’t waste time digging through emails, files, and chat messages.

Streamlining the onboarding process: A wiki is an extremely effective onboarding tool. Share your company wiki with new hires to get them up to speed quickly on all the resources they need to hit the ground running. Again, expect to gain more traction if you structure the onboarding documents from a customer’s perspective.

Final Takeaways

Winning the talent wars requires a multi-faceted approach. Competitive pay and benefits remain important. Top candidates also look for flexibility, quality leadership, an inspiring vision, and core purpose.
These expectations elevate employee engagement. Internal communications should be holistic and consistent to be successful. Technology makes it easier for marcomm teams to provide clear content to the workforce. Framing these documents with the employee-as-customer mindset creates a culture that can keep up with the rapidly changing workplace.
Elizabeth Tuico owns Rebel Road Creative, a marketing and content writing consultancy, in Washington, DC.
Connect with Elizabeth on