“Just take it out of HR’s budget.”
If that’s a common refrain among your execs at budget-setting time, it’s time to fight back.
“It’s more critical than ever for you to be able to create and defend your budgets,” says Valarie Grubb, VP of Operations and Initiatives at NBC Universal, who spent much of her career building and justifying budgets at large U.S. companies.
“You need to be able to demonstrate your ROI,” says Grubb. “If you can articulate your department’s performance in terms of company goals, it will be much more difficult for the top brass to tear into your budget.”
Grubb suggests these 10 tips for handling the delicate process of negotiating your next HR budget:
1. Couple HR spending with company goals. Don’t assume senior executives can make the connection between the organization’s success and what you do in HR. When you make your budget presentation, spell it out.
2. Demonstrate the ROI and cash efficiency of your initiatives. Be prepared with spreadsheets that illustrate how dollars invested on HR pay dividends in other areas.
Not sure? Sit down with other functional heads during the budget development process and pick their brains. How does human capital support their work?
3. Detail value-added line items. What does the bring to the bottom line? Sure it’s a cost center, but it saves money in the long run. Work with your provider to demonstrate the value of that expenditure.
4. Include initiatives that you scrapped—and have one “scapegoat” project. Be prepared to ditch one nonessential project. It shows you’re willing to give a little—to gain a lot. “I always include a project I can scrap,” Grubb said. “I don’t tell Finance that.”
5. Link your budget to improved profitability. Efficiency and good are great, but profitability is today’s key measure. Speak in those terms and you’ll catch the decision-makers’ ears.
6. Gain Finance’s support along the way. Meet with the money people early on in the budgeting process. Make sure they understand what your priorities are and how HR can help move the organization forward. Ask them to challenge your assumptions. They might wind up being your biggest champions when the budget ax comes out.
7. State your assumptions clearly. When presenting your budget, articulate your understanding of where the organization is and where it’s going. That demonstrates you’ve done your homework—and frames your proposal in real-world terms.
8. Make deadlines during the process. Don’t be last in line when they’re handing out dollars.
9. Know every detail of your budget. No one else can help you here; you must know your budget inside out. When the honchos start asking questions, you don’t want to have to shuffle through reams of paper to find the answers.
10. Practice, practice, practice. When the budget spotlight turns to you, be ready. Your budget presentation is your chance to sell HR.
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