The time-honoured traditions of annual reviews, top-down leadership, and revolving talent are no longer the ways businesses thrive. HR professionals are now driven to improve employee engagement, increase motivation, and attract new talent while retaining the people they already have. The types of initiatives that foster this kind of environment take time and continuous effort driven by HR.
HR professionals are in constant contact with all levels of management and have the skills necessary to make positive change in any workspace. There are always new initiatives to get off the ground, but they won’t get anywhere without the support of leaders in the organization. While HR departments everywhere know where they should be focusing their time, the hard part is getting the buy-in from executives and upper management to get the tools and budget to implement these initiatives. This is where grand plans and high hopes get stuck in the mud.
For HR professionals to get the support they need, they must be able to communicate their plans in a way that management will respond to. The strategy of the HR department must align with overall company goals, and HR staff members require the training to speak confidently about how they will report ROI and what metrics they’ll use to measure success.
Employees don’t tend to take new initiatives seriously unless their management and the company leadership are also on board. Instead of hoping employees will jump on board, HR professionals should focus on getting executive buy-in first, so they can start off on the right foot.
Make a Plan
If, as an HR Professional, you don’t have the experience or tools to properly discuss how much value new HR initiatives can bring to an organization, then don’t panic. There are some key ways to make sure your strategy gets the senior executive buy-in you need. Often, a new strategy might involve training costs or new technology and tools. Top-level executives tend to focus on hard costs while overlooking how a new process will solve organizational challenges; it is your job to fill in these gaps and make it clear exactly how the cost is worth it.
You will need a plan to define clearly what needs to change, and what it will take. Have numbers prepared, quotes and product details gathered, and all the information on hand to answer questions. Data will be crucial. Determine which points you want to highlight and find the data to back them up. Look for numbers on organizational bottlenecks, declines in productivity, production delays, and other top priorities, and find ways to relate your data to dollars and cents.
While discussing your upcoming HR strategy, you will need to emphasize both the short- and long-term advantages of its implementation. Once you have gathered all your data, make a direct comparison to what it will cost the company if you do absolutely nothing. What’s the outlook in one year? Three years? There’s a strong chance that, even with initial costs added in, the business will save money in the long run when your new strategy is implemented.
Know your plan inside and out. The more time you spend in the planning stage, the better prepared you will be to answer key questions and speak clearly about the details that matter.
Align with Overall Business Goals
While it is important to show how your strategies will address specific problems, it’s also crucial to emphasize how they will add value and tie in with broader organizational priorities. The majority of executives will invest in initiatives with action items that tie directly to the company’s bottom line.
Things change on a dime in some businesses. What was a focus point three months ago might be on the backburner now. HR professionals must always have their finger on the pulse of the organization, so they know what executives are focused on and what will be coming in the future. This will help you design strategies that match the company objectives and help management understand that you are pulling in the same direction.
You need to make a strong business case that accurately shows the value of your proposal. Once you have shown how your plan directly relates to overall business goals, it will be easier for leadership to link the two together. If management is aiming to reduce costs, HR initiatives may focus on decreasing turnover, whereas if overall business goals are to increase productivity, you may start with strategies to automate administrative work with new software.
Once you have a clear vision of how your new strategies align with these broader goals, you can design your action plan to stress this relationship. You can them come up with data that supports these points and know exactly how to measure your plan to prove its ROI in relation to larger business goals.
Practice Your Pitch
It can be easy to get swept up in the grand plan and how it will affect change and supercharge business operations, but HR professionals need to remember to stay grounded in data and stay away from the theoretical—and practice makes perfect.
When planning for your next meeting, have someone come back at your points asking “why?” or “so what?” to get used to the feeling of responding to criticism and making your point clearly. This exercise can help you dive down into the root of what your initiative is trying to achieve and exactly why your company won’t succeed without it.
Also, flip the conversation to take a broader look at what’s possible with your new initiative. Proactively answer mock questions or comments about what you could do with half your requested budget or if you only had a part of the resources you need. While these options aren’t ideal, if your executive team is open to discussing other alternatives to support you, and you are open to other methods or possibilities, you may get buy-in faster.
Lean into the concerns and questions and take it as a great way to foster creativity to find an outcome that works. You need to remain flexible and responsive to feedback and ideas to manage the unpredictable nature of getting support and cooperation from a large group of people. The dialogue you have is more important than simply unloading information on upper management.
Expect Common Management Questions
Before you walk into your next planning or strategy meeting, become familiar with some of the top things management wants to hear so you are prepared. If you can answer these questions or speak to these points, you will be giving executives what they need to make decisions faster.
- How does this plan help us retain or attract talent?
- How does XYZ impact the bottom line?
- How do we measure up to the competition on this issue?
- What resources do you already have? What will you need?
- How long will this take?
- What metrics can we use to track this initiative?
- What are the risks associated with implementation?
- How does this affect various departments?
- What will happen if we don’t implement this change/policy/strategy?
The most important factors for strategic HR professionals to remember is that they are the ones with the skills and experience to get these initiatives off the ground. You are the expert, so have confidence in your plan and the value of your ideas. Be open to feedback and compromise, but remain strong in your belief in the data and how your strategies will empower and evolve your organization. If you can show how your initiatives align with company goals, that ROI can be measured over time, and that your plan will have a significant impact on both your employees’ lives and the bottom line, you will get the buy-in you’re looking for.