Learning & Development

Bridging the Gap Between HR and Go-to-Market Teams

Today’s employees are living and working in a much more fluid environment. With flexible work schedules now increasingly common, the traditional 9 to 5 has almost become a thing of the past.

But while the recent shift has brought certain benefits, it has also exacerbated many of the problems that already existed before this “new normal.” From finding fewer employees at their office desks to a rise in “quiet quitting,” a proactive approach to people management has never been more difficult. In fact, a recent Kleiner Perkins report showed that in 2023, companies will likely be more aggressive about establishing performance standards that emphasize outcomes in order to focus on what’s most critical to the business.

Already kept at arm’s length from the “action” of sales and go-to-market teams theoretically and physically, HR teams need greater insight into employee performance and stronger connectivity to manage today’s workforce and bring real value to their organization.

HR and Go-to-Market Teams Often Feel Far Apart

HR wants to track and remediate employee performance. Go-to-market teams need employees who are energized, engaged, and bringing revenue into their organization. On the surface, these two objectives seem to fit together hand in hand. But why does it so rarely feel like HR and sales are aligned?

The truth is that while both parties do want a clear picture of their employees, there are often a number of differences between them that make effective cooperation difficult.

To start with, there are the cultural differences, along with the varying ways HR and go-to-market teams are perceived internally. HR teams tend to naturally be made up of “people persons,” or those in an organization who are most invested in the welfare and job satisfaction of employees. But these same individuals, who are best equipped to manage human needs and problems, may not be the ones most inclined toward the data-centric approaches that have become so integral to the business strategies of today.

The result is that HR teams tend to be perceived as slow, ineffectual, and ultimately a cost center. Instead of being supported in its essential function, HR is left fighting a constant uphill battle to prove its worth to senior management. When push comes to shove and big decisions are made, HR often finds itself and its concerns sidelined from the discussion in favor of more revenue-driven interests.

Meanwhile, go-to-market teams, whose chief responsibility is to bring in revenue, are often afforded far more liberties. Seen as the fast-paced, even glamorous, division of an organization, their voice tends to carry more weight at the top. Their needs are heard because leadership naturally depends on the revenue continuing to roll in. C-level executives will generally do everything in their power to keep their sales teams happy, even when it means teams elsewhere are disconnected and often suffering as a result.

The Consequences of Misalignment

The damage done by a lack of alignment between HR and go-to-market teams can be severe for organizations of any size. There is a significant cost involved when HR is not able to do its job effectively in both monetary and human terms.

The costs stem primarily from a lack of efficient coaching and remediation for employees who are underperforming. With companies spending a lot of money to hire and train sales personnel, an inability to quickly identify who is not pulling their weight and then provide the necessary resources to improve skills can result in a huge dent to any top and bottom line.

The unfortunate reality is that HR and go-to-market teams usually operate within completely different and competing systems for managing employees for onboarding, professional development, and performance coaching. While HR tends to use human resources information system (HRIS)-driven tools alongside an annual performance management process, go-to-market teams lean on their customer relationship management (CRM) data to develop daily or weekly activity scorecards. This can lead to managers and employees in the field not seeing the immediate value of keeping everything documented in the ways they’ve been instructed. And with the steady marginalization of HR that I’ve already discussed, the one who’s going to be left out in the cold is usually a given.

Figuring out which employees are doing well from a more nuanced or timely perspective than yearly sales numbers can be next to impossible when metrics, technology, and individuals don’t talk to each other. The outcome is low-producing salespeople “flying under the radar” for months until the yearly numbers are processed, chewing up resources that could have been directed far more productively if only the situation were recognized sooner.

And there’s the additional human cost to inefficient performance tracking. A centerpiece of HR’s responsibilities is to support the health and welfare of employees. When this doesn’t happen, the company’s culture can quickly begin to suffer. Engagement and emotional investment weaken, ultimately resulting in a drop in productivity and a decline in the overall company environment.

How Organizations Can Bridge the Gap

What businesses need is for HR and go-to-market teams to be more closely intertwined. The result is both teams operating more effectively, with significant, positive, and long-term benefits for the entire business.

For HR teams, binding themselves consistently with the revenue-generating parts of the company can help flip the narrative of HR being nothing but a checked box. By helping go-to-market managers identify and support underperforming team members quicker, HR can provide value that is essential, substantial cost savings will be created, employees will be better supported, and HR can finally become a more integrated piece of a well-functioning whole.

But closer collaboration does require the right tools. What’s necessary first are new, data-backed metrics for evaluating performance that don’t require HR teams to get too bogged down by technical complexities. The importance of speaking a common, comprehensive language in terms of performance, skills/abilities, and willingness to learn and support cultural needs cannot be overstated.

These new metrics should be grounded in real-time data, providing efficient and clearly intelligible signifiers for management to act upon. The timeliness of updates is critical, as the impact of underperforming employees can have a ripple effect across the organization.

Additionally, a single, easy-to-use platform for HR and go-to-market teams would be vital. Siloed information results in multiple narratives and inevitable confusion without the ability to translate the correct message from contributor to executive and vice versa. But by allowing HR and sales to track employees seamlessly using the same platform while providing easy-to-use modules for coaching and remediation, a new solution would mean simpler cooperation toward the same objective, with comprehensive measurements across the organization.

As new technology continues to become available, it’s my sincere hope that HR and go-to-market teams can come together more effectively—for everyone’s benefit.

Bart Fanelli is CEO and Founder of Skillibrium. An experienced sales executive, field operator, and executive advisor with a proven track record of building successful go-to-market organizations, Fanelli has served in leadership roles with OutSystems, Splunk, and BMC Software. He has also led teams of more than 275 employees and businesses with more than $1.5 billion in revenue. Fanelli has been featured in a 2017 Harvard Business Review article and is an accomplished coauthor of The Success Cadence. His latest venture will be the launch of Skillibrium, a platform designed to help go-to-market organizations grow both individually and as a team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *