LIna Tonk
Chief Marketing Officer isolved

Lina is a long-tenured employee of the organization. She most recently held the position of Senior Vice President, Marketing, overseeing many growth and revenue marketing teams spanning marketing communications, channel marketing, marketing operations and events, creative services, brand, analyst and public relations, reputation, advocacy and content.

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On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Lina from isolved about rethinking how HR and marketing work together when it comes to recruiting relationships.

Some Conversation Highlights:

So I don’t think I’ve ever worked as close as I do today with HR. It’s interesting what you just said, putting them both together under the same roof. It probably doesn’t work necessarily that way, but what we found out… So we ran some of our surveys and one of the HR leader surveys did show that 65% of HR leaders wanted marketing to be involved in the employee experience, so that was very interesting to me. And this is right before we went on our road shows to be able to be in front of all our customers, live in person. And that was the first thing that I wanted to go dig into. Understand they want marketing involved, but why do they want marketing involved? And there were so many different reasons. The acquisition side of employees was a big one, but also the retention of employees was another one.

So how do I get marketing to help me retain employees today? How do I get marketing to help me attract employees? So one of the things that we did here, so I think you’ve met Amy a couple of times because I think she’s been on with you a few times. And Amy and I talk every single week, every single week, and we actually have common goals. We share our goals within marketing and HR and early in the year, well we’re getting ready to do that again for next year. We build goals that impact us both. So that means her team will have time for some of that, my team will have time for some of that. The reason I mentioned that is because one of the things that was very interesting was customers will tell us that I want marketing to be involved.

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 29 minutes

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Announcer (00:00):

This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one over complicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

 

William Tincup (00:34):

Ladies and gentlemen, this William Tincup and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today we have Lena on from isolved and our discussion today is recruiting relationships, rethinking how HR and marketing work together. A wonderful topic as a reformed, recovering marketer that loves HR and recruiting. I can’t wait to have this discussion. So Lina, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and isolved?

 

Lina Tonk (01:03):

Yeah, hi, thanks so much for having me. Sure. I love hearing your background from the marketing side. That’s exciting. We’ll have to talk more about that. But my name’s Lina Tonk, chief marketing officer for isolved. I’ve been with isolved for, gosh, I’m going to age myself, over a decade, over 15 years with isolved. So it’s been an incredible experience. It enable, employ, empower our workforce through HCM software and we’re thrilled to be in this space and be so known today. It’s been a thrilling growth for the company, especially the last three years.

 

William Tincup (01:44):

Well, and you’ve recently been promoted.

 

Lina Tonk (01:46):

Yes, I have. Yes.

 

William Tincup (01:49):

And I love the brand. People know that because I talk openly. Most of the brands you see in HCM are kind of a gray, blue, very conservative language, very conservative look and feel. And I just like that y’all have done something different with the brand. And so I just love that.

 

Lina Tonk (02:08):

Yeah, I love that you’re saying that. One of the things that we actually concentrated on when we review the brand, it’s going to be almost three years, is we said, “How do we depart the competition?” We all sound, we look the same. And that was one of the things that we looked at and we clearly do, definitely do look the same, but I think we also sound different. But from there we just took it into let’s go feel the customer, let’s go feel how they feel, what they’re about. And we knew the story was going to be completely different. So it was an exciting exercise. But I think you know that the brand exercise works when your customers respond the way they do and the market has responded to us very, very well.

 

William Tincup (02:56):

That’s how you know you hit it, because it’s hard, people don’t understand how hard repositioning and rebranding is, not just from a name logo and color palette and stuff like that, but just there’s so many pitfalls that people could fall into. Just simple things that we’ve always done it this way. We’ve always said these things and people are entrenched and sometimes it’s personal. Like I love the logo and well we’ve had the logo for 20 years. It needs an update, but you’ve navigated these waters masterfully and also the swag, the things that you put in front of your customers and prospects, is also really well done. So just congratulations because-

 

Lina Tonk (03:48):

Thank you. Thank you. We appreciate that. I think the team is passionate about it.

 

William Tincup (03:53):

Well they have to be. And I saw some of that in Nashville, firsthand. They’re passionate about it, which helps, but also it also helps to have a fun brand to be passionate about.

