As an HR professional, you’ll likely be looking at how you can guide and support the more strategic objectives of a business.

As a result, you may want to launch any number of workforce-related initiatives that’ll help do exactly that: from creating a new health and wellbeing programme, to launching an employee rewards scheme, workplace benefits or even choosing a new HR software solution. All those initiatives will likely require a solid and compelling business case to justify the project

How HR can overcome 6 common business case obstacles Cezanne HR Blog

The problem is, though, is that whilst business cases are brilliant for justifying an initiative, they can also be hugely challenging undertakings. After all, if you’re presenting a business case to your organisation, it’s because you want your leaders to invest – money, time and resources – into an idea… and that idea may come with substantial costs!

So, if you’re next big HR initiative requires a convincing business case to become a reality, let’s look at 6 of the most common obstacles you can expect to encounter and, more importantly, how you can overcome them.

1. Lack of key senior leader or stakeholder buy-in

Perhaps the most common business case obstacle is obtaining that all-important buy-in from senior leaders or key decision makers. You may understand the challenges your business is facing, and you may even be doubly certain your proposal will both solve them and add value to the business! But, other may require convincing. This could be due to a mismatch in priorities, a general lack of understanding, or differing views on the proposed HR initiative’s strategic value to the wider business.

              How to get senior leader buy-in

Engaging stakeholders and obtaining that all-important buy-in when writing a business case is essential. Doing this will likely secure much-needed support within the business, align with strategic organisational goals, and give you more diverse perspectives of the issues you’re trying to solve.

In short, by involving stakeholders throughout the process, you enhance the chances of creating a successful business case that gets your initiative approved. So, consider the following:

  • Identify the individuals or groups in your business who have a vested interest in your HR project.
  • Clearly articulate the vision for your initiative and how it aligns with your organisation’s strategic objectives.
  • Demonstrate what the tangible benefits to the business will be and aim to quantify the return on investment for the project.
  • Anticipate and address potential concerns or objections from senior leaders or stakeholders proactively. Show that you have thoroughly researched and understood the risks, challenges, and limitations associated with your project.
  • Create opportunities for senior leaders to provide input, feedback, and suggestions.
  • Assurance of comprehensive training and ongoing support can alleviate concerns related to the adoption of a new initiative – especially if it revolves around HR technology.
  • Share success stories and testimonials from other organisations that have implemented the same or similar initiatives.

2. Budget constraints

Any major HR initiative you want to implement will come with a price tag. However, limited financial resources can hinder larger-scale HR initiatives, making it challenging to secure funding for necessary programmes, technology, or talent development strategies.

              How to overcome budget constraints

Performing a thorough cost analysis is critical for your business case as it will help your organisation assess the financial implications of implementing and maintaining your proposed initiative. It will also support informed decision-making, allowing your business to budget effectively, identify potential cost savings, and determine the initiative’s overall return on investment (ROI) to justify the initial and potentially ongoing expenditure. Consider the following:

  • Understand the total cost of ownership for your project. This would include the initial ‘sticker’ price of the initiative (such as an HR software platform for example), but it should also account for aspects such as labour time from within your business implementing the programme, potential ongoing costs and cost projections should accompany if circumstances change (undergoing rapid growth, for instance).
  • Be realistic as to what is possible within your company’s budget. You may have well-justified and grand ambitions, but make sure what you propose is practical for the organisation.
  • Remember to account for hidden costs, such as the time you and others will need to set aside to manage the project successfully.

3. ROI uncertainty

The return on investment (ROI) is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of a business case. Many business cases can fail due to insufficiently demonstrating a clear ROI for an initiative. Without a clear projected ROI, it becomes difficult to justify a project’s costs and showcase the potential benefits to the organisation – and this can be hugely problematic for hard-working HR teams!

              How to overcome ROI uncertainty

When thinking about the ROI for your business case, keep the following points in mind:

  • Quantify the anticipated benefits and financial gains or potential reduction in expenditure your HR initiative is expected to generate, aligning them with specific organisational goals.
  • Utilise your HR data, benchmarks, and historical performance to calculate ROI, emphasising how the proposed HR initiative directly impacts key performance indicators, cost savings, revenue growth, or productivity improvements.
  • Present a clear and concise ROI analysis, showcasing the anticipated value against the investment.
  • Ultimately, highlight the initiative’s potential to yield a positive and measurable return for your organisation, and ideally, one that’s too good to ignore!

If you’re building a business case for HR software, check out this detailed article that guides you through how to calculate the return on investment.

4. Resistance to change

You may be part of a business that does things in a certain way because of a ‘we’ve always done it like this’ mentality. Organisational resistance or reluctance to embrace new HR programmes often stem from a lack of understanding, a prevailing culture that resists change or even just ‘fear of the new’ – believing that a change will negatively impact a person/s role within a business.

              How to overcome resistance to change

Employees – and even senior leaders – may resist adopting a new HR initiative due to those core issues of unfamiliarity, fear of change, or concerns about its impact on their roles. When crafting your HR business case, think about how you can mitigate those issues, and what both HR and the wider business can do to encourage adoption of a new initiative.

In addition, the more people you have on board with the project, the easier it’ll be to mitigate resistance to change. There’ll likely be an increased personal ownership and commitment to the project, and a better sense of collaboration, too. This is where gaining that all-important buy-in we mentioned earlier can really pay dividends.

5. Insufficient data and metrics

Although you may be supremely confident your HR initiative will be beneficial to a business, offering cold, hard data and measurable metrics to back up your claims are critical. However, having inadequate or outdated data, metrics, or analytics to support your proposed HR initiative can make creating a compelling case for the desired change or improvement incredibly tough – if not impossible.

              How to overcome insufficient data and metrics

This is where a great HR software solution – ideally with integrated data analytics tools – can be hugely beneficial to your cause. HR software platforms that include sophisticated analytical tools can help you make sense of an organisation’s HR data; helping you better understand virtually anything: from your workforce’s total capacity, any potential risks to that workforce, and the business’s overall performance – perfect for use in a business case.

If you’re initiative is looking to tackle excess staff churn in your business, take a look at this article. It looks at how HR software with the right analytical tools use Big Data to help HR teams start to identify hidden issues cause unwanted staff churn.

6. Communication gaps

Ineffective communication among project stakeholders – such as IT, HR and senior leaders – is a common problem when creating a business case, and especially with large project groups. Delays or gaps in communication at this stage can lead to misunderstandings and further delays the deeper you go into a project. So, consider how they can be reduced and managed effectively.

              How to overcome communication gaps

Create opportunities for stakeholders to provide input, feedback, and suggestions throughout creation of your business case. Consider forming a cross-functional team with representatives from different departments to ensure diverse perspectives are accounted for. As your initiative progresses, regularly update stakeholders on progress, milestones, and successes to keep them informed and engaged with the project.

Paul Bauer author image

Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is the Head of Content at Cezanne HR. Based in the Utopia of Milton Keynes (his words, not ours!) he’s worked within the employee benefits, engagement and HR sectors for over four years. He's also earned multiple industry awards for his work - including a coveted Roses Creative Award.

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