Let’s be honest: persuading key decision makers to part with their cash for any initiative can be tough – especially for HR!

After all, HR has only recently been able to shake off its reputation of being just another business cost-centre: simply existing as a necessity for handling staff paperwork, payroll, hiring, firing, and dealing with conflict resolution. As a result, getting senior management buy-in for more budget-intensive initiatives can be a challenge.

hr system business table

However, as we all know, HR has risen to prominence as a key strategic partner and influential voice in the c-suite. Forward-thinking businesses now rely on HR to align workforce strategies with key business objectives: focusing on areas such as talent acquisition, career development, wellbeing and engagement to drive organisational success and driving continued growth. That’s a huge remit!

As a result, it could be argued that HR are now one of – if not the most – important departments within a business. But, to maintain this new standing, HR teams must have the support of powerful HRIS systems – systems that are often perceived as expensive to purchase, complicated to implement, and won’t make enough of a difference to justify the investment in time and money…

Why it’s critical to win support for an HRIS system

Now, there is of course an element of truth to that perception of HRIS software. They can be a considerable investment for a business, and their implementations can be complex. Throw in an uncertain business landscape and a fragile economy, and those perceived short-term challenges can be enough for senior leaders to reject providing precious funds for a new HRIS platform.

The thing is, though, is that HRIS platforms are essential for high-performing and value-adding HR departments. This is because they’re proven to streamline and automate day-to-day processes and enable more efficient management of vast amounts of people data. In turn, this enables HR professionals to analyse workforce trends in real time, make intelligent data-driven decisions and develop strategic initiatives that optimise all aspects of workforce management – including talent acquisition, retention, performance, and engagement. In fact, HRIS systems – despite the initial outlays – can be amazing tools in reducing a company’s expenditure.

It makes sense then, that HR teams have access to powerful HRIS systems, right? So, how can you win support for their implementation with potential non-believers or those who don’t understand their true value?

How to win support for an HRIS system

If a powerful new HRIS system is top of your HR wish list, here’s what you can you do to improve your chances of getting the go-ahead…

Recognise that it’s your responsibility to sell – and not their responsibility to buy

It’s easy to assume that just because we know that a shiny new HRIS system will help the company achieve its objectives in a myriad of different ways, everyone will agree. The fact is, they won’t, especially if they’ve experienced painful or unsuccessful IT projects in the past.

You need to spell out exactly what the system will help the business achieve, why you are confident it will be successful (and how you might measure that success), and be prepared to answer objections. Think beforehand about the questions you may be asked and how you will answer them. Get support ahead of time from influential line managers and the IT team.

If you’re considering creating a more formal business case for an HRIS system, check out this article on how to overcome the 6 most common business case obstacles.

Aim for win-win

In an ideal world, the senior management team would be fully convinced of the benefits of a new HRIS system, and would give you their full and enthusiastic support. The reality, however, can often be rather different.

Aim for a win-win situation by linking your objectives with the business objectives. If the board has expressed a need for more accurate data on headcount and skills gaps, for example, explain how the system will produce that information while also giving you time to support a more strategic approach to talent management. Know where you are able or prepared to compromise.

If you can get sign off for an HRIS system that helps you effectively manage core people processes – such as absences and annual leave – you can update to a more sophisticated version later on when everyone has had a chance to see the benefits.

Consider how the decision “feels” to them

Emotion has a major role to play in buying decisions – even when it’s for the business. A study from The Fortune Knowledge Group and gyro found that while the majority of senior business executives believed that data is an important tool when making business decisions, it is subjective factors that truly play the pivotal role. A recent Star Consultancy survey reached a similar conclusion – and found that trusting your gut when it comes to making business decisions led to a successful outcome three quarters of the time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to make the business case; every organisation has limited resources, time and energy, and logic has an important role to play. However you do need to find a way to connect at an emotional and trust level too.

One means of doing this could be to include third party white papers or case studies as part of your pitch – or even involve the vendor in helping you showcase the software. That way, senior managers can connect directly with the supplier, and ask the kind of questions they need to establish trust.

Listen – and learn!

Did you know that there’s research to suggest that most of us only remember less than 50% of what we hear in a conversation? So, make sure you give the person you are talking to your full attention and avoid interrupting in your enthusiasm to get your point across. Listen for what is not being said as well as what is being said – often non-verbal clues can help you tune in to what the other person is really thinking and feeling.

Clarify and reflect back to make sure you have understood correctly if any questions or objections to your plans are raised. Ensure you practice what Mark Goulston and John Ullmen refer to in their Harvard Business Review piece as “connective listening” – listening into what other people are really thinking. This includes resisting the urge to defend or explain yourself, or offer quick fixes, as well as asking questions that seek to probe what they’re thinking, such as “what’s the best thing about that?”

Build rapport

You may already know the person you are trying to win over well. But, if you’re dealing with someone you don’t work with regularly, you need to find ways to quickly build rapport and establish trust.

Try and find out how the other person likes to communicate and make decisions. For example, do they want the facts, figures and full detail, or will their eyes glaze over if you launch into a formal presentation? What are their challenges and where might you be able to find areas of common ground?

Ensure you explain yourself clearly and simply and avoid IT ‘jargon’. It’s no good talking about dashboards and portals if the person on the receiving end is not familiar with technology speak and has no idea what you mean.

Watch your body language

Lastly, most of us are aware of the basics of good body language (maintain eye contact, avoid crossing your arms defensively across your body and don’t fidget!). But research has shown that if we are to deliver a message effectively, there has to be congruence between what was said, how it was said and what was seen. In other words, if you’re not confident in what you’re saying, it’ll show through in your tone of voice, body language and facial expression and your message will lose credibility.

For the best chance of success, make sure you demonstrate enthusiasm for your proposals well as having your argument straight. However, this is easier said than done, and it’s all too easy to forget about posture when you have a lot of other things to think about – as you inevitably will with any important pitch. But, as social psychologist and business professor Amy Cuddy points out in her popular TED talk, getting your body language right is just as important, if not more, than your verbal language…

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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