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Transform HR Into a Revenue-Impact Function to Increase Your Strategic Impact
Posted By Dr. John Sullivan On January 23, 2012 @ 5:06 am In Advice and How-Tos | 17 Comments
HR and talent management leaders are constantly striving to become more strategic. But more often than not it seems that when they are presented with a strategic alternative that really breaks new ground, they retreat and stick with the status quo. However, if you are serious about making a strategic impact and you take a minute to reflect, it’s hard to think of many things that could have more of a strategic impact than increasing corporate revenues.
This is because increasing revenue or “topline growth” is on every CEO’s agenda and it is also almost always a top corporate goal and an executive success measure.
Other business functions like marketing, sales, supply chain, and product development have become corporate heroes (and are richly budgeted as a result) because they have demonstrated that they have a direct and measurable impact on this critical strategic goal.
HR has historically focused exclusively on cost cutting, but realize that increasing revenue is a far superior goal. That is because almost anyone can cut costs using an arbitrary number. However, in order to generate more revenue in the marketplace from your customers, you must meet a much higher standard, which requires that you be competitive in every aspect of the business.
Now if you are an HR traditionalist or someone who is happy to maintain HR’s status as a service/overhead function, you are probably already thinking that a strategic goal to impact revenue is a ridiculous idea. However, you would be wrong. We know that HR can directly increase revenues because several firms have already succeeded in demonstrating to their CFOs that they could directly increase revenue. At least take a minute and look at a quick example where HR has increased revenue.
Think it’s not possible? Here is a quick example to demonstrate the possibilities.
It’s obvious that average salespeople produce revenue and good salespeople produce more. So in an attempt to hire better salespeople, this technology firm analyzed its current sales hiring process and reengineered it, so that it measurably identified and hired better salespeople.
If the new process hired salespeople that sold on average 10% more (than those hired under the previous recruiting process), you could (with the CFO’s blessing), publicly state that this HR action had improved sales revenue by X dollars (i.e. the actual amount would be the 10% improvement in the average salesperson’s yearly sales revenue, multiplied by the number of new salespeople who were hired under the improved process).
Still skeptical? Here is another quick example of how HR can increase revenue.
The recruiting function at this Midwest bank realized it was losing significant revenue every day that a loan officer position was vacant. Obviously, with no one in the position, you can’t make or close any revenue-generating loans. In order to reduce the number of days that loan officer positions were vacant, it called on recruiting to apply its speed-hiring techniques on these positions.
By speeding up the requisition process, placing the best recruiters on these positions and identifying and eliminating “deadtime” throughout the hiring process, it cut the number of vacancy days nearly in half. At $5,000 per eliminated vacancy day, over dozens of requisitions, it increased the bank’s revenue by millions. Everyone from the CFO on down agreed that HR had substantially increased revenue. If these two brief examples are not enough for you, the next section contains the top 15 HR actions that can lead to increased corporate revenue.
Even if you’re not ready to implement an HR-wide coordinated “revenue impact strategy,” realize that there are many independent actions that the functions within talent management can take in order to increase organizational revenue. If you’re looking for some “low-hanging fruit” actions to take, here are some to consider (those with the potential for producing the most revenue impact listed first).
In addition to the 15 examples that were provided above, you should also know that the HR function at Google is the world’s leader in operationalizing a business-impact strategic approach. HR leaders at Google consistently use metrics and mathematical algorithms to scientifically improve business performance from programs like hiring, retention, and leadership. HR leaders can tell you the revenue impact of people management offerings like 20% time, free food, workspace design, and collaboration practices. They can also easily show you which business units (i.e. Adwords) have the most impact on revenue.
Understanding the five key components of a “revenue focused” HR strategy.
If you decide to implement this revenue-focus strategy, be aware that there are five key components that make a “revenue-focused” HR strategy successful.
Collaboration with the CFO — the first component is collaboration with the CFO. HR leadership must work directly with the CFO’s office (who is the undisputed “king” of measuring revenue). Together they must develop a credible process for proving when an action has a revenue impact and what the value of that impact actually is. Next, HR can provide the CFO’s office with a list of its intended actions and then finance can help to sort out any on the list that simply wouldn’t be credible no matter what the data said (i.e. an example of an action that might be sorting out as not credible could be the premise that hiring and retaining better janitors would increase revenues).
Make it an HR goal — the second component of the strategy is goal setting by making “impacting revenue” a major HR and talent management goal. As a major HR goal, it would need to be part of every HR function’s execution plan. The importance of the goal would be reinforced by adding revenue impact to the HR reward and metric structure. Together these actions would help to get everyone in HR to focus on this goal.
Prioritization — the third component is prioritization. If you start with the assumption that there will be no additional budget at least initially for this strategy,focus and concentrate your current HR budget and your best HR people on the business units, the jobs, and the employees that have the most impact on increasing revenue. Instead of equal treatment or first-come first-serve, high-priority jobs and employees would be serviced first. Resources would also be channeled toward the HR programs and processes which proved to have the most success on increasing revenue (i.e. usually they are hiring, retention, training, metrics, and rewards).
A process for identifying problems and barriers — the fourth component of the strategy involves identifying barriers to prohibit revenue from increasing. By applying benchmarking, research, and analyzing metrics, HR can determine which “people management problems” or barriers are having the most impact on reducing revenues. (Examples of problems include extended position vacancies in revenue-generating jobs, high turnover among top salespeople, salespeople unwilling to attend sales training etc.). The same effort should be put into identifying “positive people management opportunities” that when taken advantage of, directly increase revenues.
Best-practice sharing – the final strategy component is best-practice identification and sharing. Under this component, HR uses research, benchmarking, and metrics to proactively identify and then rapidly spread the implementation of the most effective revenue improving “people management practices” to all managers throughout the organization.
If you are still skeptical about this strategy and approach, ask your CEO whether they would prefer that you hire great clerks versus great salespeople. Also ask them if they would prefer that HR excel at low hiring costs, hiring without fewer legal issues, or would they instead prefer you to hire innovators and individuals who can increase revenues by 10 to 20%?
Although the initial concept might seem daunting, a number of advanced HR departments have been using a piecemeal approach to increasing corporate revenue for years. If you’re HR department were to adopt “revenue impact” as a primary HR strategy, the net impact for even a medium-sized firm would literally be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. If you implemented the strategy, not only would you “have a seat at the table” but you would be listened to and respected because you successfully made the transformation from “overhead function” to a strategic contributor. Your work would be noted in the annual report, so even the shareholders would become aware of the major contribution that HR made.
And incidentally, if you like this strategy, you should also consider related HR strategies. Where instead of focusing on revenue, the strategy would focus on increasing quality, speed/agility, customer service or innovation throughout the organization as a result of HR actions.
And one final question … Did this article succeed in expanding your thinking?
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