Whether you’re proposing a new wellbeing programme, rewards system or the implementation of HR software, the first step in any new HR initiative is gaining buy-in from your organisation’s key stakeholders.
Any significant change to process, policy or platform will inevitably come at a cost, so budgetary sign-off will, of course, need to be achieved. In an ideal world though, you’ll get more than just the financial go-ahead from above.
For your new initiatives to really take root in the organisation, you’ll need full backing from your bosses, with senior leaders prepared to support your cause and push your idea out to the masses.
You’ll also need the support of line managers across the business, with team leaders playing a crucial role in giving lift off to HR initiatives.
Indeed, without support and visible backing from these figures of authority, it may prove a struggle to bring on board the most important group of all – your employees.
Overcoming resistance from the workforce
When any new change programme is proposed, a degree of resistance from the workforce is to be expected. Some team members (particularly those in already high-performing departments) may view your proposal as an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction to their regular routines.
These employees may be reluctant to move away from their established ways of working, rejecting new policies or process in favour of maintaining the ‘tried and tested’.
It could, therefore, be argued that to truly gain buy-in across the board, implementation of your idea must come first. That is to say, while you’ll need sponsors onside to kick things off initially, buy-in can’t be fully achieved until people see actual, real-life results.
Even so, it can aid your cause to engage employees in your project from the off. Potential resistance can be warded off, if staff are made to feel fully vested in the programme, rather than feeling change is being forced upon them.
The importance of backing from above
To put your idea into any form of practice, you’ll need the initial backing of your bosses. A management team that invests in your idea from the start will afford you the appropriate budget, time and resources to make it work.
They’ll also be much more responsive to approval requests, and less like likely to ‘can’ the project if things get tough. And make no mistake, things can get tough.
Research suggests that “25% of technology projects fail outright, 20 to 25% don’t show any return on investment, and as much as 50% need massive reworking by the time they’re finished.”
These failure rates can likely be applied to all other types of initiative too – and very often, these ‘misfires’ are the result of half-hearted backing from a business’s top table.
So, how do you go about getting the buy-in you need to make your project a success?
Firstly, you’ll need to show your business leaders how your proposal aligns with and supports the organisation’s over-riding strategic goals.
Typically, this means building a case for your initiative that extends beyond your own department.
When proposing new HR software, for example, top-level bosses may see a reduction in HR admin as ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘essential’ – but if you can show how the software will also boost the productivity of employees right across the business, you might find increased support.
Consider, too, the ways in which you’ll measure the success of your initiative. Bosses will want to see a tangible return on their investment, so you’ll need to be able to prove that your project is measurable – ideally in financial terms.
Join forces and time it right…
When a bright idea strikes, it’s only natural to want to pitch it to bosses yourself – particularly if you’re new in your role and looking to make your mark individually.
However, it’s widely accepted that management buy-in is easier to gain when you surround yourself with the support of your colleagues.
Joining forces with other key people across the business not only helps you present a wider business case, but it also allows you to tap into additional sources of data and, potentially, make use of other people’s contact networks.
Indeed, one of your allies might have a close link to one of the managers you’re trying to convince – and that’s never going to hurt your cause.
Timing is also key. Your ideas need to be raised at the right moment, for instance when there’s a noticeable shift in organisational priorities, or when key people join or leave the business.
It’s important too that you’re not trying to pitch your big idea at a time when your boss is committing their energy and funds to another significant project.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of the business is key. If you can sense people are beginning to notice or care about an issue that your initiative would address, you’ll need to be prepared to ride the wave of interest.
Gaining stakeholder buy-in for your HR initiatives is crucial to the project’s ultimate success – not just in terms of getting your ideas off the ground, but in terms of maximising adoption across the business.
Before you even think about pitching your idea, significant groundwork is required to build the business case and grow your network of advocates – giving yourself the best possible chance of buy-in from your leadership team.
Even once you have that, be prepared for some inevitable resistance from the workforce. People rarely support something until they see real-life results – so your quest for buy-in must continue long after your idea is rolled out.