A summary of 5 common reasons why HR fail to get leadership buy-in…

  • Despite HR now being a key strategic influencer, they often face challenges in gaining buy-in for their initiatives from leadership figures.
  • Communication gaps, resistance to change, and a failure to align initiatives with organisational goal are the most common reasons for HR initiatives failing to obtain buy-in. However, poorly defined metrics and inadequate training can also further hinder success.
  • Overcoming these obstacles requires strategic communication, a focus on aligning initiatives with organisational objectives, and ensuring proper training and support.
  • Ultimately, fostering a culture of collaboration and emphasising the value of workforce initiatives can enhance leadership engagement and support for HR’s proposals.

For any HR initiative to be successful, a core component is getting buy-in from an organisation’s senior leaders and key influencers.

However, getting buy-in for a new workforce initiative isn’t the same as getting approval. Sure, you may be able to get a project given the green light in principle by those who hold the purse strings, but that’s only half the battle when it comes to implementing it successfully.

For any HR initiative to be truly successful, it requires that all-important stakeholder buy-in. Buy-in happens when senior leaders and influencers within a business are fully on board with the project: willing to build excitement, act as advocates and promote the new initiative to an entire workforce.

5 reasons why hr fail to get leadership buy in Cezanne HR blog

Buy-in is when the people you’re looking to influence feel the same way you do about a project and truly believe in its potential. And, with senior leaders and influencers genuinely invested in a project, the chances of its long-term success increase exponentially.

Getting leadership buy-in: the key difficulties for HR

The problem, though, is that whilst HR professionals may see and understand the true value of their projects – be it a reward and recognition programme, investing in a new HR software solution or an employee wellbeing scheme – those outside the department might not ‘get it.’

HR is an often misunderstood and under-appreciated department. In fact, when we conducted a poll with the HR Ninjas community, an overwhelming 83% majority told us that employees outside of HR – including senior decision makers – have a negative perception of HR departments.

That negative perception, alongside not truly understanding the role of HR, means that obtaining buy-in for projects from senior leaders or influencers can be tough. They may understand the core reasoning behind a proposal, but getting them to wholeheartedly buy-in to a project can be an uphill battle.

So, what can you do as an HR professional to avoid banging your head against the wall when it comes to convincing decision makers your initiatives are the real deal? Let’s look at some of the core reasons why HR teams often fail to get leadership buy-in…

1. Lack of clear communication

It’s often the case that a simple failure of communication can trash an initiative before it even leaves the drawing board. If a potential initiative is not communicated to leaders and stakeholders clearly and concisely, misunderstandings can easily arise. This can hinder vital support and preventing that all-important buy-in.

To get around this, start by communicating the purpose, benefits, and expected outcomes of an initiative. This will help senior leaders and stakeholders to truly understand the point of your project, and what value they can expect from it, too.

In addition, you should also create opportunities for project stakeholders to provide input, feedback, and suggestions throughout the process. Consider forming a cross-functional team with representatives from different departments to ensure diverse perspectives are accounted for. This will help foster a sense of accountability and engagement with the project.

Lastly, regularly update stakeholders on progress, milestones, and successes to keep them informed and engaged with the project. Don’t just let it carry on in the background unseen!

If you want to brush up on your own communication skills, then check out these brilliant TED Talks on the subject.

2. Resistance to change

How often have you heard someone in your organisation say something is done a certain way because ‘That’s the way it’s always been done’? It’s a common problem – even in larger organisations – and it can often be one of the biggest barriers to project buy-in… especially for HR initiatives!

As a rule, people are generally resistant to change. If your HR initiative is perceived as disruptive or without clear benefits, it can lead to reluctance to support or even outright objection. For example, employees may resist adopting a new HR system due to unfamiliarity, fear of the ‘new’, or concerns about its impact on their roles.

It’s up to you to dispel those types of issues and bring leaders and stakeholders onside to your way of thinking. Think about how you can mitigate your people’s resistance to change, and what both your HR team and the wider business can do to encourage adoption of your proposal.

3. Not aligning with organisational goals

The most successful businesses are the ones where everyone – from the CEO all the way the newest graduates – are pulling in the same direction towards a shared goal. So, whilst your initiative may appear great on paper, if it isn’t aligned with the overall goals and objectives of your organisation, it’ll likely be dismissed as either irrelevant or unnecessary.

To obtain that vital buy-in, highlight how your initiative will work to support your company’s overarching strategic aims, and not simply be a ‘nice to have’.

4. Poorly defined metrics

Imagine jumping in your car to go to a destination you’ve never been, without any idea how you’re going to get there, the signposts to look out for and what you’ll do if you arrive. It would result in a lot of wasted time and fuel!

By the same token, proposing an HR initiative with no clear idea of whether you’re on the right path – or even if you’ve succeeded in reaching your destination – can prevent your initiative being more than just a pipe dream. Scepticism creeps in when stakeholders and senior leaders can’t see the tangible results or gauge your initiative’s success. It’s like asking someone to invest in a business without showing them the return on investment.

Metrics are the GPS for HR initiatives, guiding them and proving to stakeholders that the journey is worth every step. Without this roadmap, buy-in becomes a risky leap of faith many won’t be willing to take.

5. Inadequate training and support

Lastly, implementing a new HR initiative without proper training and support for staff is like throwing someone into a maze blindfolded and expecting them to find the exit. Providing adequate training and support will act as the guiding light, turning confusion into clarity, and allaying fears of staff potentially being left to deal with change on their own.

Without detailing what training or support there’ll be for the rollout of your new initiative, it’s unlikely your leaders and stakeholders will buy into what you’re trying to achieve. So, look to provide assurance of comprehensive training and ongoing support for your initiative as this will alleviate that fear of change and support buy-in.

Getting buy in for an HR project is just a small part of creating an effective business case. If you’re looking to create a compelling business case for HR software, then download our comprehensive step-by-step guide here.

Author bio

MICPD-qualified Peter Hall is the Head of Customer Success at Cezanne HR. He’s been with the business since its launch in 2013, and has over a decade’s worth of experience in successfully implementing HR software solutions for global clients.

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