How HR Can Solve Common Small Business Problems
At Helios, we consider ourselves to be the HR experts. We frequently hear from business leaders, employers, and managers who don’t understand the purpose or value of Human Resources. In fact, in conducting HR effectiveness assessments, the most frequent answer we get from stakeholders when we ask about the purpose of an HR function is hiring, firing, and payroll. The objective of this series is not to discount or discredit any one functional area of HR. After all, hiring, firing, and payroll are important, that said, they don’t begin to tell the tale of what competent, strategic, and empowered HR can do for your organization. If you want to learn more, read on to discover from these case studies how HR can change your business for the better.
Problems with Effective Business Development
We have worked with a client for several years now who has been struggling to develop an effective business development team for their small business. They believe they have a good product, good technology, and superior intellectual property, but they’ve struggled to bring their solution to market in a way that grows their customer base and generates a consistent revenue stream. This is clearly a sales problem, maybe an operations and marketing problem, and if it intensifies, it will cause financial problems. Have you ever considered how HR fits in?
I know what you are probably thinking, HR will tell you that they care "hire a good salesperson". How many times have businesses brought in an army of highly paid salespeople or consultants only to see them flounder because they fail to understand the product, or they don’t mesh well with the company culture, or other areas of operations aren’t set up to partner effectively with sales? Everything I just mentioned is a human capital problem because people are at the root of it all.
Lack of Product/Service Understanding
- First of all, a good Talent Acquisition professional can develop a job ad targeted towards salespeople with relevant industry experience and can also partner with the hiring manager to develop interview questions meant to test specific product knowledge or overall sales aptitude.
- A truly good salesperson can probably compensate for a lack of industry relevant experience with overall sales skill. An HR Professional can help identify or develop pre-hire assessments that are both valid and reliable in identifying this type of sales skill.
- Lastly, your HR team can create a package of incentives that will keep your salesforce motivated and is benchmarked to industry norms.
Unique Sales Culture
What about developing a sales team who integrates with company culture? After all, sales tends to have its own unique culture.
- A good HR person will learn your business. If your HR Manager cannot explain how your company makes money and why your company is a good place to work, they should not be representing you to candidates.
- The best HR people not only understand your culture, but act as stewards. They take a proactive approach to building your employment brand and come up with many ways to communicate your brand to candidates via your company careers page, social media, their own personal networks, etc.
- Great Recruiters should also have several behavioral questions as part of their standard phone screen that identify good cultural fits for your organization. In fact, a good Recruiter can probably just tell by talking to someone if they will assimilate into your culture or cause problems. When HR and Talent Acquisition function well, your Hiring Managers can assume if they receive a resume for a screened candidate from your HR team, that candidate understands your business and culture and your HR team has judged that they will fit in.
- To further reinforce the cultural fit, the best HR departments understand and prioritize the employee experience during onboarding. They develop activities and processes to teach new hires all the rules, written and unwritten, of working for your company through new hire mentorship programs, multimedia campaigns, and effective use of onboarding technology. The return on investment for strong onboarding programs in terms of employee retention and productivity has been well documented.
Inaccurately Addressing Your Client's Needs
The last issue may be the most difficult to solve because it’s cross-functional. A good HR person, skilled in principles of Organizational Development, can look at work flows and communication across the organization to identify problem areas and propose solutions. Let’s say that you’ve hired your rock star Salesperson and they are hard at work creating a pipeline. You happen to notice that when a hot prospect is identified, the product development team is putting together a demo that is not going to cut it –
- it fails to address the prospect’s needs;
- isn’t attention getting; and
- just doesn’t ‘look right.’
There is a clear need for an outside perspective. By conducting focused interviews (sometimes could be as simple as a water cooler conversation), a good HR person should be able to identify the issue and suggest a fix:
- someone from the development team needs to sit in on sales meetings with qualified prospects;
- the Salesperson needs to create detailed account plans to help capture critical information in a systematic way; or
- perhaps everyone could benefit from communication training if it’s really just a soft skill deficiency.
Let’s not forget that once changed, all of these behaviors need to be reinforced. The best HR people will tie everything back to the company’s performance management cycle to ensure that employees are being coached on the skills and behaviors that will help the company succeed.
Now, I’m not saying that HR should take over your sales function. Some of these solutions could be implemented by other managers should they have capacity. The bottom line is: optimizing your company’s human capital IS the full-time job of your HR function. So think about it, what can HR do for your business?