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Make Your Case

How HR leaders can get CEO sign-off for HR expenditures
By Lori Kleiman, SPHR

October 25 2013 - Human resources expenditures often fall to the bottom of the list when organizations evaluate priorities and allocate funds. But as the HR leader, it's your job to communicate the importance of your initiatives and secure the resources you need to drive results for your department and the organization.

Whether you're looking to fund initiatives for process improvements, technology solutions, or training programs, securing executive approval for significant expenses is never easy, but these strategies can help you make a solid case for funding.

Create a professional presentation. Be brief and to the point about the nature of and reason for the expense. Avoid using HR-specific terminology. Highlight business-related points such as increased productivity, ability to reduce headcount or overtime, lower budgeted expenses or generate tax savings. Clearly explain the problem and your solution. Provide data that supports your need for the expense. Describe your plan for how funds will be allocated.

Align your initiatives with business goals. Any HR funding request needs to focus on helping the organization achieve its goals. Senior executives aren't interested in making your job easier or keeping up with the competition just for the sake of keeping up. They want to meet their goals for the year. Explain how your initiative fits with short- and long-term organizational goals and how it will drive business results.

Be clear about additional resource needs. Your initiative may require more than money. You may need other resources, such as training, time or effort from other departments, additional office space or time to establish new vendor relationships. Address all of your needs up front.

Build consensus. Anyone who's asking for significant funding needs credibility. Focus on building support for your initiatives throughout the organization. Talk to other departments about how your plans can help meet their needs and goals. Get feedback from someone who has successfully lobbied your CEO for funding. Gaining support and respect from other units will give you more confidence and credibility when you approach senior management.

If you build your credibility and present a solid business case, you should have a fair chance at getting your funding. But remember, be realistic. Be aware of the culture and priorities of the business, as well as any issues relating to cash flow. Sometimes there can be significant support for a project, but no way to fund it. In other cases, there simply won't ever be support for HR initiatives beyond processing benefits and payroll. If that's the case, you need to either come to terms with your role or consider other opportunities.

When the stars do align and you're able to secure approval for your project, be prepared to measure and report progress. Communicate any necessary changes or course corrections. Take ownership of and be accountable for the successes and challenges that will come with your initiative. An effective, well managed project is likely to be remembered when it's time to make another request.

Lori Kleiman is a Glenview, Ill.-based human resources consultant. She is a frequent speaker on HR topics and is the author of the recently published book, Fire HR Now.

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