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Monday, November 28, 2016

Retail Sales Management & Human Resources

PREFACE: Every now and then, I stumble upon an outstanding student paper that would be very helpful to certain management members in a specific field. As we are in the hieght of the retail sales season as we just passed Black Friday and today is Cyber Monday, I am sure some Sales Managers are pulling their hair out especially if they have employee issues on top of the busiest time of the year. The following has some fantatastic insight for Retail Sales Managers and I hope it helps someone in that field. Welcome Guest Blogger Mary E Hazard. Reprinted her by permission.

What Sales Managers Need to Know
About Human Resource Management
Mary E. Hazard
University of Illinois Springfield

Abstract
This paper highlights what Sales Managers need to know about Human Resource Management (HRM). HRM education and training can help Sales Managers set their companies, products, and services apart, and can help them gain an advantage over their competition in the marketplace. Sales Managers need to know how HRM influences the organizational landscape, the organization’s employees (talent), and the organization’s rules and regulations. Investigation used in the compilation of this paper was done largely via the MGT431 class textbook, Human Resource Management: Gaining a Competitive Advantage written by Raymond A. Noe, John R. Hollenbeck, Barry Gerhart, and Patrick M. Wright (2015). Supplemental research surveys verified Human Resources (HR) blogs and reputable internet sources.
What Sales Managers Need to Know
About Human Resource Management
            A Sales Manger’s number one objective is to close deals and grow the company’s bottom line. There are seemingly countless selling techniques being used by sales professionals of varying skill levels and responsibilities to tout their company’s goods. After all, products and services generally do not sell themselves; people primarily do the selling. Companies who employ the most capable sales staff will thus position themselves to garner the highest possible profits and market share. Competency in HRM can help Sales Managers establish and retain best-in-class sales teams.
Discussion
            Sales competition is fierce. It can be especially fierce in industries rife with other companies selling comparable products and services. Sales Managers need to be strategic in how they assemble and supervise their teams. As stated by Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, and Wright (2015), “the goal of strategic management in an organization is to deploy and allocate resources in a way that gives it a competitive advantage.” (p.72) In order to set themselves apart from the pack, Sales Managers should continuously monitor their organization’s landscape, their workforce, and the policies and procedures that impact how their business gets done.
Organizational Landscape
            Mission and strategy. Noe et al. (2015) explain the difference between strategy formulation and strategy implementation (p. 76). During the strategy formulation process, senior leadership outlines the company’s mission and goals (2015). They also perform an analysis of the organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats (also called a “SWOT” analysis) (2015). While front line managers may not have a hand in formulating the company’s overall strategy, they are held responsible for executing it. For Sales Managers, this largely entails seeking to employ the most adept salespeople, making sure that these salespeople are aware of the company’s mission and strategy, and subsequently holding them accountable for achieving the company’s primary objectives (2015).
Organizational culture. There is an old adage that “the tone is set at the top.” Sales Managers need to lead by example; they need to “walk-the-walk” and “talk-the-talk.” According to the Harvard Business Review, “why we work determines how well we work.” (McGregor & Doshi, 2016) There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to motivating employees; however, clearly communicating the company’s mission and vision helps to establish “why” employees come to work each day and also why they should endeavor to carry out the company’s goals.
Employee engagement. Noe et al. (2015) define employee engagement as “the degree to which employees are fully involved in their work and the strength of their commitment to their job and the company.” (p. 25) Survey results on the subject are less than promising: 63% of employees report that they are not engaged; 43% of employees state that their managers somehow impede their performance; and just 26% trust that their managers think about them when considering relevant business matters (p. 25). Sales Managers need to be aware that their staff likely suffers from a lack of engagement, and should proactively take steps to improve it.
