Show Notes: Episode 28 – SHRM Credit: Building an Effective Business Case
May 7, 2018
Show Notes: Episode 29 – HR Naysayers to HR Thought Leaders
May 21, 2018

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

Susan  0:09 

Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant. With me is my good friend JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered®” and “The JoyPowered® Family.”

Our topic today is building an effective business case. The purpose of developing a business case is usually to earn approval from senior leaders, owners, or other stakeholders to take action, spend money, use company resources, or something else that you’re recommending. So JoDee, I’d love to hear your thoughts, maybe from a broad perspective, about developing business cases.

JoDee  0:48 

Yeah, so my experience has been…I would say that I’ve developed a lot of more informal cases, as my experience has been with more small to mid-size companies, that I haven’t had to produce maybe anything real formal, but yet I have done it very frequently. But I also…I was teaching a class this week for SHRM national, and part of the activity was asking the class to prepare a business case, so I thought, oh, perfect timing to go through this process. And I…I was really surprised that the majority of the class had not really thought about this process. We didn’t even call it a business case. We called it a funding initiative. And it seemed to be a very new concept to people, so I think this topic is timely.

Susan  1:41 

Oh, that’s great to hear. Well, I grew up in a very large corporation, career-wise, and there, if you wanted to do anything, you had to have a really strong business case and you needed to be able to defend it. I think that’s primarily because any organization only has so much money they want to invest in, you know, HR projects or technology projects or facilities projects. And if you’re going to advance a cause, then you do, at least in that type of environment, need to be able to really put together a strong business rationale for doing it.

JoDee  2:14 

I actually had lunch today with a friend of mine who’s an HR manager who was talking about the training program she wanted to attend, and she said, I knew my…my company would never fund it, so I…I didn’t even ask. And it made me think about this, that…How many times do HR professionals or anyone in an organization have an idea, have a thought, have a project that they want to do that they maybe never even asked for because they’re not sure how to approach it or what process to go through.

Susan  2:49 

I think that’s a great challenge for all of our listeners. If there’s something out there that you really believe needs to be done in your workplace, think about putting together a business case for having it done. Maybe after today’s show, you’ll have some new tips and ideas on how to do that. So some of the things that I was very familiar with building business cases on when I was in the large corporate environment included things like every time that I felt like we needed to add a new position to our team, we did need to really put together a thoughtful business case to show if we added this person at whatever dollars we expected to pay and whatever benefit cost that would mean and any other collateral materials we’d have to purchase or support this new hire with, we had to show where the value would be for the company that would get a greater return on that investment by hiring the person. So that was one area. Of course, funding any new initiative, if we felt like, especially in the world of HR, maybe there was some type of employee engagement technology or some other type of interesting thing that we thought would really help the level of satisfaction in our company, we needed to show why it had been proven somewhere else to be effective, right? Other things…certainly when we needed to purchase new technology or new equipment, we need to have a written business case. And whenever we wanted to do anything for ourselves, maybe it’s some type of self-development, maybe it was your membership, maybe it was taking a class that maybe the chamber was offering on a topic that we thought would make us stronger, we would need to have a business case put together and signed off on, usually by a few levels in your own company. JoDee, do you have some type of similar, when people want to invest in themselves, a business case that you have folks put together?

JoDee  4:28 

Yes. And even, not so much…or…well, part of that is self-development, but even just development as a whole, right, for other people in on the team or in the organization or a new process that we might be able to offer to our clients that we might need to invest in as well.

Susan  4:49 

I think it makes sense, doesn’t it? And what I found was when I asked people on my team to put together a business case about something they wanted to do, it caused them to think about things much broader and with a lot more analytical skills. I needed them to really analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly, right, before we moved forward, and I think they appreciated that.

JoDee  5:09 

Thinking about that data, what impact from a dollar standpoint, from a time standpoint, you know, what will it really cost and take or save?

Susan  5:20 

Yes, you’re right, absolutely. So today, as I do consulting and I work with businesses, I’m often brought in to help that business think through the return on if they want to ramp up their staff, how do we get approval to do that? Let’s really build a business case. If we want to do growth of employees, you know, where’s the return on that? I’ve also gotten involved in helping companies figure out, if we need to reduce staff, how do we put this together, because we’re going to need to make sure that our board understands why we’re doing it and what the return is for us, or our executive leadership team, depending on the organization.

JoDee  5:55 

So those are…many times those are longer term, right? Because they’re thinking we…we need to eliminate some positions or downsize some departments. But what can…what can we pay out maybe in severance agreements or in training or in outsourcing initiatives that might cost us some money today, but over the course of time, we’ll save money?

Susan  6:18 

Yes, that’s right. That’s thinking broader, and I think longer term, which makes good sense. So those are the types of things that I normally do, ramp ups, ramp downs, but I’ve also had a chance to help some businesses build business cases around some changes in, maybe, their HR strategies or their operations, bring in a new piece of technology that’s going to help them with their HR operations, or anything like that. I think that having a good approach to build a business case can be very useful for HR people and for consultants to help them.

