LIVE from isolved Connect: Creating the Link Between HR and Marketing

Hosted by

Karen Steed

Client Experience Director & Media Producer

Trish Steed

CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

About this episode

LIVE from isolved Connect: Creating the Link Between HR and Marketing

Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Karen Steed

Guest: Lina Tonk, Chief Marketing Officer, isolved

This week, we met with Lina Tonk, live from the isolved Connect Conference in Nashville, TN.

– The link that needs to exist between HR and Marketing

– Importance of cross-functional budget and goals

– Generational differences and their impact on messaging

– How and why to achieve direct communication


Connect with Lina Tonk here

Thank you for joining the show today!  Remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

Transcript follows:

Steve 0:24
Hi everyone, this is Steve Boese. Recently the HR Happy Hour and H3 HR advisors team attended the isolved Connect conference in Nashville, Tennessee. At the event, we sat down with several isolved leaders and isolved customers to talk about some of the most important topics, issues and trends in the world of work, HCM, technology, and more. This episode is a part of that series recorded at the event. And we’re excited to share them with you. Thanks to our friends at isolved, and we hope you enjoy the show.

Trish 0:54
Welcome to the HR Happy Hour! You are here with Trish and Karen Steed. How are you Karen?

Karen Steed 0:59
I’m doing well, how are you?

Trish 1:00
I’m good. I like having you as a co-host. I don’t know if I miss Steve Boese at all?

Karen Steed 1:05
No, not at all.

Trish 1:06
Our guest probably does miss Steve Boese though, not that she doesn’t like you. It’s our current guest. We have Lina Tonk, who is the Senior Vice President of Marketing here at isolved. Lina, welcome to the show.

Lina Tonk 1:18
Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Trish 1:20
Before you tell us a little bit about yourself. Do you miss Steve Boese?

Lina Tonk 1:23
I do, we were talking about Steve last night. So we were saying that we’re getting to know Steve through the podcast. And the more the more we listen to him, the more we want to know about him. And what he’s up to.

Karen Steed 1:39
I love that you’re saying this, he’s gonna hear this.

Trish 1:42
I need to hold back a little more. I’m just throwing it all out there.

Lina Tonk 1:49
Like what’s Steve up to this week? We don’t know maybe first of all, ask him.

Trish 1:55
I love it. Well, Lina, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and isolved.

Lina Tonk 1:59
Yeah. So been with isolved for over a decade, which kind of ages me a little bit but very uncommon for someone to be in my position and be in a company for this long, especially in software, but over a decade, kind of transfer around very different areas within the company, and always exposed to marketing, very passionate about sales and marketing. And senior vice president building a team in the last few years that has grown over 70% worked really, really closely with HR. So knowing that it is the industry that we serve and care about. But also, on our day to day, internally at isolved. We build up pretty strong relationships with our own HR team, I would say that I don’t go I don’t think I go a week without speaking to Amy Mosher about one thing or the other. And we’ve like we have a lot of similarities and how we want to do things and help HR and empower them through marketing. So yeah.

Trish 3:04
So I think that’s really interesting. And that’s really what we wanted to cover in today’s conversation is that link that needs to exist between HR and marketing, if it doesn’t currently, when I think back over my 17-18 year career in HR practitioner, there were definitely the first 10 years no like, well, no link whatsoever. But marketing, wound up doing it only because I worked in a PR firm after that. So then I felt this really strong link did that my next two jobs. But then my last job that I had as a practitioner, I like fought tooth and nail to get our head of marketing to partner with me because he didn’t see the link. So for anyone listening, whether they’re in human resources, or maybe they’re in marketing, can you talk a little bit about why that’s a valuable link to have? Why should we be thinking about?

Lina Tonk 3:48
Yeah, it’s interesting what you said, because we hear that a lot from HR professionals, we’ve been on the road with our roadshowws for three and a half months now. We’re on number 18. And this is a common topic for them. They’re like, it’s great. Why, you know, like, if you do ask them, like, you know, what is your relationship with marketing? It’s great. But once I go back to get marketing to help me, I don’t know how to do that. So that’s where we start getting deep into research. And do does HR really benefit from marketing? And can marketing really benefit from HR? And what we ended up with? So we did run a study where HR actually said, more than half of them say we we need to partner with marketing, but the reason they were saying initially was creative. So I need something from marketing, something creative, something more than what I am able to provide. I think it’s deeper than that, to me is it’s culture.