In Episode 62 of the Workology Podcast, titled “Thinking Differently About Employee Engagement & Workplace Productivity,” Jessica Miller-Merrell, the Chief Blogger at Blogging4Jobs.com, interviewed David Sturt. Sturt is the Executive Vice President at O.C. Tanner Company, as well as the author of the book Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love. The two discussed how companies are constantly looking for new ways to distinguish themselves from their competition, innovate, and add value for their customers (Miller-Merrell & Sturt, 2015). They noted how having a workforce motivated to perform above and beyond expectations can help organizations achieve a competitive advantage (2015). A survey was referenced in which workers were asked: What would influence you to do great work? (2015) Thirty-seven percent of respondents said that they want more feedback from their superiors; they want to be recognized, and/or just simply told they are doing a good job (2015). Providing this type of brief verbal feedback is a timely and cost-effective way that Sales Managers can encourage their teams while simultaneously boosting morale.
Another way Sales Managers can positively impact employee engagement is by embracing flexible work options. Noe et al. (2015) state that “because of work demands 75% of employees report having not enough time for their children, and 61% report not having enough time for their husbands and wives.” (p. 28) This data implies that the majority of workers struggle to achieve an appropriate work-life balance. Permitting staff to work remotely is becoming more commonplace, with “approximately 9.5% of or 13.4% million U.S. employees…working at home at least one day a week.” (p. 28) Offering this benefit would not only satisfy existing employees, but also likely attract future applicants (p. 28). It is advisable, though, for managers to put formal guidelines in place regarding telework policies, in order to avoid liability and ensure workers are staying on task (Genova, 2010).
Job analysis and design. As described by Noe et al. (2015), job analysis is “the process of getting detailed information about jobs.” (p. 176) Managers need to understand the jobs being performed by their subordinates (p. 177). Fully comprehending each employee’s scope of work will help Sales Managers construct an appropriate work-flow process, hire the best possible candidates to fill open positions, and accurately measure worker performance (p. 177). Once roles are clearly defined, managers will be able to redesign work, if necessary, in order to maximize team productivity, motivation, satisfaction, safety, health, and achievement (p. 192).
Organization’s Workforce
            Recruiting. Sales Managers can and should take advantage of their vast professional networks by staying active on, and “e-cruiting” (Noe et al, 2015, p. 230) via, social job networking sites like LinkedIn. When sending LinkedIn InMail messages to prospective candidates, recruiting specialist Ninh Tran suggests that prospectors reach out to people in their immediate networks first (Tran, 2016). He also recommends that InMail be sent during the work week: InMails sent on a Thursday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. have a 12% greater chance of getting a response than messages sent on a Friday at the same time; messages sent on weekends receive even lower reply rates (2016).
            Noe et al. (2015) point out that while technology makes it easier than ever before to disseminate resumes and exchange applications, most open positions are ultimately filled through word-of-mouth and employee referrals (p. 228). Mary Kaylor, Manager of Public Affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), recently referred to an organization’s current workers as “passive recruiters,” and maintained that “when you have a supportive, fair and kind environment, your employees will share their happiness – and news about your open jobs – with their friends and relatives, letting others know that it’s a great place to work.” (Kaylor, 2016) Employee referrals are one of the best quality sources of potential applicants (Noe et al., 2015, p. 233), and engaged employees are some of a company’s (and in turn, a Sales Manager’s) best advocates.
            Selection. If a Sales Manager will be conducting interviews, it is imperative that he or she first be trained on proper interview techniques, so as to mitigate the company’s risk (Noe et al., 2015, p. 266). Similarly, interviewing managers should conduct interviews in tandem, with other trained interview personnel, in order to eliminate bias (p. 265). When selecting applicants to fill sales positions, situational interviews and personality inventories would be particularly helpful. During a situational interview, candidates are asked ‘experience-based’ questions, in which they describe how they have dealt with specific issues in the past; as well as ‘future-oriented’ questions, in which the interviewer inquires how the candidate would apply his or her past experience to specific scenarios that may occur in the future (pp. 264-265). Both question types are valid; however, experience-based questions tend to hold more weight (p. 265). Answers also give insight into an interviewee’s selling savvy.
Personality inventories, while statistically not as valid as situational interviews, are designed to classify an applicant’s disposition type (p. 270). Noe et al. (2015) detail ‘the Big Five’ personality dimensions: Extroversion, adjustment, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience (p. 270). It is noted that extroverts tend to be proficient salespeople, due to their innately confident and outgoing nature (p. 271).