JoDee  6:49 

Right. And easier said than done sometimes. Right? For example, thinking about training initiatives and how that will develop your managers, develop leaders, develop any of your employees, but difficult to put a dollar sign around that in terms of what that might bring, even in terms of building the culture, building the individual, doing…having some team bonding by people being together in groups. I mean, those are very difficult to measure that return on investment, but yet important to the overall strength of and culture of the organization.

Susan  7:27 

Yeah, I agree. I mean, not every benefit is quantifiable. I…I truly believe that there’s real qualitative ones, like you’ve mentioned, that need to be included in that business case and absolutely amplified. So JoDee, I know we started out here saying that you really…your experience has been with a lot of informal business cases. How formal or…do you think a business case needs to be in order to be effective?

JoDee  7:48 

Yeah. So I think tailoring it to the audience is the key, depending on who you’re presenting it to and what your relationship with that individual might be. But it has made me really think about how, even just in doing this exercise at my class this week, that…maybe even thinking back for myself personally, too, that maybe I’ve been too informal over the time, and getting together facts and data, but not always presenting them in a more formal manner. Or even understanding the costs and the time and the deadlines myself, but not always presenting that data to someone else. So in my own mind, I had it all worked out, why it was good, but then it’s easy to say, hey, we need the software and here…here’s how much it costs. How much more successful would we be, not only in getting the funding, but in really thinking through…how will this change what we’re doing? What will the cost be? What will the impact on the team, the leaders, the clients, whatever, be? So I would…I’m encouraging myself even to be more formal in the process, I think, of not…not formal that it has to be on a PowerPoint, but it has to be written, I think, and maybe that’s on a PowerPoint, if that’s the best way to visualize it, if you can bring in some pictures or some videos or some samples or…or data surrounding it, that might be easier, also, for them to have a takeaway for.

Susan  9:28 

I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said you really need to target it to the audience. And it’s very possible, and especially if some of the business cases that you did that were informal over the years in the past, is that you had that credibility and trust with the decision maker. And if you came to them because of that relationship you had and said, you know, I’m going to need $7,000 to to purchase XYZ piece of hardware, software, they might have said, you know, JoDee, if you’ve looked at it and you feel comfortable with it, go ahead and do it. And you had that kind of relationship. But I would think that most people, especially either new in their careers or new in their relationship, or if you’re in an environment like I was where you needed to have a very formal business case for any funds, for any type of initiative, I think it is helpful to do just as you said and really think about…how am I going to convey all of the information that I put together in order to convince myself that this is something the company needed? How do I get that across to the audience? I do believe that not everybody likes information fed to them, recommendations fed to them the same way. So I do think an individual’s smart to do perhaps a PowerPoint that they can, you know, use as a reference as they talk it through. But I also love having a written document for people who need to take it away, as you say, and really digest it and process it. As we know, many folks who are introverts, that’s really…they don’t really want it just blasted at them verbally. They want a chance to digest it. And so I also think that if you can enable someone to come out and see what it is that you want to do, so they actually get a chance to experience it, so hear it, see it, and experience it, your chances of hitting the majority of decision makers’ needs I think are very, very strong. Right?

JoDee  11:12 

I can think back to one case in particular that I did, which in the end was maybe a pretty formal process. But I had done a lot of work behind the scenes in looking at options and comparing the costs and the functionality. This in particular was for a software application that I was recommending. But in in the final case, I put in my recommendation and the costs and the return on investment, but I didn’t include the comparisons I had done. And I feel like if I had shown that data as well…here’s what I looked at, here’s what I compared it to, here’s…here’s what worked and what didn’t work…I didn’t think would work, and then here’s my recommendation, I think would have made it even more a stronger case and more valid, as opposed to saying, I did my homework and here’s what I came up with and here’s what I think the return is. But there were some other options.

Susan  12:16 

The credibility in your recommendation would be so much greater, if I was the decision maker, if I had known that, you know, what were the stats around those other alternatives, right, that you chose not to pursue? Yeah, excellent point. Well, Maison Piedfort has an article on workzone.com that’s entitled, “8 Steps to Making an Exceptional Business Case.” JoDee, I read this and I thought this is a really good guide, I think, for us and for our listeners, if you are trying to put together maybe your first business case or strengthen the approach you use when you build business cases. Why don’t we go through each one of them, and we may have some other insights to add.

JoDee  12:53 

Great. So the step one is articulate what your case is, which I had to laugh, actually, when I saw that, because it seems so obvious. And then again, I was looking back at thinking of some of the ones I had done in the past, where it was clear in my head what the case was, but not so clear as I presented it to others, where maybe I was coming a little bit of a left field, in terms of their perspective, whereas I’d been thinking about it for a long time and maybe didn’t make the…make it very clear. What is my case?

