Why Marketing Should Own Culture and Employee Engagement

Michael Brenner on Jul 24, 2018 in Content Marketing

No department understands the idea of change like marketing does. Forced to adopt new technology, upskill like crazy, reshuffle positions and create new roles to manage content marketing, social media marketing, and marketing analytics, marketing has already gone through the ring of fire. I challenge you to find a single CMO or marketing manager who doesn’t recognize the dire need for culture change and increasing employee engagement.

We get it. What a lot of marketing professionals don’t understand, however, is why the C-suite doesn’t.

Blame it on a half-baked approach – Cesare Mainards of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Paul Leinwand of PwC explain that executive management focuses on reacting to problems rather than creating change. “In these reactive responses, the company leaders avoid the difficult work of developing a better strategy and making the fundamental changes that are needed to build real competitive advantage.”

Or, blame it on millennials. Culture change has become linked with making a few changes to attract millennials – more flexible work hours, unlimited vacation time, gym perks. Which has totally watered down what culture change actually is. Letting people come to work in jeans and a t-shirt and showing up at 9 is a pretty narrow-minded view of culture change and employee activation.

The C-suite is thinking too short-term or too small. Which is where marketing comes in. We think big for a living. Culture change isn’t bean bags. It’s overhauling internal communications, creating mentorship programs, offering better training for new technology, launching platforms for employee advocacy, giving employees a voice in the brand conversation. It’s empowerment and support. It’s bringing the best out of each employee, which in turn, brings the best out of the brand.

Whatever you want to blame it on, the fact remains, two out of three change management initiatives fail.

Which isn’t just a hiccup in business. It’s serious wasted resources, wasted time, and the type of frustration that has led to what Hubspot’s Katie Burke calls a “can’t do attitude” when it comes to culture.

This is exactly why culture should be in the hands of someone who understands its significance. Marketing professionals understand the urgency, importance, and the complexity of what’s involved. They also have the most to gain – the benefits of an activated workforce support the goals of marketing seamlessly. And, getting people energized and motivated about the brand – ahem – that’s what marketers do. Translating the practice from motivating and empowering customers to stakeholders isn’t a big leap.

Why Is Culture So Important Right Now?

Cultivating the right organizational culture and engaging employees is going to go down as the 21stcentury’s greatest business challenge. In the wake of the digital era – when the name of the game was to adopt newer technology and move business processes to the digital world – we’re doing an about-face. Now that we have a tech-driven business landscape, we’re realizing that the real value comes from a tech-driven business landscape driven by human ingenuity.

It’s not that we’re looking at man vs. machine. It’s that businesses need skilled, creative, visionary, and meticulous human brains to operate and create innovative and effective ways to man the ship in this new landscape.

Prometheus just brought us the next generation of fire. We need a new approach to work in order to leverage it.

We also are dealing with a culture shift. Not just from millennials, who do truly want aligned valuesand to have purpose in their job, but society, in general, has changed. It’s a plugged-in world. We’re more connected, have easier access to information, and are more in tune to what’s going on in business and government. There are fewer walls, less mystique. As a result, from customers to employees, we all expect more.

Businesses need to catch up to these changing trends, both in messaging – how the brand is marketed – and internally – who the brand is. But, culture change continues to be a challenge for most organizations. We are still working with abysmal employee engagement rates – 70 percent of the American workforce isn’t engaged.

Which means the potential benefits of an empowered organizational culture are blowing out the window of 70 percent of businesses.

The Shared Goals of an Engaged Culture and Marketing

Here’s the thing. Those potential benefits are the same goals on any marketing department’s agenda.

Attracting top talent

This has been a huge priority for marketing managers as there are so many new skills and roles to hire for or to upskill your current employees for. We’ve already been focusing on bringing on top talent in order to fill the data science and tech skills roles and to cope with the changes to marketing from an ad-based form of demand generation to inbound. And a huge chunk of that recruitment effort by marketing has focused on culture change.

Boosted brilliance

Marketing could be described as the crossroads of creativity and business. It is the application of strategy and new ideas to achieve business goals. Which is why marketing managers are always adopting ways to squeeze out that creative and strategic brilliance. Just look at the agile movement in marketing today. This is the same reason organizations launch employee engagement programs – for the improved idea sharing, faster innovation, and higher rates of productivity.

More authentic brand identity

Building brand trust and authority with customers is always one of the top content marketing goals. Culture change has the same aim, just with a focus on employees. The win-win comes from the fact that when your employees are engaged with your brand, they themselves help to build your brand, making your company more appealing to your market. When you evolve your organizational culture, you create an empowering, meaningful environment:

  • You can more easily recruit top talent because potential candidates are attracted to more meaningful brands
  • Those talented hires become your internal experts, inspired by your leadership and culture, which helps to build your brand’s authority
  • Your customers trust your brand more because your employees are part of the conversation

Employee advocacy

A lot of marketers are catching on to the importance of employee advocacy for marketing. This is also one of the benefits of a culture change. With the right culture, employees are both naturally inspired and well-supported to share content, create content, and become industry thought leaders – which furthers the reach of your marketing and puts employees in a greater position of value within the company.

Why Marketing Leaders Are Primed for the Culture Shift

Marketing should own culture and employee engagement not just because they have the most to gain but also because engaging employees is so similar to engaging customers.

Marketing professionals already know how critical authenticity is. They know how to create strategies that will draw people in and keep them engaged. They also know how to deliver the right messaging with content in order to both engage externally for recruitment purposes and internally for employee activation. Even better, they know how to measure the results.

Burke sums it up well with Hubspot’s motto: “Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.”

Marketers are motivators. Why look outside of the company or try to find solutions within management on how to activate employees and evolve the company culture when this is the marketing department’s bread and butter?

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 3 comments
  • Sarah McIntyre

    This makes so much sense, but marketers already have a lot on their plates! 🙂 How are they going to fit this in as well.

  • Mark Stephen Ware

    Great piece by @MichaelBrenner @MarketingInsiderGroup. An organization’s marketing ought to, at the least, be in tight partnership with HR and the C-suite to strongly influence culture. As goes the culture, so too goes the go-to-market execution. One cannot have a successful market engagement, build brand and grow revenue w/o the full and enthusiastic support of the cast & crew. Just won’t work. /MSW #InvestInMarketing #MarketingIsSalesEnablement

    • Michael Brenner

      Absolutely, you definitely seem to have insight into the fact that employees and work culture have to be incorporated into any branding strategy. The company is where your brand identity begins! Thanks for sharing.