 

Lina Tonk (04:03):

Yes.

 

William Tincup (04:06):

How do you feel… HR and marketing, I think I’ve said this before about having a chief brand officer that kind of manages employees and customers, got some flack on it. Because basically what I was trying to do is pull HR and marketing basically into the same realm, which probably was a bad idea. But anywho, how do you see HR and marketing working together today and how can we make it better?

 

Lina Tonk (04:41):

So I don’t think I’ve ever worked as close as I do today with HR. It’s interesting what you just said, putting them both together under the same roof. It probably doesn’t work necessarily that way, but what we found out… So we ran some of our surveys and one of the HR leader surveys did show that 65% of HR leaders wanted marketing to be involved in the employee experience, so that was very interesting to me. And this is right before we went on our road shows to be able to be in front of all our customers, live in person. And that was the first thing that I wanted to go dig into. Understand they want marketing involved, but why do they want marketing involved? And there were so many different reasons. The acquisition side of employees was a big one, but also the retention of employees was another one.

(05:45)
So how do I get marketing to help me retain employees today? How do I get marketing to help me attract employees? So one of the things that we did here, so I think you’ve met Amy a couple of times because I think she’s been on with you a few times. And Amy and I talk every single week, every single week, and we actually have common goals. We share our goals within marketing and HR and early in the year, well we’re getting ready to do that again for next year. We build goals that impact us both. So that means her team will have time for some of that, my team will have time for some of that. The reason I mentioned that is because one of the things that was very interesting was customers will tell us that I want marketing to be involved.

(06:38)
They’re creative, they have a great way to talk about the brand, they make it vibrant, they make it exciting. But then marketing also tells me they don’t have time. And that’s what I bring it back to the goals and I’m like if marketing has goals attached to HR too, they are more willing to go for it and make sure that as you continue through the year, they’re involved and they’re making a difference for HR leaders. So it was very, very interesting that I don’t think I talked to one customer that said, “No, I don’t want marketing involved.” But the main reasons were very attached to attracting and retaining employees.

 

William Tincup (07:24):

Right. It’s interesting because on one level you’ve got to get the leadership to, if you just take CHRs or chief talent officers and chief marketing officers, you got to get the leadership to say, “Okay, let’s find a way to work together, collaborate, et cetera.” And then it’s the folks that are downstream and on the team to work together. I love how you’ve brought in let’s create a shared goal. I mean some of that could be around retention or recruitment, could be around employer brand where there’s so many things in employer brand that touch both. And so when these two silos or departments don’t talk to each other, there’s a lot of duplication of work, where marketing will create a brand and does, and then recruiting or HR will then feel like they need to create something brand new, rather than using a lot of stuff that’s already been done. So how do you get leadership… Let’s start at the top. How do you get leaders to come together and create those shared goals?

 

Lina Tonk (08:42):

So I have to say here, we started with the leaders. So it was me and Amy came together. So if I take it back, which I’d like that question a lot because now I’m thinking through how would teams get us or convince us to be on board. I think it comes always back to those goals, within marketing, how are those goals that I have for HR going to impact me, marketing. I’m going to be selfish for a moment and think marketing for just a second and then going to HR, same exact scenario, how is marketing going to impact me so that I can go tell my CPO, listen, or whoever’s running HR, is here’s how I see marketing impacting us. I have so many concerns about an employer brand and an outside brand or a customer brand outside. I’ve done it both ways. And if I could do it all over again, when we did it a few times back, I would say that was one of our biggest mistakes years ago is we have an internal brand.

(09:56)
Then you had an external brand. We were talking just about brand right before, we’ve talked about that before. And to me, that’s the power of it. Getting an internal brand that bleeds all the way outside. So your employees become the ones that are pushing for people outside to attract. We talked about HR leaders want us involved because we will help them attract new employees. So they want you to be involved, you want to have a brand that bleeds from the inside out. But when I’m out talking to a customer, I’m talking the same exact way. So when I go back to HR, I did ask them this question a couple months ago, when we were building goals again. And so to this goal, how have we impacted you when it comes to the employer brand, the employee brand? And their answer to me was, “We don’t have to recreate the wheel.” You said it just now on when you were formulating the question is, “Do they have to be the ones redrafting things that are maybe already done?” So they said, it’s just become so simple for us because you’ve given it all almost to us. We’ve worked together on it. And when we’re presenting to an employee, when we’re transferring this internal branding so they’re ready for us. So they welcome that tremendously.

