4Ps: How to apply Peer Learning


As businesses try to understand, comprehend and deliver growth outcomes in today’s global, mobile, context centric environment, HR needs to stay in lock step, step up and lead.While we all appreciate that human capital is a strategic asset for a firm, how can the HR leaders become systemic thinkers to unearth and unlock the potential of their firms human capital? While there are multiple ways to do this, I would like to propose a simple but effective technique – learning from our peers – that may be of value to HR Professionals.

Most of us are familiar with the foundational 4 Ps of Marketing, also known as the Marketing Mix: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. Over the years this model has been expanded and evolved by thought leaders in the marketing field to become known as the 4 Cs, the 7 Ps, etc.

I, however, believe that the 4 Ps have proved unshakable and foundational to the core of marketing.

If you picked up a copy of this magazine with the intention of learning about HR, you might wonder why should you be bothered about Marketing?  To begin with, let’s replace the first P of marketing-Product with another P; one from the expanded 7Ps version proposed by Booms and Bitner in 1981 – People. With this, we can begin a discussion on the 4 Ps of HR.

1. People

Businesses do not execute strategy, people do! People are the foundation of any HR process. In fact, it is when HR loses sight of people that its operations and programs begin to fail!People are why we are HR practitioners- we care about people, we want the best people working in and leading our organizations. Every HR process and program should have people at its core, or it is not human resources. Over the years, organizations and their HR departments have stopped seeing the ‘human’ and now only see the ‘resources.’ This is a miss and why I am all for renaming the HR department as ‘People’ or ‘Human Capital’ as some organizations such as Google have done in recent times

2. Place

In Marketing, the concept of Place has to do with accessibility; the distribution, location and methods of getting the product to the customer. For HR, the place should be pretty easy, but in today’s dynamic work, it is getting quite complicated. From remote and virtual work options to the rise of organizations such as We Work and the advent of robots in the workplace, the workplace as we know it is beginning to look very different from when you or I started our careers. HR must prepare its organizations to be flexible and inclusive of people from different walks of life and enable workspaces that are engaging and collaborative.

3. Price

Compensation has become a significant driver in attracting the right talent. In situations where demand exceeds supply, price tends to go up. This is the current state of things especially in the tech space as employers scramble over themselves to acquire talent. Premium talent, like premium products, attract steep prices. However, HR must stay the voice of reason and work effectively to price talent right. Great talent is driven not by a hygiene factor like compensation but by real motivators like development, growth, connection, and purpose. In the long run, companies offering a well-rounded, holistic package will fare better than those offering copious amounts in salaries and incentives.

4. Promotion

There are many ways companies promote their products and get attention from customers- from advertising to public relations to personal selling. It is the same way with HR. This is an opportune place for collaboration between the marketing organization and HR. Marketing can assist in developing an Employee Value Proposition that includes the afore-mentioned 3 Ps with which HR sells the organization and roles to prospective employees. The channels for promotion are endless – company career websites, social media pages, career fairs, campus hiring events, community volunteering opportunities, industry conferences, newspapers, magazines are just a few.

If you like the 4P framework for HR. Here is a bonus! How about creating ‘brand’ ambassadors? Unknowingly companies like GE have created ambassadors out of leaders like Jack Welch and Beth Comstock. For Google, Laszlo Bock had become the reason why every HR professional dreams of working there. Supporting your employees’ passions and interests can be a great way to create brand ambassadors out of them.

Good HR leaders understand the foundational elements of multiple facets inside a business and learn from their peers. I have attempted to highlight how HR can learn from one of their peers –the marketing function. While we spend much time educating folks through learning and training, isn’t it time that we learnt and applied some principles from our Peer professions too?

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Bala V Sathyanarayanan serves as the Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Greif, Inc. (NYSE: GEF, GEF.B), a worldwide leader serving customer needs in industrial packaging products and services with more than 200 operating locations in over 50 countries. Prior to Greif, Bala served as Executive Vice President for Human Resources at Xerox Corporation. Bala also led the human resource function for the Americas at Hewlett-Packard Inc and held prior leadership roles at Avaya Inc., Coca Cola Inc and United Technologies – Otis Elevator Company. An Alumnus of Harvard Business School and Rutgers University, Bala grew up in Chennai earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering and Master of Business Administration from the University of Madras in Chennai, India.


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