Getting executive buy-in for HR

Getting executive buy-in for HR

Smiling businesswoman shaking hands with client before team meeting in coworking space

Securing executive buy-in for HR initiatives involves clear communication and a story that ties your project closely to your company’s goals, mission, vision, and values. It’s a tall order but one you must complete in order to implement your strategic HR goals. For example, how will reducing turnover translate into higher revenue? Why would outsourcing to HR consultants contribute to growth this year? If you can demonstrate these relationships effectively, you’ll be on your way to getting the buy-in you need. 

Executive buy-in for HR initiatives can be especially tricky to come by in the current economic climate, with tightening purse strings and cuts lurking around the corner. However, that doesn’t mean your plans are doomed; you just need to learn how to package them. 

Your company’s leaders are busy, so you need a way to cut through the noise. In this blog, we’ll explain how to align your HR strategic initiatives with overall organizational goals, so you can get the executive buy-in you need. 

Start by workshopping ideas with key influencers

Coalition building is a powerful skill when enacting any kind of significant change. The same applies to getting executive buy-in. It may not always serve you or your ideas to go straight to the top with your HR initiative, especially larger-scale plans. Instead, work informally with other key members of leadership who would be receptive to your idea. This will be especially useful if you work across functions. 

For example, team up with a sales leader whose team struggles with turnover when you want to pitch your DEI initiative. Align with them on the impact of DEI on recruiting and retention. Then, you’ll have additional backing going into a presentation with an executive for approval. Instead of your initiative being an HR daydream, it’s a critical business imperative that impacts multiple departments. 


A businesswoman explaining series of graphs and data sets displayed on some large, wall mounted monitors in the office to get executive buy-in for HR.

Relate your plan to company values

Remember that list of company values on your About Us page? Your executives definitely do, and in the best organizations, they serve as a guidepost for a lot of their strategic decision-making. If one of your values is innovation, point to DEI as a driver of innovation. For your company to fully embrace innovative thinking as a core tenet, you need a wider range of perspectives to pull from. 

HR initiatives, like DEI, impact all employees. Aligning your strategies with your company values will give your idea more urgency. How you live up to company values can change over time, even if the values remain the same. So position HR initiatives as a means to maintain cultural integrity through evolving circumstances. 

Additionally, executives have hearts too. Those values can be emotional as much as they are tactical. A strategic appeal to the heart of the company values can be worthwhile, but you’ll have to strike a delicate balance to avoid upsetting the decision-makers. 

Then integrate data into the conversation 

The first two approaches build your case, but backing your HR initiatives with data can secure it. Executive buy-in is hard to come by because their choices are often high stakes. Without compelling data, you’ll find yourself selling them on a hunch. That’s not a recipe for success. 

However, finding the correct data to tell your story is important too. Again, let’s draw on the example of DEI initiatives. You could point to the 78% of employees who want to work for companies with strong DEI initiatives, but only 24% of companies have DEI goals. However, that just sounds like a less-than-urgent problem that other companies don’t seem eager to solve either. It’s good information to set the scene, but it won’t sell the vision. 

What if, instead, you highlight the significant link between diversity and profitability? For example, McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile of diversity outperformed bottom quartile companies by 36% in profitability. Positioning diversity and inclusion as a revenue driver is undoubtedly compelling. 

Obviously, another critical set of numbers to center here would be the costs of your HR initiative compared to the possible ROI. If you can paint that picture, and it looks pretty, you’ll be in a really good position. 

Of course, you can also discuss the morality of diversity, equity, and inclusion. That’s certainly a piece of the puzzle, but leaning too hard into that can get your presentation derailed by a defensive executive. 


Man doing presentation, using tablet & screen


Concisely lay out action items 

Pointing out a problem or an opportunity is one thing, but what can seal the deal is a clear set of solutions. What steps will you take to implement your new HR initiative? How long will it take to see results? How do you plan to measure effectiveness? You’ll want answers to all of these questions because they will ask for them. Ideally, you’ll be able to draw connections from the steps you plan to take to the data you presented earlier. Getting executive buy-in won’t be as tricky if you can effectively walk through these elements. 

Manage emotions and pick your battles

Sometimes, emotions may run high when you’re pointing to internal problems your HR initiatives can solve. For example, it’s easy for executives to view the poor diversity numbers you show them as a personal attack. Do your best, first, to leave very little open to interpretation. You’re not pitching something to attack leadership; you’re doing it to capitalize on an opportunity to improve your business. 

However, if feelings get hurt and voices are raised, you need to keep a level head or risk losing out on that executive buy-in. In those cases, do your best to reset the conversation. Validate their concerns and gently reframe the point they’re stuck on, so you can move forward in the right direction. 

Finally, be prepared to pick your battles. You’ve put a lot of thought into your pitch, and every element feels essential. But once you present it, that story is no longer yours. Now, it’s up to the stakeholders to determine what features they support. So, maybe you only win 75% of the budget you hoped for, but you still get the opportunity to make a positive change with what you have. Moreover, if you succeed, there’s a good chance you can win a bigger investment next time. 

ADDA can be your best HR asset

ADDA’s consultants can help your business grow with expert HR services. Whether you need a whole HR department or a professional to run point on your DEI project, ADDA is here to help. Schedule a call with us today to learn what we can do for your business. 

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