The age-old traditions of annual reviews, top-down leadership, and revolving talent are no longer working to help businesses thrive. Today’s HR professionals understand that to improve engagement, increase motivation, and attract new talent while retaining the people they already have, requires them to foster a new type of environment.
While HR departments everywhere know exactly where they should be focusing their time, the hard part is getting the buy-in from executives and upper management.
New plans require new budgets and for HR professionals to get the support they need, they must get management buy-in, from the top. The best way to do this is to communicate the plans in a way that management will respond to. If they can get the executive buy-in first, and leadership is on board, your new initiative can start off on the right foot.
Start with a Plan
Before you explain to top-level executives the costs of training, technology, or tools you need to have a plan. Your plan should have three main points: the problem, the change, the plan.
1. The Problem: Clearly define the problem, and what needs to change.
2. The Change: Explain what it will take to solve the problem and (most importantly) why.
a. Be sure to include both long term and short-term advantages.
b. Show how your initiative aligns with the more broad company goals.
3. The Data: This part is crucial. You’re need data backup your plan. Have numbers, quotes, products, and any informational data you can to answer questions and back up your plan.
a. Look for numbers on organizational bottlenecks, declines in productivity, production delays, and other top priorities.
b. Stay away from theoretical data.
c. Find ways to relate your data to dollars and cents.
BONUS – The Comparison: If you really want to pack a punch, 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?
The key is to 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 to your management team.
Before you pitch your plan, consider your timing in relation to what is going on in other areas of the company. Bad timing can ruin even the best of intentions. Be conscious of budgeting processes and business dependencies. Understand the overall pulse of the company and make sure you are up to speed on what is happening at the macro level to ensure your proposal is supporting the whole, not conflicting with current company issues.
Know Your Audience:
If you are pitching your initiative to upper management, you need to know about the people you are seeking support from. Get to know their personalities and tailor your approach to them. If they are no-nonsense, get-to-the-point type of people, don’t waste time with flowery language. If they want concrete data, don’t use hypothetical examples. Do they prefer general charts and graphs or more detailed information? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it may pay off to do some research and talk to others who may be able to help you get to know the leadership team.
Practice Your Pitch
Ask a friend, family member, or even your dog to let your practice your pitch. Have someone come back at your points asking “why?” or “so what?” so that you’re ready to respond to criticism clearly and calmly. This can help you dive deeper into what you are really trying to achieve and exactly why your company won’t succeed without it.
This Isn’t Show and Tell
You can’t allow any program to sell itself, even if you’re sold on it. You have to be the one to tell them, sell them on it, and don’t rely on a demo to do the work for you. Your research and data should drive the presentation. Upper management isn’t interested in an infomercial, they want a specific solution to a specific problem that directly relates to the company.
Of course, you want your plan to pass with flying colors, but chances are there will be some compromising. Go in planning for a negotiation and be prepared for Plan B, C, D, and E.
· What you could do with half your requested budget?
· Could you make it work with only part of the resources you need?
· Are there other alternatives that cost less?
Having backup options will help you to remain flexible and responsive to feedback and ideas.
Know the Answers
Before you walk into the meeting, have the answers to the questions you know will be asked. The better you can answer these questions the easier it will be for the executives to make a decision. The dialog you bring is more important than your pitch, so be ready for anything. Start with this list of questions and be sure you can answer each one thoroughly:
· 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 to be effective?
· What metrics can we use to track this initiative?
· What does the implementation process look like?
· How does this affect various departments?
· What will happen if we don’t implement this change/policy/strategy?
Above All, Be Confident
Remember that you are the expert. You have the skills and experience to get your initiatives off the ground. Have confidence in your plan and the value of your ideas. Be open to feedback and compromise but remain strong in your beliefs. If you can follow your plan to show how your initiative aligns with company goals, that ROI can be measured, and that your plan will have a significant impact to change both your employees’ lives and the bottom line, you will get the buy-in you’re looking for.