Lina Tonk 4:51
Marketing is exposing the culture internally and externally. And I think that’s part of the secret sauce because HR is so attached to the employee to the employee experience. And and that leads into a whole new poll who, who owns the employee experience? And the biggest question is whether marketing should own part of that? And I said, Absolutely, absolutely. I think HR will be probably always the driver, because there’s so close to the employee. But I think is as functional, I think Customer Success should have some of that I think it for example, should have a plan that being cross functional and attached to the HR team is what makes them today’s successful, we try it out. We have done out with me for about two years. And she will probably say that the culture has been more vibrant, because I’m more powerful because of our partnership.

Trish 5:56
You know, I love that that vibrancy and power that comes along with that. One of the, I guess, you know, it’s not from a study just more from personal experience was that there was always a little bit of a push back. For me, because I wanted it from a consistency standpoint to something I wanted something for marketing, I just wanted to be a more consistent approach, like you’re saying to culture, both internally and externally. They had a fear of any legal repercussions getting involved in some sort of legal issues. Have you had that come up?

Lina Tonk 6:26
That came up actually, one of my conversations, and whether legal, you know, is kind of stopping things from evolving, and I mean, only one conversation I had where legal was a play, but when we when I look at it from the eyes or perspective, we actually have a partnership with Leo. So from the marketing side, we are very aligned on what how we write externally how we’re going to how we sound and it all comes back to brand. So I think you’ve experienced it a little bit here, the the brand from the inside out, right? So I always say like if we can lead the brand internally as employees, like I think when we go out, and when we’re speaking with journalists or press customers, partners, then we’re gonna break this name brand out, when you look up back in the day, we used to create a brand. If I could do that all over again, we need to create a brand, an external one and an internal bond. Right? And how confusing was that? For HR, you are in charge of internal brand. And then you marketing you’re in charge of external brand, but we don’t talk to each other.

Trish 7:40
There was no, sometimes there was consistency, but it was more unintentional. Yeah. Or just accidental. Yeah. So yeah, it’s a big deal. I think, too. I mean, Karen, I don’t know if you’ve seen this in sort of your career as well. But do you find that it’s like helpful when you’re seeing sort of both sides working together?

Karen Steed 7:58
Oh, definitely. I mean, just really even just being here and kind of seeing it from the customer perspective, and all levels of the executives that we’ve been talking with, like you said, the internal kind of matching the external branding, you can tell that there’s goals that are just aligned. And it it seems like there’s there’s one one way of thinking, so you feel the sense of community, like all across the board. So it really is, it’s sometimes it’s you’re saying, within an organization where you’re, you’re getting more of the just pieces of things, you know, it’s like, you get a little bit from over here and a little bit from over here, but they’re not necessarily have that synergy together. I think it’s more powerful the way that you’re doing it.

Lina Tonk 8:45
It’s easy to say it, I think, like that’s what we were finding, it’s easy to say, Well, I’m gonna go partner with HR and HR confirm that because what we found is that if we don’t have goals attached to each other, because you hit on goals, that’s when you have a hard time to touch on your point on how do I get marketing to help me? Because they just helped me with this. But are they going to be consistently partnering with me? So Well, we did internally, it works really well. And I was just talking to a couple of our customers because they were at the roadshow and they’re here. They’re like, they said, they went back and they set up calls for marketing to and I said, How great is that? They do work? And she goes absolutely, because every month, they report on the goals that are attached to HR. So I think that’s another key element if you within the marketing team, because normally a marketing team will tend to say, Oh, we’re really busy. I can’t help you. I said like that creative thing that we can do for you. But it’s bigger than that is the brand is how we talk how we sound. And now that there’s goals online, so every quarter we report that way. I mean with Amy we go as far as building budget together, and we share some of our budget. So if it’s going to touch him Well, easy fix, Can we touch this? And I say, Well, you take off, I take off. So cross functional budget building and goals, I think it’s critical to make that work.

