Strategic HR Weekly "Sales" Tip #44
When I speak to members of VISTAGE (a nationwide CEO roundtable group) about strategic HR, I start out asking them two questions about their businesses. These businesses have ranged in size from about 300 employees down to 15 or so.
Competitive Disadvantage for Small Businesses
The first question is what level their HR function currently operates at, and the second is to what degree that HR function has an active, contributing seat in company Management. Here are the results:
You know, I guess the low answers don't surprise me, because this is the business space I've lived in for 25 years, but what it shows is how huge the opportunity is for HR Consultants to help this business sector, if they knock on the front door offering an HR business purpose different than status quo!
What I mean is that most of these business owners who answered these questions weren't really frustrated with the level that their HR function was operating at. They really didn't expect anything else (sadly).
BUT they did express frustration with finding good employees; and with problems that turnover brings; and with employment related costs escalating. But none of them said "I'm having my HR person(s) work on that." Instead, they tended to indicate that they themselves, along with their other managers, would struggle through the issues on their own.
So if you consider yourself capable of delivering high-end, strategic HR, either as a consultant or as an internal practitioner, but you seem stuck at the low end of your delivery capabilities, take a look at your value messaging. If it's the same 'ol, same 'ol negative "No, you're not allowed to that." message that has dragged HR's reputation to where it is, and it's not aggressively asking questions about people strategies, then you need to change your message.
My first time I spoke at VISTAGE as a "trial" speaker, I was hyper sensitive to their rule that speakers can't just be doing a sales pitch the CEOs. My topic was 'How To DRIVE Profits With Strategic HR', and I truly just wanted to see if these CEOs would be receptive to my approach and tools if an HR consultant came to them with it. In other words, I wanted to test my tools on them, but not actually offer to implement a plan for them.
At the end, most of the attendees asked, "So you do this, right?"
"Nope.", I answered.
"But you know of HR consultants who can deliver at this level, right?", they then asked.
"Some...", I said very hesitantly.
And the group answered with, "Man, either you need to offer this, or you need to create a network of HR consultants who can, and then coordinate their service delivery to businesses like ours! That should be your business model."
Conclusion: Are small to mid sized businesses open to receiving Strategic HR assistance? Yup, but you have to know how to "sell" it to them to get them to listen and buy.