Leading Up: Creating Buy-In for HR Initiatives

leading up

A friend and I were recently preparing for a presentation by writing out conflict scenarios to show effective and ineffective ways to handle conflict. One particular scenario was between a human resources manager and department manager. I come from an operations background and my friend has an HR background. What struck me is how we tended to view the situation through our own filters and make the “other side” wrong.

Historically, Human Relations and those outside HR have had an adversarial relationship. This often happens because HR and other leaders speak a different language or don’t see eye-to-eye on an issue.

In the past, a big “rub” for HR was that they were not given a seat at the table. However, situations are slowly changing and today, more and more HR leaders have found that they now have a seat at the table. They’ve gained the opportunity to play a larger strategic role in their organization – now, how do they leverage that opportunity?

If HR leaders are going to have the impact they want – and need – to have in an organization, they must influence both up and out to their peers in other departments. I suggest HR leaders use these five strategies to create buy-in for HR initiatives.

Find the Common Goal

At the departmental level, business goals and HR goals appear to conflict with one another. The truth, however, is that other departments and HR are often coming at the same problem from two different perspectives.

There is a concept called chunking up that refers to moving up and out to a higher level and bigger goal until the goals align. From there, you can see how two separate sides are taking  different approaches to solve the same problem. This approach removes the adversarial relationship and focuses on aligning the vision by finding the common goal.

Connect the Dots

To create buy in, look at the situation from different perspectives. Don’t assume that what is obvious to you is also obvious to others.

To do this, present a business case. How does your intended initiative further the objectives of the business / organization? Does it reduce turnover? Make recruiting faster and less costly? Boost productivity or help teams meet deadlines?

Connect the dots, and those outside HR will be more willing to buy in to an initiative.

Understand the Audience

Take a good look at your organization. Who are the supporters and detractors? Who are the early adopters? Who will not get on board? What are their wants, needs and objectives? What are they trying to accomplish?

When you understand your audience, you understand how best to create buy-in with them. The questions above don’t just apply to employees – they apply to other managers and leaders as well. Without buy-in from everyone, it’s impossible to successfully execute on new initiatives.

Engage in Dialogue

Be willing to ask questions and hear challenges. Just because someone has questions, that doesn’t mean they’re saying your initiative is a bad idea. You must let people express their concerns and talk about how initiatives may or may not work in their areas. By doing this, you give more opportunities for buy-in, and you create an environment that moves from judging to valuing. In addition, you might just discover a hole in your plan or a tweak that makes it better.

Develop a Communications Plan 

Communication is more than an email announcing a change or a new initiative. An effective message appeals to both the head and the heart. HR often doesn’t speak the language of the business in terms of goals and objectives. Work to incorporate statistics to appeal to logic, and stories to connect on an emotional level. Above all, listen to understand, and help people see the “why” behind initiatives.

It’s Not About Being Right

Creating influence isn’t about always being right or winning the argument. Rather, influence requires an aligned vision, positioning the right message to your audience, and using your audience’s language to forge meaningful conversations that create buy-in.

If you’d like to know more about Leading Up, I’ll be presenting on this topic at the HR Southwest Conference in Fort worth October 27 – 30.

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