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5 Strategies to Gain Approval for Your New Project

If you’re a People person reading this, chances are you are trying to create a better work environment for your team.

I’ve been there, knowing a new initiative could bring us ahead and do wonders for hiring, engagement, productivity, well-being (and more) but having a difficult time gathering buy-in from all my stakeholders.

No matter whether we’re talking about going from in-office to hybrid, becoming more data-driven, or trying out a 4-day work week, the introduction of new initiatives can be a game-changer in fostering a healthy and inclusive workplace culture.

However, convincing your stakeholders to give a nod to these initiatives often demands extra work.

Here, I’ve gathered 5 proven strategies to help you get from theory to practice and persuade your company to try out a new initiative, supplemented with expert insights and real-world examples.

Read on to the last point for a bonus tip, a simple action that has helped me reach a larger consensus in any pitch I’ve delivered.

1. Build a Solid Project Proposal

Before stepping forward with a new HR initiative, craft a robust business case for its need and effect. This should vividly outline the potential benefits and the return on investment (ROI) the initiative promises to bring to the company.

A well-formulated proposal includes at least an outline of:

  • Vision

  • Business Needs

  • Expected Benefits

  • Strategic Fit

  • Outcomes Produced

  • Broad Estimates of Time and Cost

  • Impact on the Organization

For instance, if you are proposing a new employee wellness program, make sure to illustrate what you are aiming to achieve, your current costs, and how this initiative could potentially reduce healthcare costs and increase employee productivity, thereby positively impacting the company's bottom line.

Dave Ulrich, a prominent HR thought leader, emphasizes the importance of always starting with the business outcome in mind. Understand what the business is trying to achieve and then align your HR initiatives to these goals. (Source: HRM Handbook)

2. Gather Data and Evidence

Backing your proposal with substantial data and evidence not only underscores the necessity of the initiative but also highlights its potential impact. Data speaks to a wider variety of people and when you combine it with visualisation, you have a much better chance at delivering your message.

If you’re noticing an issue or a new trend emerging in your organisation, conduct a preliminary survey to gather firsthand data on the areas that need improvement. Use this data to build a compelling case for your initiative, showcasing how it addresses existing gaps and aligns with organizational goals.

Global industry analyst Josh Bersin advises, "Data is your friend and must be at your core." (Source: Josh Bersin)

3. Engage Stakeholders Early

Early engagement with stakeholders can be a catalyst in gathering invaluable insights and support to shape the initiative more effectively.

Organize focus group discussions with various teams to understand their perspectives and incorporate their feedback into the initiative. This inclusive approach can foster ownership and collaboration, making the implementation smoother. If more people lend their time to an initiative, they’ll naturally also value it more and be more invested in its success.

For bigger initiatives, define a supporter coalition more formally and find your change champions to appoint as your project’s sponsors.

Active and visible sponsorship has been cited consistently as the top contributor to success with change management in Prosci’s Best Practices in Change Management research for more than two decades. (Source: Prosci)

4. Pilot the Initiative

Piloting the initiative in a controlled setting before a full-fledged rollout can serve as a testament to its effectiveness and feasibility.

For instance, if you are introducing a new flexible work policy, start by implementing it in one department first. Monitor the results closely, make necessary adjustments based on the feedback, and then propose a company-wide implementation with proven results from the pilot phase.

Showing ongoing results from an A/B test of the status quo and your test initiative can make a powerful impact on even more skeptical audiences. (Source: Technology Advice)

5. Develop a communication plan

If your resistance lies more with the wider team, the clear articulation of the benefits, focusing on how it aligns with the company's ethos and objectives, can be a decisive factor in winning over skeptics.

Develop a comprehensive communication plan that highlights the tangible benefits of the initiative. Use testimonials, case studies, or success stories to illustrate how the initiative has positively impacted other organizations, making a compelling case for its adoption in your company.

My Bonus Tip: Listen carefully

We’ve covered many different ways to get your point across but there’s a common thread in them. We’re looking at how to speak to someone, much more than how to listen.

The one action that has helped me get more buy-in, and can help you, is becoming a more active listener:

  • Listening to your supporters, and asking the right questions, you will understand what made them endorse your initiative, what they find interesting about it, and which approach they find best to present to others; You will be able to use this information to enlist more supporters.

  • Listening to the resistants, and getting to the bottom of their arguments, you will be able to empathise better with their concerns and their way of reasoning. You will be able to use this information to build more compelling cases and cover every doubt.

Presenting a new project is a significant step, but with the right preparation, you can craft a persuasive argument that resonates with stakeholders at various levels.

The ultimate goal is to learn how to communicate effectively and create compelling visions. If you don’t succeed at first, make sure to build on these learnings and keep working on your skills.

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