 

William Tincup (11:31):

First of all, I love all that. And there’s another, I mean what’s funny is we’re unpacking, hey we can collaborate. First of all, leaders get together and it’s a mutual respect and mutual admiration. And I think that’s where a lot of this starts is like, “Okay, listen, I’m not going to take your job. You’re not going to take my job.” “Okay, check. Got it. All right. You have an area of expertise, I have an expertise.” “Okay, check. Got it.” But there’s some things that we can co-own and do together that would be beneficial for both of our departments, but also for the company. And you’ve already kind of illustrated, “Hey we can talk about retention. How can we do retention together? How can we do recruiting? How can we do the front side of bringing in new talent, employer brand being an aspect of that.” Another is, at least off the top of my head, another is employee communications.

 

Lina Tonk (12:23):

Yeah.

 

William Tincup (12:23):

Again, yet another thing that marketing’s typically, historically pretty good at, especially writing, communications, PR, pretty good at it, generally speaking, HR, not as skilled in some of those things, maybe didn’t come up through PR, didn’t come up through journalism. So comms as we think of it, is usually split and bifurcated. When employee communications, it looks like another place to collaborate. Am I overthinking that?

 

Lina Tonk (12:58):

No, you’re not at all, actually, you’re absolutely right on. We were just laughing about this at one of our realtors. This is an HR manager. She was so great. She goes, “Listen, when I’m writing a communication, I want the facts.” I want to tell my employees this is what I’m here to tell you and this is what I need you to do. And the feedback that she got from her employees was that everything that they were sending from the HR side was so fact oriented, so direct that it almost felt kind of rude sometimes and very cold. And from the HR perspective, she’s like in my mind, I was like, “Look, I’m being clear, I’m being direct. I’m telling my employees what I need them to do.” So they [inaudible 00:13:46] this is great. And when we took it all out and wrap it all, she said, I identified that I needed a little help.

(13:55)
I needed marketing to come in, I would give them the facts and they would turn them into a little bit of our brand too. What we’re about, what’s our theme? Some companies have themes for the year, what is the company about? And they wrap them up with the brand and you wrap it up on a bow and in our case like the pink and all those things. And she said it was a tremendous difference for her. So what she wanted them to do got done faster. As a matter of fact, thinking of this, I’m like, we got to run a survey on this and count along. Because what she was saying to me is I was having a hard time with them just getting it done as fast as I needed them to do it. But I guess the warm of the brand of what the company’s about came through in that email and they were more willing to respond to what she needed them to do. So I think you’re absolutely right. And in our case from our HR team, they welcome any help when it comes to comms or they run a lot of that bias. They say, here’s what we want to send and we put all our touch of our brand in it. So the employees are always feeling that inside brand. So I would encourage any HR department to lean into their marketing team to do that.

 

William Tincup (15:21):

What about customers? Is there a way to collaborate around customers for HR and for marketing to come together? Because I’m thinking about HR obviously with employees that manage customers, so there’s a frontline kind of part of that. But also, marketing also cares deeply about customers, especially customers that have great stories and things like that. Is there anything now, or do you see anything in the future, where there’s a potential way to collaborate there?

 

Lina Tonk (15:53):

Gosh, this year has been so telling for me with our road shows, I never thought I could be as close as we are today to our customers and the road shows did that for us. One of the things that we’ve been doing is Amy actually just came back from Reno and once in a while she’ll go with us to the road shows and to connect kind of like, because I see Amy, I said to Amy sometimes I’m like, you are my customer, you are my internal customer. And I get a lot of that out of her. And as we were talking to our customers, the ability that we have to transfer that story to them and collaborate with the customer, within our story. But having marketing involved is absolutely crucial. So all our roadshows to our own customers are run by marketing.