Susan  13:30 

It’s funny, I read a lot where it says, lead with the need. And I do believe that you’ve got to be crystal clear in that first, I don’t know, 15, 20 seconds to let the listener or whoever…whoever you’re trying to sell on an idea to let them know we’ve got a real need. We’ve got a situation going on that’s impacting our business that we need to fix. If it’s in the case that we need another staff member, we, you know, we’ve got a real business need here. We are understaffed, and here’s the impact on the business. I think if we don’t capture it…their interest in that 15 or 20 seconds with a real need that’s clear, we might lose them. Lose their interest.

JoDee  14:06 

Exactly, exactly. Having some executive summaries on that topic, maybe having some conversations or some focus groups or…where you’ve talked to other people and really developed and articulated well what that need is.

Susan  14:22 

Yeah, make it clear so that you’ve got their attention. Executive summaries, I love that, the concept of it. I know that when you’re doing a business case, it’s wonderful to be able to take the whole thing and synthesize it into…I don’t know, 10 bullets or something for the executives so they can understand what the need is, understand what the impact to the business, so we don’t do anything, what the…you know, particular other things we’ve looked at very briefly, and what our recommendation is, and if there’s a cost in there, like return on investment, being able to take everything that you’ve done in a huge business case and put it in a quick executive summary, where you can get a yes or no, is probably the icing on the cake when you have that kind of relationship with leaders, but sadly, you can’t really do that executive summary until you’ve gone through and done all the work on a extensive business case.

JoDee  15:10 

Right, right. Step number two is the one I mentioned earlier that I was missing, was giving the options and possible solution. So I was looking at the options. I just thought it would be simpler in the…in the final case not to present all the data, but I think that was important to share what the other alternatives are. Are they more costly? Are they less costly? Do they have more functionality? Do they have less? Where does my recommended solution rank in terms of other alternatives? Ironically, now, when people talk to me about business cases, that’s always the first thing I ask, is “What else did you consider?”

Susan  15:52 

Yeah. I love that. Causes me, as a decision maker, not to worry that perhaps there’s some other better solution out there that this person just didn’t find.

JoDee  16:00 

Right.

Susan  16:00 

So it really…my confidence level in you as a presenter has gone up when you’ve done that, right? I’ve also seen that people like to include a do nothing alternative. And that’s great, because it, I think, reinforces to the listener or the approver, if we do nothing, we are on the road to ruin or we’re really exposing ourselves to some kind of risk.

JoDee  16:20 

Right. I think, too, we think of a new initiative, a new software, new technology, having a new hire, that we can view that as something that costs us more money, but actually doing nothing might be costing us more money.

Susan  16:37 

Yes.

JoDee  16:37 

And so if we don’t move ahead with this, we won’t invest x number in the new project, but it’s costing this much to do it how we’re doing right now.

Susan  16:49 

Very fair. Well, step three is really listing the advantages. Maison says you need to really show the qualitative and the quantitative. Kind of goes back to what you said earlier, that we’re not gonna necessarily find quantitative data on every recommendation, but maybe we have to really emphasize it’s qualitative. Sometimes I’ve seen recommendations that I’ve been involved in where we need to do it because we have to be compliant with the law and our do nothing is we’re potentially going to have some litigation or have a federal agency come after us. So I think it’s important that we really sit down and figure out the qualitative and the quantitative.

JoDee  17:26 

Right. And you might need help with that. That might be checking references from people who have utilized the software, the technology, you’re talking to other departments or other organizations who have their own person in that particular role, whatever that might be, getting some of that…that data, not…not just hard data, but some soft data too.

Susan  17:54 

I will tell you, I believe that as HR professionals, probably the people that we should have as our best partners are the finance people. And especially when you’re building a business case you want for your particular organization, you want to understand…what does this company value financially? What type of measurement of success do they use? And who else…who better than your finance department to help you build some of the assumptions that you need to make to show…if we would do a particular scenario as a solution, how is that gonna give us a return? I will tell you, I’d like to think of CHROs, you know, Chief HR Officers. I like for them to be BFFs with the CFOs. So I think it’s a marriage made in heaven.

JoDee  18:37 

That’s a lot of acronyms there. So step number four, he calls predict the risk and project definition. And once again, that can be an opportunity. That risk might be doing nothing or the risk might be doing something new. Either way, but he encourages you to hammer out what the main goal of the proposed project is. How long will it take? What actions are needed? And identifying those risks. Both…both the obvious risk and the hidden risk, and why you think it’s worth it to do it or not to do it.

