How To Win a Leader’s Commitment and Buy-In for Recognition

We keep hearing recognition managers and practitioners expressing frustration with being able to get executive “buy-in” for employee recognition initiatives.

This hits home when people are seeking budget approvals before proceeding with a new or evolving program.

Before you can ever get senior leader buy-in and financing for a program you must first gain their personal commitment. Commitment is personal, emotional and long term.

 Buy-in is simply transactional, monetary and short-term.

Your job is to get senior level support for making employee recognition an effective organizational strategy…plain and simple.

Follow these 5 simple strategies to get senior leaders support for employee recognition.

1. Give them a super clear picture

Your mission is not as impossible as you might think.

Exceptional senior leaders are foremost visionaries, whose mandate is to inspire other leaders to follow them to achieve specific business goals. Find this visionary leader – make them your ally. Now give them your vision for recognition as a business strategy.

Give your senior leaders the CNN “headline“ version of your vision and purpose, and allow the TV-like scroll advisory underneath, so to speak, to lay out your goals and expected results. It has to be short and sweet and you have to capture their heads and their hearts.

You have to be ready to give your leaders your own vision and mission for your recognition initiative in one short sentence in the hallway or elevator. This will happen many times before you actually get to the boardroom and decision time. Keep them informed before you need them to invest.

Always be sharing and transparent with what you are working on and give them the business case – the “why” – for recognition and its potential impact. Don’t let a financial decision request come out of the blue but let it be a next logical step from what they’ve been hearing from you.

You must get them thinking they need to do this now or in short order they’ll be regretting if they chose not to.

2. Taking care of business

All C-suite and senior leaders have a core responsibility to produce results.

Their bottom line is to increase business to generate a target income level, at a minimum cost and expense, to produce a healthy profit and a good return on investment for all shareholders.

Less profit focused organizations may look at other metrics to gauge their success in their chosen business. You must remember this is a business and not a feel good, save-the-world exercise.

So you had better specify in your proposal what the desired results are you want to achieve and how you will obtain them. Spell it out in specific numbers that are realistic and attainable. Keep everything you think is operationally right strategically aligned with what leaders think is right for business.

If it doesn’t fit you might as well forget it.

3. Let me present Exhibit “A”

Think “Law & Order” or any of the latest police procedural TV shows. You have to come prepared with as much foolproof evidence as you can to state your case before the executive team.

One way is starting with measured recognition program usage data and leadership practices like assessing management skills in giving effective recognition. Take the time to find convincing facts and figures first.

Draw on satisfaction surveys and employee engagement scores and calculate the potential loss from turnover costs, both direct and indirect. Figure out productivity losses from the number of employees who indicate how engaged they really are.

Show the cause and effect science of how effective employee recognition practices and programs move the dial on performance measures. Establish your authority, if needed, by bringing in industry experts to explain research findings, best practices and what other companies are doing with recognition.

You do all this for the sole purpose to show and convince your leaders how your program supports their strategic business objectives.

Remember good planning with solid facts will win the day for you.

4. “Be Prepared” still works

Do not expect a cakewalk once armed with your vision, metrics, facts and rationale.

Senior leaders are paid the big bucks to analyze, scrutinize and evaluate every facet of any decision to determine if it is worth investing in and whether it will improve business.

Your next step is to listen. Answer their questions candidly and transparently.

Expect the unexpected by anticipating every possible permutation and combination of concerns, questions, disputations, and even rejection. Work your proposal through with others who know your leadership team. Predict beforehand based on the respective roles and personalities of leaders the typical challenges you`ll likely get.

Sometimes, it may just be the timing that’s off for moving ahead.

Executive commitment and buy-in will be easiest from those who are known to be respected leaders. Do all you can to earn their endorsement ahead of time.

Anticipate, and like the Scouts’ motto always says, “Be prepared”.

5. Keep it front and center

Let’s assume your hard work has paid off and your recognition project or proposal has been approved in principle.

Never let your recognition programs get off the executives’ radar screen. Gaining executive buy-in to a recognition initiative is one step and maintaining it is another process step in commitment building.

Give whatever you are doing with the project implementation phase high visibility and provide leaders with constant updates and frequent communication.

You can manage executive expectations by providing regular status reports using every available communication modality whether written, verbal or digital, to keep commitment alive and well.

Keep those CNN-like mini-reports primed and ready for the hallways and those brief face-to-face encounters.

Remember, the success of any corporate initiative you undertake will always be proportional to the degree of executive commitment you achieve.

Aim for executive commitment first and the buy-in will follow right behind.

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