HR people are well aware of the need to be strategic business partners in order to add value to the business (and secure our jobs!) – but what does this actually mean, and how can people in non-line or service functions prove that they are adding value? How do you sell “soft issues” such as employee retention and development to people who only seem interested in the bottom line? A prime reason that so many HR departments are constantly being cut by senior management is not because HR does not provide a strategic value, but instead, because 1) HR does not market itself and 2) HR fails to provide proof of their strategic value in a manner and language that line management have come to expect… Rands and measurable outputs. Here are some tips gained from working as a combination of HR practitioner, salesperson and business owner…
1. Understand what is important to them.
Whatever you’re trying to sell must, as far as possible, be measurable. Line managers often aren’t keen to hear about the “touchy-feely-nice stuff” when it’s not linked to the bottom line. The most important factors to most people in senior line management positions are usually:
• Increasing profits
• Increasing sales
• Increasing shareholder value
• Improving brand profile
• Improving product or service margins
• Improving product quality
• Widening market opportunities
• Customer retention and attraction
• Anything that gives them a competitive advantage
Link the outcome of your offerings with these factors, and you will improve your chances of being heard. (For assistance in designing a Return-On-Investment analysis, contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. Know who you’re dealing with
You can never sell to someone if you don’t understand the individual(s) you are trying to influence. Often when selling to a senior manager whose focus is mainly strategic, the trick is to grab their attention, then get to the point fast. Many people in this position are not interested in details. If you’re selling to a detail-oriented person, be sure you’ve covered all the angles before you make a suggestion. Know what makes them tick – like any good salesperson does. Know the top 3 problems they are currently facing, and how they are hoping to solve them.
3. Be a strategic thinker
To run a successful business or business unit, you have to know how to look into the future. Be aware of the macro business environment, and the potential future hazards in your industry. Read articles by the top performers in your industry and reports written by industry analysts. Listen to their speeches, ask their opinions and be aware of industry predictions.
Be aware of what your competitors are doing, and know what information will give you an edge over your competitors.
It is especially helpful to identify people in the organization that seem to be “the first to know” and find out how they do it. Put together an early warning network and use it to build your reputation as the “future thinker”.
4. Know your role
Make sure you know specifically what heads of department want from you, and why. Be able to prioritize what they want most. Be aware of the specific outputs you will be measured by, and how this links to their measured outputs.
5. Recruit and Develop the best Human Capital
You ideally want to become known as the “Talent Launching Pad” for the company. Think of business as being similar to professional sports. Everyone is impressed with the coach that can recruit and develop top talent. This can include:
• Making sure you recruit top quality people
• Developing talent fast by having excellent skills development and progression plans
6. Develop a SWAT team
Ensure your HR department has a team of experts that can act quickly to address any sudden crisis. Anticipate – Develop forecasts and do “what-if” scenarios in order to anticipate future management problems, then develop management systems in advance of the need. Whenever a new problem arises that is a surprise to most, step forward with a pre-developed plan before others have time to react.
7. Sell yourself and your department
Far too many HR people say “I could never be a salesperson”. Well, if you’re an internal consultant – that’s exactly what you have to be! Manage your “internal image”. Line management and operational staff often think of HR as a drain on capital, people who don’t get their hands dirty with the “real work”. Manage their perceptions so that they see how indispensable you really are. Make them aware that being close to the employees requires agility and responsiveness. Demonstrate how developing and motivating workers reduces their expenditure in both money and time. Show how your department (because of its profit generation) makes what they do possible! Also, build your “external brand”. Whenever possible, get written about in company advertising, the press and technical journals. Write articles highlighting that your company is a “great place to work” and how well managed it is.
Remember, that to senior and line management, almost every decision requires a “business case”. Because they have learned to think in analytical terms and to quantify everything, you must also do the same.
Copyright: Copperline Training