Susan  19:13 

Fair enough. Step five is budget, to be really clear and transparent on estimating and finding funds. And this is where I’ve seen people who really wanted something to be approved, and they really underestimated the amount of people, time it was going to take, or the technology hours, or whatever. And that…the real shame in that is if you get something approved and you’ve got a business case that doesn’t have a realistic project plan or need for resources, that it’s going to fail, and that’s going to hurt your ability, really, and credibility for future initiatives and ideas that you want to recommend. So I think step five’s incredibly important. And just like we talked earlier about pulling in subject matter experts from other places in your organization, this is a great time to do it. Make sure that you talk to the IT area and figure out…how many technology hours will it take? When can you fit us in the schedule? Because that’s going to really affect the implementation of whatever recommendation you have. And certainly from a funding standpoint, you know, understanding when you’re going to need cash infusions, perhaps, and when you’re going to need to pull people, maybe some subject matter experts, into your project and might take away from some of their normal duties. So in the budgeting phase, I think it’s really important to be as clear and work extremely hard on not underestimating, and certainly, you know, no need to overestimate, you’re looking for an approval.

JoDee  20:39 

And there likely could be data out there on some of those things, too, that you might not be thinking about. I know I just saw this week a data point from SHRM that said it costs $4,100 is the average dollar amount it costs to hire a new person, not…not their set…salary, not their benefits, but just the process of hiring someone, from the ads you post, the social media, the…the recruiter, the interview time, the manager interview time, all that kind of stuff. Or there’s statistics out there on how many HR people do you need to service X number of employees?

Susan  21:24 

That sounds like a joke. How many HR people do you need to change a lightbulb?

JoDee  21:29 

What percentage of your budget might technology cost be, right? Or, I mean, all kinds of different data points that you might be able to find out there. From an HR perspective, shrm.org.

Susan  21:42 

A wonderful resource. Yeah, absolutely. Well, good. Then, step six is the outline. It’s really…in your business case, you want to show the project plan, and I think it’s smart to attach a timeline to that. So in my recommendation, you know, here are the people who I believe need to be involved in this, you know, here’s who’s going to be in charge of the implementation, of the project team. Here’s what everybody’s roles are going to be and responsibilities. And then as a team, here’s what they need to achieve, here’s the action steps that we’re going to take. And all along the way, we’re not going to wait till the end to tell you if it worked, if it didn’t work, but we’re going to have periodic check-ins so that the decision makers who have given the approval will know, especially long term projects, you know, that we’re making progress and where we’re doing course corrections.

JoDee  22:33 

I think even in thinking about the the timeline for the whole year…like, why might it be important for us to do this project in May, June, and July versus December, January, February, or here’s here’s what our team is working on throughout the year and this particular time of year makes the most sense for us, or here’s why our goal is to…is to spread this out or why our goal is to get this done in a…in a very short timeframe.

Susan  23:03 

Very smart. Yeah.

JoDee  23:05 

And then the last step is to summarize, which I think…I laughed when I saw this process and thinking, I think what I used to do a lot of times is prepared the summary first and then worked backwards. So even though we talked about thinking about articulating what your case is and having an executive summary, we really can’t do the executive summary justice until we’ve gone through all these other steps in…in simplifying what is the problem, the solution, the cost, the potential return on investment, the timeframe, the who is involved, thinking through everything.

Susan  23:44 

Very true. So JoDee, Maison Piedfort really stopped the recommendations at summarizing. I think I would add one more step, and that step, I think, is post business case implementation. What I think is important is once you’ve actually gotten approval in a business case and you’ve implemented whatever your recommendation was, I think it’s very smart to have some type of follow up rigor. The first thing I would do is I…one is kind of a lessons learned. All right, we had a need, we had a real problem. We came up with a solution, we implemented it, how did it work? But I think why that’s so important is because as…for your credibility as you do future business cases and future recommendations, you want to have a track record, either of success or learnings from those things that maybe didn’t go as well.

JoDee  24:33 

Right. And it might be interesting to compare what…what you thought was the best solution to what happened or were…How were your estimates? Did the actual costs turn out to be the actual costs? Were they higher? Were they lower? What did you miss in the process so that you can learn from that? And I think it also can help credibility to go back to that team, that supervisor, that boss that you presented to and say, hey, the project is now complete, here’s…here’s where we came out. Right? And…

Susan  25:09 

In the…in the large corporation I worked for, whenever we’d do any type of a major initiative, once it was fully put to bed, finalized, finished, and over, we would organize a meeting called the post mortem. That does sound kind of depressing, though, doesn’t it? Yeah, I think we should call it a lessons learned meeting, because that’s really what we wanted to do. We wanted to really, from all the stakeholders that were involved, and the people who were impacted, we always would involve them as well. You know, let’s take a look at what we did that worked well on this project and what didn’t and as you said, if there’s…if we added estimates, if we were off on our estimates, you know, what was wrong in our planning that caused us to be off? And is there anything that…from this particular project, any learnings that we can apply to other future projects, or did we discover anything during this implementation that really might need addressing with a whole new project or whole new recommendation?

