It’s a major frustration for HR professionals that valuable HR initiatives often don’t get the traction they deserve within organisations. Unfortunately this often applies both to the initiative itself and the deliverables.
It is our observation that in many instances the groundwork required to create a foundation for success could be stronger. Often communications don’t explain the real and tangible outcomes that the initiative can drive for the business unit or organisation.
Here are some of the objections my colleagues and I have heard from line managers:
- How does this help me achieve my KPIs?
- HR is all theory, we have to get the real job done.
- What gives you the right to tell me what to do?
- I don’t have the resources.
As a result executing initiatives will be difficult, but there is a way to anticipate and deal with these objections and barriers.
Here is an example of a general benefits statement that was used to support a major HR initiative:
- Retaining talented staff and managers.
- Ensure higher engagement from staff improved career paths.
- Ensure they have the skills developed to meet future needs.
Fortunately, in this organisation the project got a very high uptake, though a number of managers who hung back from full involvement.
But with time and resource pressures, or cynical managers, is this enough? And does it pass any fiscal benefit test? There are a number of critical aspects addressed in your planning.
Know your enemy
While we don’t see the relationship between HR professionals as adversarial, we do see it as essential to really know the people you are interacting with. Ideally you should be able to answer these questions to assist line managers that may not engage in the project:
- What are their personal and career goals?
- How do they get information and make decisions?
- What are their blind spots?
- What is their area of expertise?
- What are the key issues within their area of responsibility?
What’s in it for me?
Too often we leave it to the individual line manager to interpret the benefits of an HR initiative. What if we could say that the initiative will generate improvement to your bottom line, or give you a measurable edge over competitors. Or, that it could assist in dealing with issues in relation to career and personal-development concerns.
Each and every business decision has a financial impact, and as line managers have budgets to manage with resource constraints, it would be silly to try to engage them without creating a benefits statement which can be done by plugging specific data into benefits statements.
The very strong ROI at the organisational level reinforces the cumulative effect of smaller incremental gains and becomes a validation of the worth of the project. Based on conservative assumptions, this tells us that well-planned HR projects can have a huge impact on the organisation.
At divisional level we have included only the direct costs and benefits of the project, as these are of responsibility to the line manager. In this instance the ROI is overwhelming, as is the case for them to engage in the program and to implement career maps and capabilities statements. How do they explain to their manager their lack of involvement?
Qualitative and intangible benefits
In addition to the quantified benefits above, there is a range of other more personal qualitative and intangible benefits that can be used to gain engagement.
At an organisational level, these include being recognised as an employer of choice, creating a performance-orientated culture, and being seen as proactive leaders.
Benefits at an individual level include being seen as managers who are willing to advance employees’ careers and are leaders with broad business and people perspective.
Communication is key
HR leaders must ensure they don’t shortcut the communication, education and integration process. The concept of the initiative must be actively sold into the organisation. To do this successfully, the concepts and tools must be simple and resonate with end users with strong benefits.
A word of warning
The calculations in the model are simple and therefore its accuracy, usability and credibility is the inputs to the benefits section. It will be critical to work with key stakeholders to ensure that actual data is used wherever possible. A performance-based culture and appropriate accountability are important elements of the organisation and here is an opportunity to stand up and be counted.