Trish 10:10
What do you think is the risk for organizations that continue not to have that link?

Lina Tonk 10:18
They are going to get stuck. Because when you look at the future of work, so the way we’ve changed the way we’re all working, the way we collaborate, the way we assess what we’re doing, it’s much more meaningful today. So if you’re not making that connection between HR and marketing, and that message and that brand, and that feeling of belonging from like the employee experience, so how do I feel as an employee? How am I part of this, and if there’s not that connection, HR has to bring a big part of this and marketing will help, like, amplify that, if that connection is not made. I just think if you’re trying to grow, it’s not going to be there. It’s one thing and then you have that confusion of like, the belonging of the employees, we see you know, how they’re jumping from job to job, and how do you retain them. Feeling part off is a major retention driver. So I think they will struggle with retention.

Trish 11:30
I agree with you. I wonder, too, I think, you know, when I think back to my career, when I first started sort of partnering with marketing, internal communications, depending on what you call it in your organization, there was hesitancy on both sides. But it’s such a valuable training resource to so for me were was much more focused at the time as an HR leader around compliance and everything was driven by that. And I wasn’t always the best at maybe creatively, phrasing and wording things in a way that would be attractive. Right. And so I think that when you when you partner with your marketing team, you’re really relying on their expertise and their specific training and whether that’s been through a college degree program or whatever, right, any sort of creative writing they do. And just, it’s a, it brings a different tone, to the employee communications that you put up, because one of the things that I hear all the time still is that, you know, HR puts out a lot of communication throughout the year, from things like benefits, or just mandatory training or things that seem very routine or warnings, or you name it, right legal things. But it all gets lost in email. And I think when you start to partner with marketing, you bring in the creativity in a very different way. Because HR can be not that we’re not creative people, creative people, but I’m just saying like, I think something about HR, right? Sometimes I think in HR, you can get very into the compliance aspect of the role, which is a must. Having the outside perspective from your marketing team, just adding that little bit of flair, if you will to it. Have you seen that here?

Lina Tonk 13:10
Yes, but it’s also I think HR is very direct. And I think that’s what I appreciate about HR so much. Because what they’re trying to say to the employee is like this, this is what I want to tell you run this is what you need to do about it. And employees, their cells, sense of belonging, how they will absorb things like okay, well, how can we creatively, right, transfer that to them? And I think that’s when marketing comes in. So you’re right. Amy Mosher is a very creative, Chief People Officer, she really is. But there’s so many times that we sit together and Amy says this is what we want the message to be. And, like that’s all she needs to say.

Trish 14:06
I mean, like, I’m seriously having like an epiphany, as you’re saying this, like I’m saying like, Yes, I’m very direct, I would have been like employees, here’s what you need to do. This is uh, this is I’m telling you, if you don’t do this, you’re gonna get fired. Like, it’s, you know, I hate to say no, but there’s a lot of times where you do feel like, not everything has to be that dry, right, you have to have a little finesse to it.

Lina Tonk 14:26
But you still have to get the message out there because that’s what Amy would say, at the end of the vague or return to Office message like that, you know, critical so how do we how do we not impact the culture but make it also by our research, but what we talk to you there make it not only attractive to employees, but also, you know, tell them our personal experience while this could be good for them and what that looks like because return to Office is such a big topic for HR leaders right now. They’re all doing it so differently, right? and getting that message out there creatively. It’s so so important. But I do think HR tends to be very direct very matter of fact.

Trish 15:09
True, about a lot like I’ve never in my career thought of it like that. I want to ask a little bit about how do the different generations impact the way that you’re taking the message to the employees or even to a client? Or does it right? I think there’s different schools of thought on that, like, what’s your personal approach to that here?

Lina Tonk 15:38
Oh, my gosh, like the so the, the, you know, so he’s talking about talent, acquisition and retaining employees and knowing that Gen Z has arrived. They want the VP role today, because there’s, but also, I’m leaving similar.

Trish 15:59
Things wouldn’t happen if we just gave it to him?

