Every HR practitioner knows that every penny counts – whether for a new benefit, a salary increase or employee engagement tactics.
So, when you’re asking for money – especially for an increased employee engagement budget – you need to be very persuasive, ensuring that your arguments are strong and well-evidenced.
With 20 years in HR operations, I’ve had quite a bit of practice pitching my leadership team on employee engagement investments. Here are the two major questions I’ve been asked, and how you can prepare for them:
Question One: Where did the money I gave you go?
No finance director will agree to additional funds without knowing where you’ve spent your previous budget. Give as many details as possible about where you spent your money before, keeping the following key questions in mind:
Were you under or over budget overall for this and in the HR budget(s) overall?
Have you published any success stories for employee engagement events that you can use to support this year’s plans?
Question Two: What are your objectives?
Your business objectives need to show a clear need for a bigger employee engagement budget. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of objectives, and how they should always align to your overall business goals. That’s the way to get your leadership team to pay attention. Here are some examples of clearly defined objectives.
Objective: Extend the reach of your benefits spend.
Solution: Consider employee engagement solutions that give your staff far more money in savings than you would be able to give as a pay rise. Benefits programs are especially useful as they amplify spending for your lowest earning staff the most, as the savings from discount programmes can be even better than a pay raise for them (and for your company’s bottom line!).
Objective: Make your employee offering more attractive, and increase amount of employees engaging with your benefits
Solution: This doesn’t have to break the bank – you can increase the number of benefits offered through payroll and salary sacrifice. For instance, if you have a lot of parents in your workforce, updating your parental leave policy could be a solution for them. Does your business have a focus on wellbeing? A Wellbeing Program pot could be the answer.
Once your budget is approved and the plans are underway there are a few things that are really vital to do during the year, these include:
Speak up: Talk to your Leadership team on a regular basis with scheduled updates on your projects and make sure your plans are relevant to their business goals
Start measuring: Gather a ton of data on all of your activities, especially employee feedback, which can help you make the case for next year’s budget
Work with your communications gurus: Reach out to your internal communications team on how to get the word out about your projects. If you do not have an internal communications person point person, work out who on your HR team can take on this task. After all, projects aren’t worth doing if no one knows about them.
Be flexible: Refine your plan as you go along, make sure that what you planned to do is what you you need to do now — do not be afraid to change course if the outcome will be even better
What if you can't have it all?
All plans need to have a backup or a Plan B. And for your employee engagement budget you need to work out what is your must-dos, the things that are absolutely vital, the items which can be adjusted with maybe a smaller budget and lastly those things which if pushed you could maybe do next year. The simplest way is to list them in priority order from top to bottom.
Once you have your budget you can then work out which items get done and which do not, but if you really want to plan ahead you can do this in advance. This means that the decision-making and hard choices are done, and the budget allocation is just drawing a line on the to do list as to what you will and will not do.
A checklist for success
This simple checklist will help you to make a strong case for a bigger employee engagement budget. Make sure you have prepared answers to all of the following questions before requesting the increase:
Where you are spending the money?
How you are spending the money?
What are the business issues it will solve, or help to solve?
What is the ROI from the spending?
What value HR will receive from it?
What savings will be made due to the impact of a bigger engagement budget?
This checklist focuses on three key areas: impact, ROI and value. By following it, your plans will have a greater chance of being approved by the business.