The recent Forbes article “HR Executives Need to Think Like the CMO,” by Bertrand Dussert, suggested that HR executives should operate like chief marketing executives. While the article makes a lot of good points, I think this kind of approach is a little ambitious, since HR executives face huge challenges just managing the workforce. It’s true that many HR professionals would like to play a bigger role in their organizations, and in order for that to happen, HR has to become more involved with other areas of business. But most HR professionals are very busy hiring people, managing workforce development, and mitigating risks and legal exposure, and there is hardly time for anything else.

As a human resources professional, I think the idea that HR should be more like marketing presumes that HR professionals today aren’t intelligent enough to think outside of the box and consider new processes and technologies. The truth is, HR is not usually allotted enough man/woman power or resources to truly cover all aspects of the business. No other department is asked to learn every other aspect of the business. For instance, you never hear, “Marketing needs to think like HR.”

There is no doubt that the emergence of social media and the term “branding” has blurred the lines as to who is responsible for communicating and driving an organization’s message and culture. Since social media is a tool for mass communication, some put it under the Public Relations umbrella. Others say social media is Marketing’s responsibility since that department handles all promotional and advertising aspects of the business. But now we are learning that every employee has “brand” responsibilities since social media shines a light on everyone and gives them an audience. Naturally, HR hires and trains all the personnel, so it’s imperative that as a department it understands the company’s brand and culture. As such, HR could stand to get a little more involved in marketing concepts.

However, in order for HR to think like a CMO, organizations need to start treating CHROs more like CMOs. They should be invited to brand strategy meetings, to make sure they understand the target markets and agendas. This would help HR incorporate marketing and branding strategies into its daily processes.

Should HR think more like a CMO? Where does this sort of thinking end? Meaning, should HR think like Finance? Should HR think like Public Relations? How about Information Technology? Or Sales? And why don’t we ask those executives to collaborate more with HR? They need to know why it’s so important to make the right hire, operate with ethics, and focus on service.

If you analyze today’s business model versus that of 10 years ago, it has totally changed, thanks to two things: social media and technology. Social media has forever altered our world by placing marketing, promoting, and sales in the hands of virtually anyone. Customers can use social media to help drive business or to embarrass a company and destroy its brand. Word of mouth has gone digital and it’s lighting fast. The latest developments in technology have also completely changed how we do business. E-commerce is steadily increasing, and apps and mobile devices are enormous game changers in business today.

Do CHROs need to think like CMOs? Hmmm. Although marketing, branding, and culture initiatives should be part of the hiring and training processes, company culture starts with the CEO. He or she must take the time to partner with all C-Suite executives to develop the company’s core values. Then, the executives should champion those values throughout each part of the organization, so that all departments can be on the same page. This way, HR can think like the CEO, and not only the CMO.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: and , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including and . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.


  • Avatar Jane Crowley says:

    I think both HR and Marketing have lots to share with each other because after all they have common aim, don’t they? Everyone in any company should be in one boat to reach one destination – success. Finding the right talent and branding should go hand in hand as they both depend on the company culture.

  • Avatar Will Forrester says:

    HR and Marketing need to be working more closely together to move any organization forward. It perplexes me why most businesses don’t understand the connection while spending money on building brand awareness and at the same time not understanding the importance of employees as representatives of this brand. Seems like there is a huge disconnection.

  • Avatar Ashlie Dawson says:

    I do not understand why we who work in HR departments must change the way we analyze the most important component of a company: the human capital. Human resources should actually be a buffer, a liaison between employees and management, and not a tool for controlling the employees. Why should we do the work of the other departments? We should focus on the people, on the humans that are the employees.

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