Issue: Persuading top execs to approve new initiatives that will enhance HR's stature at your organization.
Risk: Your reputation, your career ... your credibility.
Action: Enlist a network of line-allies to strengthen your case.
When seeking approval for a new HR project from executive row, you want to prove that your plan supports the organization's business strategy and operations. One of the best, but often overlooked, ways to do that is to gain line managers' support.
HR often fails to solicit such support, according to interviews with 20 HR exec-utives at Fortune 200 companies by Cornell's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.
Among the HR execs surveyed, 13 reported no line-management involvement in developing HR projects. The seven who did receive manager input reported stronger ties between HR strategy and business, and a belief that managers were more committed to the HR initiatives.
Advice: Don't wait until you need a manager's help to start building relationships and requesting feedback. That prompts managers to think "You come down here only when you want something from us," says Catherine Fyock, president of Innovative Management Concepts.
Take these three steps to pull line managers into your corner before pitching a project to top executives:
1. Meet weekly or monthly with line managers to find out their business and HR needs. If that's difficult to do formally, do it through casual conversations.
Example: When Fyock worked for a drug store chain, she regularly visited outlets and held breakfast meetings with managers, asking: "What is HR doing well?" "What is it doing wrong?" "What can it improve?" "What are the needs of the business?" "How can this be a better place to work?"
2. Include one or more line managers in the group that develops your proposal. Your project needs to make sense to line managers in terms of how they run the business, or they won't offer you their support.
3. Make sure they're held partly accountable for reaching the project's goals. One company in the Cornell study includes the implementation of HR plans in the managers'.
Bottom line: By using strategies like these to line up management allies early on, you'll have a much easier time gaining their support when it's time to pitch a big project to the boss.