JoDee  26:04 

Yeah, I agree.

Susan  26:06 

I also like, after a particular implementation or big project, to figure out a way to recognize all the individuals for their work on this. Right? The people who maybe pulled together as part of the project team. I’ve seen companies do certificates of appreciation. I’ve seen them do, like, cash rewards on the spot, rewards for your effort on that project. Have you seen any other types of rewards or recognition for people who work on these kind of projects?

JoDee  26:32 

I think sometimes even just a celebration, right? Taking the team out to lunch, having a dinner, getting a half day off, or whatever, to celebrate the hard work. It’s funny, too. You mentioned certificates. I’ve never been one for certificates and always thought that was a bit wasteful or silly. But yet, just on Tuesday, I presented a group with certificates at the end of a training class, and I can’t tell you how many people were so thrilled to get a certificate. That was very meaningful for them. So it was a good reminder for me to think about the Platinum Rule, which is treating people how they want to be treated, not how I want to be treated, and thinking through that. It may be, even, that…I know with our Purple Ink team this year, I asked them specifically for each of the goals they set to think about how they would celebrate when they achieve the goal. So that could even be a part of the timeline or the project plan, to say what will we do if this project is successful or comes in under budget or ahead of the timeline or whatever that might be the case, establish some of those things up front so that you can ask the team how they want to be rewarded.

Susan  27:54 

I think that’s a great idea. Great example.

JoDee  27:56 

Actually, even as I think about that now, even outline what will constitute success of the project and laying that out. Is it the dollars? Is that the time? Is that the…the hours spent? Is that the lessons learned? And what is it that will want you to be rewarded?

Susan  28:17 

Sure. I’ve seen where, if it’s, you know, you’re having a turnover issue and you have recommendations on how we’re going to fix turnover, we actually set a goal that we’re going to reduce turnover by 5%. That’s our target. And we’ll know that we’ve won on this if that’s what we achieve, or better.

JoDee  28:33 

Yeah, smart. Good.

Susan  28:35 

So JoDee, thinking of HR business cases in particular, let’s talk about what could strengthen business cases so that you get a yes, if you’re an HR professional, if you’re trying to launch a people initiative or want approval for whatever your recommendation is.

JoDee  28:51 

So I think some things is, you know, going through this project timeline, right? Or going through step by step of this process to present it, and not saying, well, company x does this, or my last employee did this, you know, but thinking really about those metrics that surround it that are available. Even within your own companies, what…what metrics do you have that are…that are real data for you, maybe with regards to turnover, data, percentages, or costs? What…what have you discovered in exit interviews, what…candidate surveys, what individual performance data, training records, corrective action occurrences, total rewards, all those…all those different things that you might have?

Susan  29:43 

I like to say that we in HR, we hold the keys to the people data information vault, and so we should not be afraid to really do some data analysis. I do believe that business leaders want to make data-driven decisions, and you as an HR professional who is is in the midst of building a business case, to draw upon some of the trends that you’re seeing in the data that you have, I think it can be very powerful for the decision makers.

JoDee  30:09 

And I…and I love that. Talking about trends and thinking about how you talked about credibility earlier, right, and what kind of credibility that can show or prove that you’ve done that homework, you’ve listened to what’s out there, you’ve done…done some research on it.

Susan  30:28 

You know, I think as an HR professional, especially early in my career, I was most comfortable with qualitative, you know, people are going to feel better if we do this. If we have free lunches on Friday, it’s gonna make people happier. Well, the fact is, there’s so much research that’s available now, especially, you know, we’ve talked about shrm.org, but there’s Glassdoor, there’s Gallup, there’s just so much research has been done on things like employee engagement. I saw recently that Glassdoor says that over 80% of workers say that they are motivated to work harder when they receive appreciation. So there’s so much out there that I think is helpful to your business leaders who aren’t spending a lot of time thinking about, you know, how employees are feeling about things. I think you can bring in some real world relevant data to help build your cases.

JoDee  31:15 

Right. Ken Blanchard Companies has proven case studies that investing in leadership development programs improves manager skills, which results in better employee performance and increased customer satisfaction. They say for every 1.3% change in customer satisfaction, there is a corresponding .5% change in revenue growth. So those sound like small numbers, but yet, could be very powerful for your whole organization.

Susan  31:47 

Exactly, .5% seems small, but when you’re talking about a million, billion dollars. It’s a lot, right?

JoDee  31:54 

It’s huge.

Susan  31:55 

Yeah. Well, finally, you know, what I’d like to do on business cases is, we’ve talked about how…how to build one and maybe some resources that you can employ both inside your company and outside your company and other people across the company who you want to pull in as you build these cases. But let’s talk about when you’re actually presenting it, you’re in the meeting with the management team, or maybe you’re in the meeting with the owner. Let’s talk about, maybe, ways that you can sell it when you know you’ve got a good case written.

