The New Year has started. Every sales leader has a fresh list of HR projects to accomplish. Each initiative seems to be the #1 top priority. The ones that aren’t hot today will soon become urgent. This will surely overwhelm the Human Resources business partner.


Today’s post will help align HR projects with Sales goals. It’s the story of Tracy, the business partner for sales at a B2B technology company. Tracy constantly asks, “What are the HR project priorities that provide the outcomes we need?” I asked her if she is ever hit with a surprise request. She laughed and said that it happens all the time. The series of unpredictable events is endless. There are always issues caused by budget cuts, a competitive threat or talent changes.


Without a crystal ball to see the future, how can HR stay ahead? Tracy’s approach was remarkably powerful. She shared her ideas for success as the business partner to Sales.


The Curse of Last Year

A few years ago, Tracy felt whipsawed by her responsibilities. She always seemed to be working on the wrong project. Priorities shifted quickly; she was finishing up yesterday’s priority and missing today’s deadline. She realized that everything was urgent. These are typical of the projects on her list:


  • Leftover – A project that didn’t get completed last year
  • Corporate – An initiative cascaded down from headquarters
  • Favorite – A pet project of a powerful executive
  • Compromise – An interesting idea without a champion that no one dares to kill
  • Check-off – An project easy to complete and cross off the list


When everything is a priority, there are no priorities. There must be a better way.


3 Common Dimensions

Tracy took the list of projects for the year and met with sales leaders. One-on-one conversations confirmed her suspicions. There was no agreement on what was most important. She asked some second-level questions. It became clear that the linkage between sales goals and projects was poorly defined. Or completely missing.


What emerged from the discussions were 3 common dimensions:


Impact on Revenue – Projects are more important if they help “Make the Number.” Example: recruiting ‘A’ player talent is essential to capturing new logo revenue.


Cost to Implement – Some excellent project ideas are just not affordable. Example: a new Learning Management System would enhance talent development. But the budget is only partially committed.


Effort Required – Some projects require tremendous effort and coordination. Example: An onboarding curriculum requires a complete mapping of the learning path of a new hire. It’s much more than just a series of independent training modules.


You can’t work on everything at once; where do you focus your energy right now?


The Project Prioritizer

The 3 dimensions provide a framework for setting priorities. Tracy made an assessment through her one-on-one conversations. She stack-ranked the projects and gained agreement with sales leaders. During the remainder of the year, she could always point to the priorities that were set in January. There were changes during the year, but trade-offs were made objectively. As one project rose in importance, another was pushed down the stack.


She used a simple matrix for scoring each project. The “HR Project Prioritizer” is a convenient way to gain agreement with a group of stakeholders. It compares each project against the others. The pet projects and leftovers are exposed. Essential projects are in the spotlight.


5 Steps to Success

Start the year with a roadmap that has a high probability of success.


  1. Gather the key stakeholders for a workshop to review the projects
  2. Define the 3 dimensions (Effort, Cost & Impact)
  3. Gain agreement on priorities
  4. Refer to the Prioritizer regularly during the year – negotiate changes in priority


The “bubble chart” provides a useful visual reference. The stakeholders can quickly see how each project compares with the others.Project Prioritizer


Impact – Largest bubbles have the most positive revenue impact
Cost – Most expensive projects rise to the top of the chart
Effort – Easiest projects are on the left side of the chart


HR and Sales leaders must work together towards common goals. This quick assessment sets the stage for a successful year. Your chances of Making the Number will soar once your priorities are aligned.