Senior Director, International, Blackboard for Business Blackboard
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How to present a stronger business case to the board

17th Jun 2016
Senior Director, International, Blackboard for Business Blackboard
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Business case
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Some HR teams struggle to justify HR and training investments and initiatives in a way that wins the board’s approval.  Often this happens because they find themselves in the dark about the long and short-term ambitions of the company they work for or because there’s a lack of clarity about the business strategy itself. Asking the right questions might help to create a stronger business case. 

Today it seems there is a revolving door on recruitment, onboarding, engagement and exit for many staff. And, for HR professionals, the faster that door spins, the more expense and effort has to be put into finding replacements.

Why is this happening now? And how can an HR team be sure to be aligned with the board and be able to create HR programmes that deliver on the business strategy? 

Let’s face it: we are in an employee crisis where most people are leaving their companies within 30 months and many of these people are top talent.

LinkedIn and other networks are breeding grounds for recruiters to find talent so great opportunities are available all the time.

According to research group Forrester whilst it was common to work for three to four companies over the course of a career, those entering the workforce now can expect to have an average of between 10 to 15 different jobs in their lifetime.

We are in an employee crisis where most people are leaving their companies within 30 months

The reason?

The world has changed and, for many, the purpose of the organisation they work for has become as important as the salary and career prospects.  Many companies are not relating to the public, their customers or their staff and are too focused on what they do and how they do it rather than explaining why. 

One of the most popular of the TED Talks is by Simon Sinek. It has struck a chord with many business leaders who are intrigued by his view that explaining the ‘why’ of a company is what it takes to be a great leader. This applies to HR as well.

Think about the reasons behind your own organization. Are they clear? And are they communicated to the workforce – and the world at large? 

The importance of 'why'

Part of your pre-boarding and onboarding programmes should focus on why you do what you do, your organisational culture and why your people/talent should care. It’s not just the millennials who want to know how you’re giving back to society as well as encouraging the individuals in the workplace.

Placing emphasis on how you will help each member of staff grow and how you support other causes beyond the company bottom line should be part of your organisational DNA. 

If you want to keep your people, you need to expose them to multiple parts of the business, provide leadership opportunities and help them feel part of the company’s goals. This will help you to attract and keep the best talent out there.

However, this is just step one: it is also mandatory to invest in your people and invest in them early, by creating a programme that resonates with the overall strategy and wins the board’s approval.

So, where do you start?

Here are some straightforward questions that are worth getting to grips with before you build any business case:

Who are your customers?

This might sound obvious but it isn’t always that cut and dried.

If you take fast food giant McDonalds as an example, you might think their primary customers have always been those who eat in restaurants. After all, their 32,000 restaurants feed more than 58 million customers a day.

All HR proposals that show the direct link to that customer will gain more interest than those that don’t.  

However, for a long time the company considered real estate developers and franchise owners to be the primary customers and, according to their strategy, it’s where they put the most of their resources.

This changed when, under new management, the customer focus changed strategically and reverted to the diner. The new strategy brought about a flexibility in menus to appeal to local tastes and, amongst other initiatives, it’s the reason you can order a vegemite muffin in an Australian franchise and a glass of beer in a McDonalds in France.

Be clear about who your primary customer is. All HR proposals that show the direct link to that customer will gain more interest than those that don’t.  

How does your company prioritise stakeholders?

At some companies, customers come first. At others, it may be shareholders.

The different theories of business and value creation play a part in how the strategy is developed. 

Nothing is certain, things change and the strategy chosen by a business one year might be totally inappropriate the next. 

Again, like understanding the primary customer, understanding the priorities of the business will help you shape any argument in a way that will appeal to the Board, taking into account that your employees should always be a focus.

What uncertainties keep the Board awake at night?

Nothing is certain, things change and the strategy chosen by a business one year might be totally inappropriate the next. 

The Board will be monitoring the uncertainties that could derail their strategy. 

If you’ve got a grip on what their concerns are and the risks they feel the company faces, you can help by shaping your business case as a way of future-proofing the overall business. 

Explain within your business case how what you’re proposing will directly improve one of the key critical performance indicators

How does the company measure success?

Technology has made it easier to monitor more and more data in real time.

Whatever the multitude of measurement your company undertakes, there will be some key metrics that show the Board that times are good – or not.

How does your department support activity that is measured? Explain within your business case how what you’re proposing will directly improve one of the key critical performance indicators and your ideas will be well-received.

Every department has the same need to get their budgets increased, their initiatives approved and their voices heard in order to make an impact.

HR teams can benefit, like any department, from the ability to write a killer business case that links to the corporate strategy and helps make the ‘why’ of a company a reality for the employees and the wider community.

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By boluwatife
27th Jul 2016 17:48

HR really deserves a seat at the table. We need to be heard and respected. Boards and directors take other departments (Accounts.. operations) seriously than the HR

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