JoDee  32:23 

Yeah, the…one of the first ones is pre-selling influencers. I…I used to work for a guy who was the master at that. No matter…no matter what the situation was, when we would have a meeting, he would come to the meeting already having spoken to several key people, gotten their input on it, even gotten some contradictory input on it, you know, like, here’s…here’s the case for this side and here’s the other case and this is what I recommend. So doing some of that…that homework or thinking about involving those people in the process.

Susan  33:02 

I totally agree. I was part of a leadership team where we had a CFO who was wonderfully brilliant. I’m gonna start there. Wonderfully brilliant. But he really, when anybody brought up an idea or suggestion, he wanted to know…what was going to be the impact on this month’s P&L? What does that mean for the quarter? What are we going to be able to…what’s the return on equity implication here? And, I mean, he would grill the individual. I learned that I needed to have at least one meeting with him first, make sure he understood completely what I was trying to do, that I had worked with somebody on his finance team to pull the data together, and they need to be somebody on his team he really respected, because if I could get into a meeting where I was making a recommendation that was going to involve some funding, if I had pre-sold him, I’m going to tell you, it was a walk in the park. And every once a while he’d even speak up and say, yeah, I’ve heard…I’ve looked at the numbers, Susan, it makes sense. Oh my gosh, nirvana.

JoDee  33:57 

Yeah, yeah. And you know, that’s a good reminder to think, too, about some of the people, if it’s one person you’re presenting to or a team of people, that there will be some people who will be very focused on the numbers, there will be some people who might be very focused on the time, there might be some people who are very focused on the impact of the people, right? Or the perception of the process or the dollars spent or whatever.

Susan  34:25 

I worked with a sales manager that…it didn’t really matter what the topic was that somebody was trying to bring up, all he really cared about…what is this going to mean for my sales force? Are we going to be able to make more money at the end of the day? Will I have happier salespeople, will they be more productive?

JoDee  34:38 

Yeah. Well, and of course, you know, I came from the world of public accounting, where the billable hour was king, so that was…time was very important in an organization that just sold time.

Susan  34:50 

Yeah. Oh, makes sense. So, I think another thing that you can do to really ensure that your business case is going to go over the finish line would be to make sure as you pulled people in to work on this project with you, and we’ve talked about finance a lot, but sometimes it’s going to be IT, sometimes it’s marketing, who knows, make sure that the people that you put on that team are considered top talent, so that the credibility of them having their fingerprints on this project really will help you get smooth sailing. I often think that if you’ve got multiple decision makers in the leadership team, go to them to say, you know, you’re working on this project, you would love to get some insight from their group, who on their team would they be willing for me to talk to, and boy, at that point, you know, they’re…they can’t later say, well, you talked to Mary or talked to Joe, it’s, you know what, she came to me and asked me to get insights for my group and I picked my best person.

JoDee  35:44 

Right. Nice. You can also learn from prior business cases, maybe ones that you presented yourself, what worked well, or ones that maybe other people in the organization presented and what did they do that seemed to be so successful. I would also say sometimes, we learn just as much from those that we don’t win on, right? What could we have done different? What…what…what did we do wrong? How can we learn from that? Or maybe something that…that we won the business case, but then the project wasn’t successful. Right?

Susan  36:18 

Right.

JoDee  36:19 

And sharing what went wrong. I got…I got your buy-in from it but it didn’t turn out so well, and what do we do that we’ll overcome this time?

Susan  36:28 

I think that’s really important, that you share that ownership of, okay, we did do this. It didn’t work. Here’s why it didn’t work, and here’s how we’re not repeating it.

JoDee  36:35 

Right.

Susan  36:35 

So, very valid. I also think you have to think about who is the right person to present the business case. And it’s not always the people who wrote it or who worked on it. I would love for, you know, every HR professional out there who’s trying to drive a people initiative to feel really confident and comfortable and feel that trust that they could come and make a presentation. But sometimes it may be better if you pull somebody in from line management to do it with you so that we have a stakeholder who is part of the business with HR recommending a particular thing. I think it kind of gets that business credit. And not it’s not always necessary, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to consider.

JoDee  37:15 

Right. I love that idea. Thinking about if HR has an initiative to help the sales team, for example, you mentioned the sales guy, what will I do for him? Maybe he’s the one to present it, and give him the glory of it, might be better to have him be the key person, or her.

Susan  37:36 

Right. Absolutely. And then we already talked about that I do think it’s helpful that you make sure that you use multiple mediums to sell the business case. Definitely having a written case in writing, having the opportunity to get up in front of people and answer questions as you present it, I think, is super helpful. And then if there’s any opportunity for them to taste it, touch it, feel it, actually experience what it is you’re recommending, I have seen where sometimes if you want to do something that’s being done at another institution, asking the leadership team to come and see it in motion, and they get a chance. And if you have a good relationship with whoever this other business is, they’re kind of happy to show it off.