Lina Tonk 16:01
I don’t know. Very good question. Also, they’re also very good, interesting generation. So you know, once we start looking at the research and what was showing, so every one and a half years, they’re saying they’re bumping from, from company to company, and I’ve had to spend a lot of time with our account managers, which many of them are urgency. And there are such values in them. And there’s a lot of drive inside, I think Gen Z that, you know, they want to rule the world to, they almost remind me from a chart, like they want to be so direct about how they want to rule the world. But then we look at it at a different generation level. And we say, well, wait a second, kind of do the work before you get there, or you got to show results before you get there. So I think for us, when we’re transferring information over to employees, we look at like, what are we looking at? What what is our, we always start at the end within is like, what is the final message? It’s your idea to Oh, my gosh, I was just talking about it at dinner with one of our customers last night. She said my, because she’s like, I went out with my return to Office. And it didn’t go well for her. And she said, so I had to kind of pull it back. And she so I’m like, so how did you do it? You do it Alexa townhall and she’s like, I didn’t do an email. And the final goal was to bring them back slowly. But what they perceived most agency she said they perceived was you are required to be back to work no matter what if not, like find another job.

Trish 17:44
Right. Right. So yeah, they heard there’s often a disconnect in communications. And I think, too, for anyone who might not appreciate the vibrancy and flavor that a marketing team can bring to your message. I think that’s one of the things right, it’s that nuanced, sort of conversational approach. And if you are more direct, I feel like that just changed my whole life. Seriously, I’m still like, but But you’re right, just because something may be true or factual doesn’t mean you have to just blurt it out there. Even in sometimes we do that is is as big as a Gen Xer. Because we’ve been in business a long time and we’re busy. It’s just like, get this message out, right? Just get it out there. And it doesn’t have to be like ripping off a band aid. Right? It just be a little more gentle and numerous.

Lina Tonk 18:36
How are we always thinking? So if we’re looking at our customers, how are we looking at? What do our customers need and want, which is so important to us? But you can’t leave the employee behind components and thinking, Well, why do they need? What are they going to receive on the message? You know, what generation are they? I love the way we did it internally at isolved. Because we actually hold in the center of leadership. And every head of the poor men No, Sir team very, very well. So we got all heads of departments, and we release return to the office through them with them. So they will have conversations that were more that it wasn’t lighted by it. Yeah, communication, blah, blah, blah.

Trish 19:24
Adding to it wasn’t just an email was that combination probably of both written verbal meetings.

Lina Tonk 19:33
Once a week, we have a touch base, hire employees feeling about it, and how are they and even Amy made adjustments to it based on the feedback that we brought back and, you know, there was also actually some surprising feedback that was going on for his we’re like, yeah, we’re so happy.

Trish 19:50
Oh, you’re celebrating the wins that you got when you are communicating a message in a very consistent, compassionate way.

Lina Tonk 20:02
And they feel cared for.

Trish 20:06
Imagine that. Who knew marketing would care for your employees? Who knew that? We’d been here. Lina, thank you so much for joining Karen and I and for sharing some insights, like I said, I’ve learned, I think my conversation, definitely. And that’s a good example of it, right? So, go reach out. If you’re an HR professional, as soon as please go reach out to your marketing team. And vice versa. If you’re in marketing, you’re doing this, please go reach out to your HR person, because I think you really could just as we demonstrated not even intentionally, right in that conversation, you really are approaching maybe communications in a very different way. And you can both benefit.

Lina Tonk 20:44
And build some goals.

Trish 20:47
Where can people find you? I know, we’re going to share obviously, the the link to isolved. But where should they connect with you? On LinkedIn?

Lina Tonk 20:54
Yes that’s the best way. LinkedIn is the best way to connect with me. I’m always on LinkedIn. That’s how I build a lot of my connections. So yeah, I’ll meet them there.

Trish 21:02
All right. Sounds good. Well, Karen, another interesting show. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I’m gonna change a lot of what I’m doing a thing here.

Karen Steed 21:11
Absolutely. That’s where I’m learning a lot about you.

Trish 21:14
It’s like my therapist now, I need to open up. Isn’t that the point that you meet people who have different perspective, and then they helped you sort of grow? Yeah, very far into my career. I can still grow, old dog new tricks. Thank you so much.

Lina Tonk 21:33
Thank you so much.

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