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I had an idea for a new training initiative for new managers. We had no formal new manager training to provide, so it was up to our organization’s directors and vice presidents to train their managers.

As you can imagine, managers were getting highly disparate training, leading to inconsistent management practices across the company. 

My HR Director was on board with my idea, but we needed the executive team to understand the need and believe in the solution so they would green-light the project.

There was a cost associated with this training initiative, so I knew it would be a hard sell. In addition to the monetary amount this training program would cost, there was also the cost of the manager’s time.

But, despite some misgivings, I was able to sell the idea and get the training program off the ground.

Here I’ll take you through my process for ensuring the adoption of your latest initiative is successful, from building a business case to perfecting your elevator pitch.

Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Building A Business Case

You will need to tie your initiative to your organization’s business goals and objectives. Let’s walk through what that looks like. 

Identify the pain points or challenges within the organization that your HR initiative will address and how it can solve specific problems e.g. high turnover, low employee engagement, or skill gaps.

You can use data gleaned from the likes of surveys, stay interviews, exit interviews combined with the usual HR metrics.

If possible, show how your solution will positively impact the company’s bottom line. You may need to research industry best practices and get metrics and data to support your ideas. 

This is called anticipated return on investment (ROI). 

Harvard Business School defines this as being “Calculated before a project kicks off. Anticipated ROI uses estimated costs, revenues, and other assumptions to determine how much profit a project is likely to generate.”

ROI = [(Financial Value - Project Cost) / Project Cost] x 100

When applied to future projects, this equation will be used for many different scenarios to determine the range of possible outcomes. These outcomes are then used to understand risk and decide whether an initiative should move forward.

My manager training initiative was designed to solve a major skills gap we were seeing with new managers.

We had passionate, driven folks ready to manage with no idea how to do so effectively. We needed a formal new manager training program to help support these folks in their roles. 

This was impacting our business in several ways. Not only were our new managers and their teams dealing with low morale, it was impacting our bottom line when 2 high-performing employees quit within weeks of each other due to issues with their direct managers.

I was able to demonstrate the need for this training by using the formula above to show the cost of the training is less than that of replacing those 2 employees. I was further able to show what the impact could be if 2, 4, or even 10 more high performers quit their managers.

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Step 2: Find early champions for your cause

Identify and engage with key stakeholders who can influence senior leadership. These might include department heads, influential employees, or external partners. 

These champions should have in-depth knowledge of your initiative as well as influence with the leadership team.

Networking is key to being able to find these champions. Reach out to your network to see if they can recommend someone who may be interested in your new project.

Once you find your champions, get their support early as they will be able to help you navigate roadblocks during the process and will help build internal support for your initiative. 

For the manager training initiative, I reached out to several Vice Presidents in my organization who I knew were struggling with training their new managers. 

Being able to offer these VPs a solution to their problem turned them into champions for my initiative. They were willing and able to influence their peers and leadership in a way that I couldn’t.  

Step 3: Build and perfect your elevator pitch (you'll need this for the next step)

You will likely need to sell this initiative more than once, and having a consistent pitch that is clear, concise, and compelling is key for your new HR initiative getting approved.

Your pitch will need to explain concisely what the initiative is, why it's necessary, and how it will benefit the organization.

This is where you will need to have concrete answers to questions from the leadership team. Research industry best practices and be ready to name-drop other organizations who have seen success through similar projects.

Your early champions can help you perfect your pitch, as they're likely more familiar with the audience you’re trying to reach. You should present it to them and ask for feedback. 

My small but mighty team of VPs helped me perfect my pitch by fine-tuning the details, cutting out what didn’t matter to the executive team, and adding data to support my pitch. 

Step 4: Iterate

Anticipate objections and have well-reasoned responses ready. This shows that you've thought through the initiative thoroughly.

You will need to prepare for concerns that leadership may have after your pitch, in addition to the questions you answered in the previous step.

You can use data and real-world examples from your research to support your initiative. Leadership teams often want data to back up their decisions, so even if you don’t see the need to supply data in your pitch you will want to have it available. 

I pitched my manager training idea several times over the course of a few months. Every time I got told no, I persisted by taking the feedback and adjusting my plan accordingly. 

Step 5: Define what success will look like

A key part of your business case in step 1 will be defining what success will look like, and also how it will be measured.

Success will look different depending on your initiative, budget, timeframe, etc. However, you will need to define what success will look like for your project and also demonstrate how you will measure that success.

Successful adoption of my manager training project was defined as 80% of existing managers would receive “management 101” training within 90 days of launch, and 100% of new managers would receive the training within their first 90 days in the role. 

This allowed us to measure our success in a concrete, data-driven way that my leadership team saw as appropriate.

Step 6: Build a roadmap to get there with specific stops to measure progress

This roadmap will be the guide to keep you on time and budget. You can take your definition of success from the previous step and break it out into incremental measurements. 

One option is to start with a pilot program to test the HR initiative on a smaller scale. This minimizes risk and allows leaders to see tangible results before committing fully. 

We utilized a pilot program for the manager training project using our marketing team who were particularly excited to participate in manager training. 

We asked for feedback from early participants and had them complete self-assessments both before and after the training.

We were able to apply the lessons learned and feedback from participants to our overall roadmap. I was able to adapt and we adjusted the timeline for completion and made some improvements to the training program itself.

Step 7: Getting buy-in from the wider org

Tap your champions again for this step. They can help you build a broader “coalition of “influencers” across your organization, who can help drive change management.

You will want to lay out a roadmap again, this time focusing on how you will roll the HR initiative out to the entire organization. You won’t need to start all over, take your previous roadmap and adapt it to fit the final scope of the project.

Utilizing the pilot program for new manager training helped my initiative in a way I didn’t expect: several managers wanted to champion this program to their peers. 

Managers across the organization were able to see that their peers benefited from the training, and were willing to participate.

Step 8: Report on progress to leadership 

Once the initiative is approved and underway, maintain regular communication with leadership. This means providing regular updates on progress, milestones achieved, and any adjustments made along the way.

Showing incremental progress as the project progresses builds trust with leadership and, hopefully, means you won't have to pitch so hard for your next initiative.

We took our lessons learned from the pilot program, informed leadership of the changes we made, and they approved company-wide adoption of the initiative. 

I provided monthly updates to leadership to document progress during the roll-out. 

Persistence And Adaptability Are Key

Successfully gaining leadership buy-in for your initiatives is a crucial step in implementing positive changes within your organization. 

By following the steps above, you can increase the likelihood of your ideas being embraced and executed effectively, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of your organization. 

Remember, persistence and adaptability are key. Even in the face of initial rejection, a well-thought-out approach can lead to successful outcomes.

For further advice and support for getting leadership buy in for your project, you can find me in the People Managing People Community, a supportive community of HR and business leaders sharing knowledge and best practices to help you grow in your career and make more impact in your org.

Some further resources:

By Jessica Cieslinski

Jessica is a HR Generalist with 10 years of experience across several industries. She loves to share the knowledge she wishes she’d had early in her career.