JoDee  38:14 

Right.

Susan  38:14 

I’ve had this happen, especially on the technology front, we were looking at putting in an HRIS system of a client and we…another very large company was using this particular technology, and they invited us in to see how they were using it. So it was really nice.

JoDee  38:30 

Love it. Love it. And that…looking at other people maybe in the same industry, too, that can have some credibility, that other leaders in your industry are using it, have tried it, how it’s worked. So many…even from a software or technology aspect, too, so many of those vendors have videos about their product, too, that could be another alternative to show some things, how it works on the video.

Susan  39:02 

Well, that’s great.

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Well, anything else we want to mention before we close out our discussion of business cases?

JoDee  39:39 

I think we covered a lot.

Susan  39:41 

Yeah, good. Well, I’m hopeful…I would love…we would love to hear your successes as you build your business cases. I hope you’ll think about calling in to our JoyPowered® hotline. Let us know about your successful business cases or even those that weren’t so much, that we’d be happy to help dissect what went wrong and help prepare you for the future. That phone number, I’ll just mention it now and…and again at the end of our podcast, is 317-688-1613.

JoDee  40:06 

Speaking of our our phone number, Susan, we had a listener voicemail this week. Rhonda from Tennessee called in and said that given the sometimes combative political environment we are seeing in the U.S.A. today, she’s starting to see some of it surface in the workspace and she is experiencing some polarization on teams that used to be collaborative. Rhonda would like to know if we have any suggestions on how to keep politics out of the workspace.

Susan  40:39 

JoDee, I’d like to keep politics out of every space, but it’s not easy, and I think this is a real issue. Rhonda, I’m hearing more and more scenarios where people feel as if, especially with the news being in our face so much and being constant, 24 by seven, that it just keeps coming up where employees are getting into some verbal…they start off as political discussions and they end up being real arguments. I think maybe the first thing to do is I would have a policy in place, workplace policy, about treating people with respect and about cordiality and collaboration, all those things that you see in most employee handbooks. And I think it’s important that you talk about the expectation that we are here, you know, for clients, we’re here to be good team members to each other, and that’s our expectation. I think you have to start with just a broad expectation of civil behavior.

JoDee  41:37 

Right. I agree. And it’s really…although politics has certainly been a hot topic lately, so I can appreciate that, that that’s her concern, this could be…we could be talking about lots of different things, right? Religion, sex, marriage, you know.

Susan  41:54 

Yeah.

JoDee  41:55 

All kinds. I mean, you name it. There can be polarizing topics, right to life can be one.

Susan  42:00 

Oh, yeah.

JoDee  42:01 

And it doesn’t really matter what the topic is. It’s about treating people with respect and dignity, and…. Certainly establishing a policy to say we’re not going to talk about politics or, you know, race relations or whatever it is, is…is not realistic. But just to be treating people with respect is…is the ultimate answer.

Susan  42:27 

I think you’re right. Now, I will tell you, when people are on breaks, you really don’t have any control over what I…what they discuss, unless it becomes, you know, obviously, something physical or something like that. But at least in the workplace, I do think that if somebody is not abiding by your organization’s respectful treatment of each other, and there’s any type of public display of, you know, shouting or arguing or fist slamming, you really need to nip it in the bud. You…it’s really hard if you turn an eye or the manager or the supervisor doesn’t want to get into it because it’s their two best employees. I have to say that you really need to be that advocate, Rhonda, to let them know that we’ve got to have a civil workplace, and so that kind of discussion’s not appropriate for in here.

JoDee  43:10 

Right. And certainly, those situations can turn into harassment or bullying, right? Where people feel…they feel uncomfortable going to work, they feel uncomfortable expressing their views. Maybe if it’s a…that can be peer to peer as well, but certainly if it’s a manager, supervisor, versus an employee, they might feel even more awkward.

Susan  43:34 

They could feel threatened by it. Yeah. Really great training topic, especially for your managers and supervisors. First of all, they have to lead by example. And then secondly, they need to make sure that work climate is one that’s positive and focused on work.

JoDee  43:45 

Right.

Susan  43:46 

Well, hey, I think we’re ready for in the news, and the topic is text interviewing. Text interviewing may be the next big thing in recruiting. JoDee, before I share with you some of the news that we’re hearing, I know that your firm does quite a bit of recruiting. Are you doing any of your pre-screening or any of your other interviews via text?

JoDee  44:08 

Not really. We’re texting occasionally to get updates or additional information really quickly, but I know there are some some softwares or processes out there that specifically include texting that you’ll talk about, and we’re not using those yet.

