Say you want to implement a new training program for sales reps. But every time you propose a new HR initiative like this, executives question whether it can work or say the company can’t afford it.
Next time, take a different approach. Ask to implement the program for only half of the sales force. Measure and compare the results before the test program begins and after six months. Employees who undergo training should show improved results, bolstering your case for funding to implement the program with the entire sales team.
Most HR professionals don’t use such a simple, split-sample research approach to determine the financial impact of proposed programs. But that should change, because the technique can improve HR’s reputation as a department that helps, not hurts, organization productivity, says HR consultant John Sullivan.
“If you use the same type of tool that researchers use to show that a program works, you gain credibility,” says Sullivan. Split-sample testing can work on most, but not all, HR initiatives. Focus on the following areas of HR that are easiest to measure and most likely to yield the best results:
Sales. Compare the sales results of every salesperson before, during and after the test program.
“Ask salespeople what worked, what didn’t work and if they received adequate training,” says Robert Morgan, COO of Hudson Talent . “Make adjustments and roll the program out to the entire sales force.”
Also measure customer service to get an accurate picture of how many sales are final.
Recruiting. Example: Launch an employee referral program with a certain business department or unit. Compare the productivity and quality of employees hired through the referral program with those hired through normal channels in other departments.
Compensation. Offer financial incentives or pay-for-performance programs to some teams of employees, but not others. Make sure those choices don’t discriminate against any protected group of employees, such as minorities.
Retention. Target certain retention efforts at a group of employees and compare the results.
Final tips: Ask the CFO, execs and department managers—who all have a stake in the results of the split-sample test—to offer suggestions for designing it. That approach limits criticisms when HR reveals the test results. Brace yourself for the chance that a split-sample test won’t work.
“My philosophy is that I’d much rather know it didn’t work with part of a group rather than spend money to roll it out to everybody and have it fail,” says Morgan.