Take a sales force of 450 professionals based in 10 major geographical areas where the products are pharmaceuticals. We might have assessed the typical challenges of tightened competition, decreasing access to health care delivery professionals and the advent of internet-based product selection and ordering. Here, Sales leadership in conjunction with you, the HR strategic leader for National Sales have developed the following changes to operational strategy: (we’ll assume these are not happening today).-Re-designate one professional as internet sales coordinator in each of the 10 sales regions-Deploy a new incentive-based purchase plan for customer volume discounts-Re-load headcounts from shrinking regions to more profitable ones-Develop sales region leader capabilities to manage differing/changing processes Before we attempt to plan this all out, attach timelines, milestones etc. (All “Hard-Charger” stuff!) we need to ask some next-level questions.
Here are just a few:1) Have we defined how internet sales processes will work and all of the associated marketing questions? (we might not think marketing questions are ours to ask, but I certainly would!)2) Have we considered just how we’ll train someone to engage this role and understand the expectations and desired outcomes?3) Have we specific plans for how incentive selling will work, the key messages, the process for managing changed order processing and invoicing? (MANY firms mess these up!)4) Have we put together a plan for how we will move headcounts? The staffing implications of these? The region leader roles expectations and responsibilities in these?5) Have we defined changed roles of sales employees overall including the leaders? The specific new knowledge, skills, capabilities and how we’ll deliver these as part of the overall plan? As you can see, just a few questions suggest a ton of work! Some of these get at capability; others are logistical and change management in-nature. However consider the implication of doing NONE of the above and simply surging ahead! Though it may not be our specific role in answering these questions, our role CAN be around ensuring the organization asks them and works to act on the answers! A general format we could employ here if we were consult sales leaders would take the following general format: Expected Results — > Process Changes– > Knowledge/Skill/Capability Changes -What results do we expect from the change strategies listed above? (Increased Sales) – What process changes will be required? (customer sales pitch approaches, use of incentive promotional materials, mingling of an internet feature, management of changed order and invoicing, changes in regional office and HQ sales systems such as the internet sales sites!). – Given the above, what knowledge, skills, capabilities will be required for specific positions/jobs as we move forward? All of this against the backdrop of the current state of how sales regions are operating today! So, this simple framework would allow us to assess what specific changes are required to support a defined set of changes that the organization has crafted as viable to improving some aspect of organizational performance! Notice that we have not defined the strategies themselves, but acted on the Human Capital implications of them in this case. The work of Human Resources is to certainly help craft these where appropriate , but the more tactical consideration is in HOW we position the planned deployment of strategies such as these sales strategies and working through a model such as the one above in ensuring success! This work of the Human Resources leader is known as Aligning to the Desired Future-State! Here we are ensuring that people and processes are aligned to the desired results and that we’ve made solid, thorough efforts to assess what is really needed for these changes to work. We will in effect have played a major role in Human Capital Management! Now you might be thinking that the strategies themselves must be right for this to work (what if sales incentives don’t drive purchases?) and this is certainly true, so part of our challenge is to partner with leaders and decision-makers early enough to be a part of those discussions as well. Can we ask questions during those conversations as well? -How do we know a purchase incentive plan is what is required? (Others do it, we don’t)-How do we know an internet capability will add value? (perhaps an innovation to pharmaceuticals)-Are we certain that our sales trends and related customer demographics clearly point to a need for shifting resources around the country? So, even in the upfront “strategizing” discussions, we can play an important role in critical thinking discussions aimed at making optimal decisions before we even get to the people change management processes discussed above! The last consideration at the point of having defined the Expected Results, Process Changes, Knowledge/Skill/Capability Changes model is measures.
How will we know it’s all working? This works on a number of different levels starting with the sales results but also the viability of processes, people knowledge, skills and capabilities and of course change management measures (discussed next week). The key points for the Human Capital Leader:We must get involved early in discussions of organizational strategy where people changes are involved.We must ask questions designed to challenge the thinking of leaders on crafting and decision-making around strategies that will affect what people do.We must work to link the desired results to needed process changes and most importantly, changes to the knowledge, skills and capabilities of people.We must establish those measures that will later indicate whether we have been successful in these!