April 12, 2024
March 18, 2024

What You Need to Know to Get Leadership Buy-In

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Everyone knows that when you want to implement a new HR initiative, you need leadership buy-in for it to be successful. When leaders have bought into the new idea, they not only approve the budget—they also support your efforts, promote the change, build excitement and integrate the new idea into the company culture.

With leadership on your side, your new initiative has a much better chance of being a success.

But for many HR teams, trying to convince leaders of the importance, impact and relevance of a new programme may seem impossible—especially when budgets are tight.

In this post, you’ll learn how to increase your chances of winning leadership over. We’ll cover:

  • Understanding leaders’ perspectives
  • Using effective communication
  • Collecting a team of champions
  • Creating an effective internal project proposal
  • Presenting the ROI

No matter what you want to pitch to your executive team, we hope this post will give you the guidance you need to put your best foot forward.

Building a Foundation of Trust With Leadership

Trust between leaders and employees is a foundational principle in any business. You must trust that leaders have the best interests of both the company and the employees at heart and have confidence that they know how to guide and lead the company.

Leaders, on the other hand, need to trust that their employees are invested in the company’s success and are putting in the effort necessary to accomplish their personal, team and business goals.

This two-way trust isn’t just an abstract concept with vague benefits: trusted workplaces enjoy 50% greater productivity, 106% more energy and 13% fewer sick days.

When trust is developed, specifically between leaders and employees, buy-in is going to be much easier for you to obtain. But how do you build that trust?

Understand Leadership Perspective

Do you understand how your leaders see things and what they want? What are their biggest concerns at the moment? Keeping budgets low, creating world-changing innovations, expanding into new markets, improving company culture etc.?

Hopefully, leaders care about the employee experience and the well-being of the people. However, due to their positions, they often have many more concerns, many of which may seem contradicting to your priorities. In order to effectively present your idea, you have to understand what leadership is looking for and how your idea can fit into their priorities.

For example, if leadership is really focusing on keeping costs low, don’t present a new employee recognition programme initiative by saying it will help improve company culture. Instead, talk about how employee recognition can improve retention, which will lower costs.

Use Effective Communication

Using your understanding of leadership priorities and perspectives, you need to clearly communicate with leaders what your plan is. Be transparent with things like:

  • What are the goals of this initiative and how will you go about achieving them?
  • What budget does the new initiative need and how will you spend it?
  • How can each leader help you maximise the effectiveness of the initiative?

Just be as open and honest as possible with your plan so that leadership has a clear idea of what the goal and requirements are for the initiative.

Steps to Obtain Leadership Buy-In

So you have a foundation of trust, understanding and honest communication. Now here are some specific strategies for gaining the buy-in you need.

Define What You Want

The first step for getting leadership buy-in has nothing to do with leadership. Instead, the first thing you need to do is create a strategy complete with goals, objectives, methods and budgets. Your strategy should also clearly show the challenge and how the new initiative will solve it. It’s a good idea to plan how each member of the leadership team can get involved in executing your strategy as well.

A clearly defined strategy with obtainable goals and actionable ideas will start your buy-in journey off on the right foot.

Gather a Team of Champions

Instead of being a one-person army and trying to conquer the leadership team alone, create a coalition of champions who believe in the project. Maybe one person has access to important information and ROI data. Maybe another person is close to a member of the executive team. Maybe another is a well-respected and influential manager.

Once you have a team, get together with them and ask them questions such as:

  • How can I most effectively present this project?
  • What goals do you have for this initiative?
  • How can this project help you improve your team/department?
  • What changes would you suggest to the current proposal?

Your team of advocates can help you refine your initiative plan and make it that much more effective. Plus, presenting your idea as a coalition of respected, influential employees will be much more effective than as just one person.

Make a Business Case

No, not an external case to be sent to a customer. An internal project proposal includes:

  • An introduction to the project
  • Background on why you’ve planned it
  • Benefits of implementation
  • Description of the work
  • Desired results and goals
  • Methods
  • Schedules
  • Costs

Build out a proposal that covers these aspects in as much detail as possible—the clearer you can make the picture for your leaders and colleagues, the better your chance of converting them to your ideas. 

Focus on the ROI

For better or for worse, leadership is focused on costs and returns. Because of this, you need to put a heavy emphasis on the ROI of your proposed project. For an example, let’s look at the ROI of implementing employee recognition.

The desired outcomes for employee recognition are to enhance company culture, improve employee experience and increase employee satisfaction. And here is the proven ROI of employee recognition:

  • 14% increase in productivity and performance
  • 3X more employee loyalty when companies prioritise recognition 
  • 4X greater engagement when employees feel recognised and appreciated

Then, you can connect these ROI statements with company goals and strategies. For example, if employees are 4X more engaged, company culture is going to be improved. Or with a 14% increase in productivity, profits will increase.

Listen to Feedback

Chances are, even with a fully fleshed out proposal and clear ROI, leaders are going to have questions and feedback. Go in with this expectation and keep an open mind so that you don’t get defensive or frustrated.

Negotiate with leadership on budget, timing, staff requirements or other aspects you’re willing to change and still hit your goals. Agreeing on a plan that everyone supports is much more important than refusing to change anything about your initial proposal.

Get Leaders Excited About Your Ideas

As long as you understand leadership’s perspectives, work with a team of champions and have a comprehensive project proposal, your chances of getting leaders to buy-in are much higher than normal. 

Whether you’re trying to implement an employee recognition programme, start a professional development course, get a new budget for social media marketing or any other initiative, we hope this guide will make getting leadership buy-in much easier.

Jefferson Hansen
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An avid lover of fantasy books, a proud Hufflepuff, and a strong proponent of escapism, Jeff has a love of good storytelling. He relies on that for both his professional work and his writing hobby (don’t ask about the 10+ novel ideas collecting virtual dust on his computer).