When advocating for HR change it can be difficult to align all your stakeholders and get the buy-in you need for your upcoming project. However, driving a business case that everyone supports, and getting key stakeholders to move from reluctant to supportive of change can be done.
So how can you achieve that? The secret lies in starting stakeholder engagement early, anywhere from up to six months before you bring your business case to the board. Here’s how to start.
Have the business case ready before you’ve written it
The old fashioned way to approach writing a business case and getting it approved is that you’d do it on your own, present it to the board, deal with the challenges, and get the go or no-go. However, this is not the most effective way to go about it. The target is to have the business case approved before you’ve written it. How can you do this?
Writing a business case takes time, especially as you explore benefits, timelines, costs, etc. But actually, the investigational detailing required of these points doesn’t really matter. You know, generally, what the benefits, timelines, costs, etc. of a project are, probably within a 25-30% margin, which is everything that you’re going to ask your stakeholders to approve, now.
Therefore, you can start talking about that! Later on, when you begin to write the actual business case, you might be able to refine the costs by 5-10%, but at the end of the day spending six months drafting a business case and finding the costs will be £4.7 million instead of £5 is a negligible difference that most likely won’t make an impact to the stake-holder decision making process. People can make these decision in advance.
Here’s an example: If you’re thinking about buying a new car, you know the approximate cost, why it’s a benefit to you, etc. because you can look that up online. You might negotiate a slightly better price, or a different custom feature, but in essence, you can work out whether buying a car is the right choice for you in advance of knowing any of those details, and get all your stakeholders to agree (i.e. spouse, partner, family members).
Meet the stakeholders and collect their wish lists
Knowing what your business case is going to look like will help you set up effective meetings with all your identified stakeholders. What you will then do is go to every single one of your stakeholders, telling them ‘this is what the business case will look like’, and asking ‘what are your thoughts on that? What would you like to see? Would you approve this?’ Your agenda is to get everyone aligned and overcome objections and obstacles before you present your case officially to the board.
Of course you’ll meet resistance with some people, especially those who aren’t naturally keen on the project. In order to get buy-in from these people, the key is to go to them early, treat them with respect, ask what their issues are with the project, and work through those questions and concerns. You may be surprised how often those questions and concerns are not relevant to the particular business case and/or can easily be answered.
This is when the iteration process begins. Here’s an example: You meet with the CIO to talk about the business case, and he or she says that they just don’t think HR tech delivers benefits. Your follow up question is ‘what would make you believe in the benefits?’ If they say something like ‘a case study’, or ‘my mates down the road agree’, then your response is to tell them that you’ll go away and find that case study or connect with that source (if that’s okay), and then come back to have another discussion to see whether HR tech delivers benefits.
This process takes time, but eventually you’ll get to the root of issue. Continuing the example, you might come back to talk to the CIO a third time, present them with information, and then he or she says that what they’re really concerned about is knowledge transfer. Weird, because you didn’t expect them to say that, but now you can follow up with giving him or her confidence about that topic. As afore mentioned, getting to this point can take a long time, so starting early is essential.
Dealing with resistance
Inevitably, when you approach stakeholders to get buy-in, you will meet what seems like unstoppable resistance. For example, maybe one person wants a more customised system and refuses to accept anything less. What you need to realise is that this type of disagreement and all those similar are really just choices. All you need to do is provide the facts.
Continuing the example, let’s say the stakeholder wants to drive a more customised approach in their business, so you tell the stakeholder that you can customise the new software, just like it’s possible to customise the others, but it costs a lot. Then that person will weigh the costs versus the benefits and make a decision based off of that. There’s no use arguing with someone about what they want. You present them with the facts and make them present the business case to youand everyone else about what they want.
It is important to understand that not everyone will buy into your business case, no matter what you do. What you need to do in this situation is continue to treat that person with respect and have an open conversation with them. Approach that stakeholder who has not bought into the business case, and tell them ‘this business case is likely to go to the board next month, and it’s likely that it’s going to get approved because all these other stakeholders see the business case.’ Then you ask them what they plan to do when that happens. Will they make a stand–In this case, you can plan accordingly and gather more material. Will they stand back and defer to their colleagues? Having this information will help you prepare to make your next step.
Meeting all the stakeholders, listening to their views, and treating them with respect can be a challenge, especially when you hear something you don’t want to hear. It will take time to get people on the same page, but it’s worth doing. What neither you nor your stakeholders want, is it be in a position where you are presenting the business case and dealing with unforeseen objections right then and there. Start the process early.
By Tom Holmes. For more information about stakeholder buy-in or implementing Cloud HR technology, please get touch.