Selling Human Resources services is easy – it’s all about adding value
Note: Although this article discusses the HR function it applies equally to other corporate services.
Within most corporate environments there is a focus on achieving tangible financial results.
Companies – and executives – either thrive or suffer as a result of monthly or quarterly results.
Internal business activities (i.e. many support functions such as marketing, training, IT and others) that support the achievement of results, but do not produce immediate measurable financial results directly, are often overlooked and undervalued.
The Human Resource (HR) function can often be caught in this situation.
As an HR professional how do you ensure other executives value your contribution?
First, it is important to accept the adage “perception IS reality”. The issue of perception is always relative, and in this situation the customer is always right (because it is their perception that matters).
Customer groups for a Human Resources manager may be as varied as:
- Board members
- Employee representatives
- General staff
It is important to recognise the different needs of each customer group and manage their expectations and perceptions.
“Show me the money”
It is a fact of corporate life that ‘getting the numbers’ is important. Managers across the organisation accept this and often judge other corporate departments by how they directly contribute towards achieving business objectives.
How many HR practitioners can identify the true business problems that are being targeted by their activities?
Are these problems important to senior management? Can you quantify the results?
HR services will be more highly valued when they can clearly demonstrate a meaningful contribution towards ‘getting the numbers’.
In a former role I was fortunate to have an experienced staff trainer reporting to me. Let’s call her Sue. One day Sue approached me with concerns about the perception other managers held about the value she was providing to the organisation.
Sue had trained hundreds of our company personnel and our customer’s retail staff but still could not articulate how her activities related to achieving the companies objectives. This doubt had started to affect her own perception of her services and adversely impact her self-esteem.
Sue could not articulate the value she provided to senior executives. And she was coming under pressure to reduce her budget because there was little perceived impact from her work on the company’s bottom line.
In fact the biggest impact was a negative one – being seen purely as a cost with little benefit being achieved.
After some discussion I helped Sue develop a simple model that could show, in dollars, the positive compounding effects of her training sessions. Sue then had some real answers to those who questioned the value of her services.
An important element of marketing your work as an HR practitioner is to realise you must effectively communicate the benefits of your work in terms other managers can relate to.
This means selling HR to the organisation.
A regular positive message will help position your services in the ‘must have’ category for other executives.
And remember… selling is not a dirty word, it is a communication process.
How do you sell HR?
Here are some easy steps:
- Understand the needs of your customers. In this instance your customers are the management team and other employees in your organisation. Gain an understanding of their objectives and the pressures they face.
- Prioritise their needs and determine how your services help them. Why and when do they need your services?
- Determine how you can communicate with them. Different circumstances will require different methods. For example, use the monthly management meeting to explain the correlation between good HR practices and the achievement of corporate objectives. Do the numbers. Be specific.
- Be prepared to answer objections to your ‘good news stories’. Some managers may need additional information to accept the impacts you present. Cite results, case studies and statistics that relate to achieving specific objectives.
- Follow up with members of the management team to ask for their comments on how they are benefiting from HR services. Get their perspective. Be proactive in helping them achieve their goals.
Other corporate services and support functions can take a similar customer-focused approach to demonstrate they value they create for the organisation.
If you need help with managing sales conversations and establishing value check out my ebook The Assassin Analogy.
Image credit: Chris Ford