As advocates for strategic excellence in HR planning and execution, federal agency Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) and their teams work hard in assembling the metrics required to justify increased budget investments for recruitment, onboarding, training, engagement and succession initiatives. Too often, however, such efforts fail to build traction due to a lack of buy-in from key leadership members, resulting in a “back-to-the-drawing-board” (or, these days, white board) scenario to “try, try again” – even if subsequent presentations prove just as futile.
At the recent Human Capital Management for Government (HCMG) Conference in Alexandria, Va., I and other attendees had the opportunity to listen to agency CHCOs discuss this topic in-depth, during a panel session titled “The One Constant of Public Service: Marketing Human Capital for Executive Buy-In.” The consensus takeaway: Yes, we must continue to collect solid, analytics-driven data about recruitment, vacancies, pending retirements, engagement, etc. But mere numbers aren’t enough. Here’s what else is needed to successfully obtain that long-sought but elusive buy-in from top decision-makers, according to panel participants:
Tell a story. It’s ineffective to simply dump a bunch of statistics into your presentation, said Stephanie Miller, Director of Military Accession Policy for the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy. You have to persuade decision-makers who do not “live inside your world.” If you overwhelm them with endless spreadsheets and charts without enough explanatory context to illustrate why all of this matters, they’ll tune you out.
It’s better to pick and choose numbers which best convey a “great narrative” here, Miller advised. Select the most compelling data to tell a convincing story about why current recruitment resources and practices fail to adequately respond to needs. Or how disengagement levels are triggering unacceptable turnover rates. Or how precise, detailed forecasting on likely immediate and long-term retirements translates into proactive training and additional succession programs to essentially “fill” vacancies before they materialize.
Speak the language of business. In seeking buy-in, every conversation and presentation comes down to the continued support of a unified mission. Toward this end, John Gill, CHCO and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Human Resources, told panel attendees that they must learn about every aspect of their agency’s business objectives. When it’s time to state your best case for HR investment, prepare in advance by researching the day-to-day tasks, challenges and goals of every person in the room – and how your proposed talent-management service delivery models will help them.
If you find yourself struggling here, you may want to enlist the assistance of a trusted, more business-savvy colleague, Gill suggested. This colleague can serve as a “broker” for you, a liaison who can help you better understand challenges and objectives of decision-makers – while championing your proposals as results-generating solutions to their problems.
Connect the “heart” to the “head.” Obviously, we’re “people people” here. We wouldn’t be in HR if we weren’t, right? But we should always look to align the “heart” behind our motives and actions to our agency’s “head,” said Reginald F. Wells, CHCO for the Social Security Administration. That’s where analytics enters the equation – we need to leverage data to transform “good intentions” into meaningful contributors of value.
In the process, we help our workforce develop and grow as career professionals. We collaborate with agency leaders so our talent management programs empower their success. Ultimately, all of this comes together to benefit taxpayers and our nation. That takes a lot of heart -- and head!
At Acendre, we're continually working with our customers to ensure that they maximize the value of available talent management solutions to gain buy-in from decision makers for their programs. We know how to tell great, business-focused "stories" behind the numbers, with responses which take both the "heart" and "head" into account.
Want help telling your story? Let's talk.
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