You’ve just come up with a great idea for a new benefit, or possibly a change to an existing one (and yes, they both require a budget). You’re all ready to begin work on it and then you remember, darn, you have to go to your board or leadership team for their approval and signoff first!
You start to shake just thinking of not just the amount of work this will involve, but the fear that no matter what you do they won’t approve your new ideas for better employee benefits.
Worry no more, I’m here to help you! I’ve pulled together four tips from my over 20 years of being in this exact situation, learning from both my successes and failures.
Tip 1: Put yourself in their shoes
It’s important to put yourself in the approver’s shoes. Pause for a moment and consider if it was you that the proposal was going to, what would you do? Ask yourself the following questions, from the viewpoint of your leadership team or whomever is approving the benefit:
- What is my current perspective/knowledge? What do they need to know about the benefit or situation, and what background can you provide?
- What do I need to know so that I can make the "right" decision? What are potential roadblocks or objections you may encounter?
- What would my first reaction be? Meaning, are there any concerns or challenges that I would have that need to be addressed sooner rather than later?
Keep all this in mind when developing your proposal, making sure it gets those shoes walking in the right direction towards an approval.
Tip 2: Explain the "why"
My husband complains that often when I’m passionate about something (which is how we all are when we have a great idea for an employee benefit) I forget to start with the beginning of the story, the why, and jump right into the middle.
If you asked him, he’d say that it’s not only frustrating, but confusing as he has no idea what I’m trying to do and why in the world I’m so passionate about it.
The same goes for that presentation that you're prepping for.
So slow down and start with the why, explaining why you want to spend this money, so what are the objectives of what you are trying to achieve. In addition, you’ll need to explain to your board/leadership team what’s in it for the company, so how will the company benefit from spending this money. Will it reduce turnover, increase engagement or something else entirely?
Tip 3: Be thorough
Just as important as telling the beginning of the story, you need to tell the entire story. If you don’t, your approvers won’t understand the ending, which in this scenario is their approval for your benefit program. Give your audience all of the data and narratives so that they have all they need to come to a conclusion. If you’re working with a prospective provider, that provider may be able to give you examples of how their product worked for others or data points that will help sell your case to the board. Above all, don’t have them finish reading or hearing your proposal and "want for more" as the expression goes. Think of it as a lovely meal, give them the starter, main and dessert, and they’ll leave satisfied!
Tip 4: Be transparent
Transparency is key in maintaining and developing any relationship. In order for your board or leadership team to approve your proposal they need to enter into a relationship with you, thus engaging and trusting you in what you are asking for. You can achieve transparency by putting all your cards on the table, whether they're good or bad. For example, if you believe that some of the money you’ll spend on the benefit may be recouped as there will be savings associated with it, be upfront and don’t guarantee it, but say that it is based on what has happened at other companies.
Overall, it's better to set expectations then to disappoint later, which will make it harder for you in your future relationship with them.
Getting sought after approval can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. By keeping in mind these four tips you’ll be much more likely to get the yes that you were hoping for.
What tactics work for you to get your leadership team on board?