What does HR have to do with sales? Here’s how one organisation’s CEO and HR lead collaborated to join the dots.
The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) is a member and learning organisation that works across the Asia-Pacific region. The organisation’s CEO, Prue Willsford and former head of people and culture, Vanessa Raso explain how they worked closely together to achieve organisational results.
Prue Willsford, CEO, ANZIIF:
In recent years we transformed our membership and educational proposition. But that hadn’t necessarily flown through to the leader team’s understanding of the sales experience. We had a problem of perception: lots of staff didn’t think of their roles as sales roles, and yet virtually everyone in our organisation supports sales and customer retention at some stage, in some way.
That was solved thanks to Vanessa Raso through her AHRI Practising Certification Program (APC) capstone project, the organisational benefits of which have been hugely valuable. We’ve had an uplift in revenue – sales were up 4.5 per cent last year. That’s a really tangible outcome. We’ve also made changes to a range of our marketing and sales materials. And there’s no doubt that there is now improved collaboration, understanding and empathy within the leader team.
A survey of our leader team before the project showed that 36.4 per cent believed they had a ‘detailed’ or ‘great’ understanding of the sales experience. Afterwards that figure had jumped to 92.3 per cent.
Another great thing for the business was that the HR certification process Vanessa went through included having a mentor. That person was really valuable. For Vanessa it was like having a personal coach with whom she could cross-check her thinking. For ANZIIF, we had a sort of independent consultant and senior HR perspectives that we didn’t have in our toolkit.
To Vanessa’s credit, she changed my thinking during the project – she made the organisation more open to exploring a range of ideas, some of which floated and some of which didn’t. She was appropriately challenging of what were, at the time, widely held beliefs and let us reflect on how we help build professional capability.
Vanessa Raso CPHR, former head of people and culture, ANZIIF:
There was anecdotal evidence that members of the leader team didn’t really understand each other’s revenue lines, what customers went through with ANZIIF, or when and how to collaborate on sales opportunities. We also wanted to increase our revenue and reduce wasted effort while giving the customer a better experience.
The certification capstone project started with an end-to-end process map of the sales experience (for the customer and us) for each of our six revenue lines. We held six workshops with members of the leader team and, using design thinking and Lean Six Sigma principles, we mapped out the sales experience, identifying duplication and inefficiencies.
A number of quick wins were identified and implemented, and four sub-projects were identified. The first was standardising offerings for customers. As part of that, we now have one-page guides on each revenue line which we give staff as soon as they come onboard.
The second sub-project clarified why customers should choose us. Traditionally, we were a membership organisation, but there has been a shift to digital learning, and not everyone understood that.
Third was a project on role clarity – setting out and understanding who’s responsible for different activities and projects. The final sub-project helped us embrace digital, where we have a stream of work, including a range of automation and improved web-design outcomes.
Before I did the APC I was considering doing a masters degree with a focus on organisational development (OD). But I was really attracted to the APC because of the practical element, the coaching provided and the recognition of prior learning. The process helped me broaden and further polish my OD skills.
It reaffirmed for me also that persistence pays off. Rather than thinking that you put a business case forward, wait for approval and then, if it is rejected, you walk away from the idea. Instead, it is an opportunity to keep reflecting, reassessing and reformulating ideas, to keep the momentum going, keep trying a different way of benefitting the business – particularly for a business seeking an innovative approach. It’s not simply about us as HR business partners, it’s about the long-term benefits to the business.
I left the program with a bigger skill bucket than when I entered and instantly became more employable, domestically and globally. Now I’m an HR business partner at Brightstar and part of my remit is organisational development for Oceania.
Interested in finding out more about AHRI’s Practising Certification Program Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) pathway? Find out if your skills, knowledge or work/life experience are recognised as prior learning by applying for an eligibility check by 1 February 2019. Apply now.