(16:47)
Marketing runs all the roadshows with the full goal to just go talk to them, make sure that they’re informed on what we’re doing, on what’s coming next, but more importantly, what we come back with, what are our customers needing? What are their challenges today? What changed from the beginning of the year? And marketing wraps all that up because what that helps me is we react with the things that we are doing internally, what are we innovating, what are we changing? Where do we go from here? What challenges are they experiencing? So I think having marketing involved is just as important for anything that is attached to the customer. Ultimately for us, is the customers who you want that message that you work so hard to put together when it’s a brand, if they get your brand and what you are about, then your golden. And the only way to do that is if marketing is involved.

 

William Tincup (17:51):

I love it. Last thing is for those that are reticent, so either side or even the executives, that maybe outside of marketing and HR, they might not see the collaboration or might not see, even though we’ve talked about different ways, that the two departments can collaborate, what’s the advice? Because you and your team, you’re already working with HR and the leadership, you’ve already kind of crossed over and you’ve already figured out this bridge, but there’s a bunch of folks that haven’t. So what’s the advice that you would give to a marketing leader or an HR leader, that would help them cross over and start working with their peers?

 

Lina Tonk (18:40):

Yeah, I think I’m going to be very tactical here. I go back to goals. I think going back to what are your goals as an HR department and what are your goals as a marketing team and how they can combine them. Because they’re always going to find that there’s a lot of similarities. There’ll be two or three that they’re both doing. And if they don’t combine them, if they don’t do them together, they’re likely either going to double the efforts, number one, but two, they’re going to have different messaging and that’s when it gets dangerous for your brand. That’s number one, so goals being the ultimate item that you have to do first. The second thing is, it’s bandwidth, HR department, marketing departments are two departments that are busy, simple. And both teams are going to have heavy loads on their plate. So it is important to determine those goals attached to the bandwidth that those departments have and how you are going to collaborate with that.

(19:51)
And the only way to do that is going to be, and I’m going to say magic word here is budgeting, where, I mean, everyone’s right now in budgeting season. So we were lucky that when we came together with Amy two years ago to kind of change things up and build goals and whatnot, it was around this time and it was budgeting season and we said, “Listen, goals are similar on these three things. Let’s combine that, but also, let’s share the budget too.” Because that’s where it comes down to as well. We all want to do great things, but if you don’t have the budget and you don’t share those budgets with both, you won’t be able to necessarily accomplish. So I think it’s those three components, goals, bandwidth, and then build a budget together.

 

William Tincup (20:42):

Well, and it also helps that you have a wonderful person on the HR side that’s actually fun to work with. So I can kind of see that that also helps, the personalities. You have a fun personality, she has a fun personality. I can kind of see that actually facilitating that conversation.

 

Lina Tonk (21:02):

Yeah, I think you hit on something that makes magic here. We have a lot of synergy with HR. I think people can see it. And obviously we work tremendously well with Amy. We are both cheerleaders of each other. We have a lot of similarities, but we are both going for the same thing. How do we impact the company together? How do we impact our employees together? How do we impact our customers together? What’s really interesting to me, sometimes I feel like in the HR side, from the HR department side, sometimes they tend to depart themselves from the customers. So they think of employees, my employees and my employees only. And I think that’s the key of why Amy’s so, so different, because she not only thinks of the employee brand, but she’s constantly thinking… Like the road shows, I’m like, “Amy, I think it’ll be so cool for our customers to meet you.”

 

William Tincup (22:03):

Yep.

 

Lina Tonk (22:04):

“When do you need me? Where do you need me?” Like immediately, she actually has this saying that she says, “I work for marketing, whatever marketing needs, I will do.” So of course I’m like way ahead of the game from anyone else.

 

William Tincup (22:20):

Right.

 

Lina Tonk (22:21):

Amy by my side. But even when we started working together, you got to build that relationship. And I think that relationship also takes time. So now we’re two years into the relationship, but it does help tremendously. You’re absolutely right.

 

William Tincup (22:37):

This was wonderful. Thank you so much, Lina. I absolutely appreciate your time and wisdom and just a wonderful topic.

 

Lina Tonk (22:43):

No, thank you so much for having me.

 

William Tincup (22:45):

Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

 

Announcer (22:51):

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Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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