            Training. Training success largely depends on the support of one’s managers and peers (Noe et al., 2015, p. 295). Sales Managers should encourage their employees to take advantage of training opportunities and foster a culture of continuous learning. As a supplement to formal corporate training programs, HR Pro Sharlyn Lauby suggests that companies encourage comparably informal peer-based mentoring, coaching, feedback, and recognition (Lauby, 2016). Peer-based learning sessions, like “Lunch and Learns,” can be planned easily and economically. Lauby also notes that this type of environment can allow subject matter experts to become more comfortable presenting information to groups (2016).
            Compensation. Noe et al. (2015) stress that a company can use its compensation policy to execute strategy (p. 90). Sales Managers can use pay and incentives to entice desirable candidates and/or to influence their existing team’s performance (p. 90). HR Pro Ben Eubanks advises managers to assess whether their organization seeks to be a “market leader” or a “market lagger.” (Eubanks, 2015) Market leaders must be willing to pay employees more competitively than market laggers (2015). Compensation may take other forms, as well. Noe et al. (2015) list incentives, benefits, on-site daycare services, and travel discounts as forms of compensation that attract talent and drive employee engagement (p. 26).
Organization’s Rules
            Ethics. Relationships play a large role in Sales. Sales professionals strive to build relationships with prospective clients; they also seek to maintain and strengthen relationships already in place with their customers (both internal and external). Successful relationships, whether personal or professional, require that an element of trust be present between the parties. Noe et al. (2015) cite data “that 45% [of employees surveyed] had witnessed some form of unethical conduct at their workplace…[and] only 18% of Americans rated business executives high or very high on [the dimensions of] honesty and ethical behavior” (p. 43). Sales managers must be mindful that unethical behavior is a very real concern in business. They likewise need to acknowledge that while it is relevant, it certainly should not be tolerated.
Laws. While ethics matter, it is of equal (or arguably greater) importance that Sales Managers ensure that they and their subordinates follow the letter of the law. Non-HR pros should particularly become acquainted with pertinent employment laws, including but not limited to those concerning equal employment opportunity, discrimination, and safety (Noe et al., 2015).
Conclusions and Future Study
            This paper touches on just a few of the key HRM topics with which Sales Managers should familiarize themselves in order to stay competitive. To make the most of HRM education and training, Sales Managers need to be familiar with their company’s environment, people, and policies. It is essential to note that HRM is a progressive field. It is ever-changing and constantly adapting to account for new technologies, methodologies, and concepts. Sales Managers should not take a “one-and-done” approach to studying HRM; they can benefit from a regular review of HRM subject matter. The presence of HRM on social media makes keeping up with the most current news and trends quick and easy. I would recommend that all Sales Managers follow relevant HRM sources on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The verified HR blogs that have been introduced via MGT431 are also valuable resources that are simple to access and full of informative, engaging content that is very useful for Non-HR Professionals.
References
Eubanks, B. (2015, March 29). Compensation problems: Determining pay rates [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdu55CgeqEQ
Genvova, G.L. (2010). The anywhere office = anywhere liability. Business Communication Quarterly, 73(1), 119-126. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1080569909358104
Kaylor, M. (2016, October 7). Your employees are the absolute best recruiters #HRTechConf [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/your-employees-are-the-absolute-best-recruiters
Lauby, S. (2016, February 25). Make training more impactful with peer-based learning [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.hrbartender.com/2016/training/make-training-more-impactful-with-peer-based-learning/
McGregor, L., & Doshi, N. (2015, November 25). How company culture shapes employee motivation. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/11/how-company-culture-shapes-employee-motivation
Miller-Merrell, J., & Stuart, D. (2015, October 28). Thinking differently about employee engagement & workplace productivity [Episode 62]. Workology Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://www.blogging4jobs.com/podcast/ep-62-employee-engagement-workplace-productivity/
Noe, R.A., Hollenbeck, J.R., Gerhart, B., & Wright, P.M. (2015). Human resource management: Gaining a competitive advantage (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Tran, N. (2016, June 1). How to recruit on LinkedIn, fast, without breaking the bank [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.blogging4jobs.com/hr/how-to-recruit-on-linkedin-fast-without-breaking-the-bank

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