Susan  44:26 

Okay. Well, you know, it’s amazing in my lifetime to…when I was about…I think it was 2005 or 2006. I was on assignment over in Europe, and everyone over there was texting me messages. I kept seeing these messages on my phone, and I could not figure out how to respond. I did not know how to text. I’d have to figure out how to do international dialing to keep getting messages. I came back to the U.S., first thing I did was teach myself how to text. Dr. John Sullivan, in 2016, said people love texting. In fact, texting is the…the most widely used app on a smartphone, with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day.

JoDee  45:06 

Wow, I have to say I use mine a lot during the day, but I’m still surprised it’s that high.

Susan  45:12 

Yeah. Among the age group that recruiters often target, 18 to 29 – so we’re talking about, you know, early Gen Z-ers and late millennials – 100% of those surveyed said they use texting. That does not surprise me.

JoDee  45:26 

Right.

Susan  45:27 

And in addition, the odds of a tech savvy or innovator recruiting prospect or candidate not being a frequent user of texting is really near zero. Obviously, most recruiters already use texting to communicate with candidates. I was in a workshop – I think it was a SHRM workshop – a couple of years ago, where the presenter was saying that it used to be that you could call someone and leave a message, and they would get back to you if you’re a recruiter. Now the odds of that actually happening is very low, because so many people don’t even listen to their voicemails. If they have their voicemail set up.

JoDee  46:01  

Right.

Susan  46:02 

Do your kids have their voicemail set up on their phone?

JoDee  46:05 

I don’t know. I just text.

Susan  46:08 

I gotta tell you, my son does not have his set up. I’m like, you’ve had this phone for 10 years. He says, I’m never setting up my voicemail, mom.

JoDee  46:15 

If I call my kids and leave them a voicemail, they either call me back or they text me without ever listening to the voicemail.

Susan  46:24 

There you go. So you wasted your breath. Right? So the same presenter at the conference said that recruiters learned to email people, because they would get back to it. They say now the average is, like, two to three days before someone necessarily checks their email and gets back to you. So that is why recruiters have been driven to…when they want to reach candidates, to using texting. Most recruiters already use texting to communicate, but for some reason, few are aware of and only a percentage of recruiters are really using it as an interviewing tool. They might use texting to get ahold of the candidate and arrange for them to do a phone pre-screen or, you know, another type of pre-assessment, but they’re not actually using it to pre-screen. But I think that is absolutely changing, based on some of the technology that we’re seeing.

JoDee  47:14 

I would suggest, too, I don’t know, Susan, maybe you disagree, but if I were a candidate, I would not text a recruiter unless they had texted me first. And maybe I’m old school on that, but I…I still think of my text as a little bit more personal, or if I…I think, too, I’m suspecting that one of the reasons why a lot of recruiters aren’t using texting as a whole process yet are because their software systems are set up to capture email conversations. I know what…the software that we utilize is…is set up to capture conversations in email and not text. So if they don’t have an applicant tracking system that records that…

Susan  48:00 

I hear you.

JoDee  48:01 

Besides just to schedule the interview or to do a quick follow up.

Susan  48:05 

Well, I have to say, JoDee, you’re gonna have to let that go about texting being personal, because I think it’s rapidly changing. But I do…I do respect your feeling on that. The first time people texted me, it’s like, oh my gosh, they want me to respond right now. I’m not quick enough. But I don’t think that’s it. I think that is…I think that is evolving, that people see texting as just the easiest form of communication. There is a company out there that I’ve been reading a lot about called Canvas, and they specialize in helping companies with their text-based interviewing. Now, I’ve never worked with them, but I would be interested, if any of our listeners have used Canvas and…or any other competitors of Canvas in their space, we’d love to hear from you. I do know a company in Central Indiana, the North American headquarters of Roche Diagnostics, that they are actively texting their pre-screening process. I’ve had two of my coaching clients say to me the first…the first time they got texted, one of them called and said, “I think this is is a scam. This person says they’re a recruiter at Roche, and they wanted to pre-screen me with a series of questions they’re going to be asking me, and they explained that I will respond to a question, and then they’ll get back to me with the next question.” And anyway, this went on for about a day and a half, and we both got convinced this was real. Sure enough, she got…she passed the pre-screen, was invited in, and got a chance to actually interview with hiring managers.

JoDee  49:26 

Nice.

Susan  49:27 

Yeah. So I think it’s a-comin’.

JoDee  49:29 

Yeah, I didn’t look up this statistic beforehand, Susan, and I don’t like to share data that is not really research, but I think it’s something close to 75% of all online applications now are filled out by candidates who are using their phone and not a computer, so…and I think a lot of candidates out there, especially in the unskilled labor force, might not even have a computer, but they do have a phone. And so we’ve definitely seen that go…I personally, again, I’ll say, I try to think I’m up on technology, but maybe I’m a little old school, but I can’t imagine applying for a position on my phone. But applicant tracking systems have been designed or need to be designed for people to…to do that quickly and simply, because so many are doing it on their actual phones.

Susan  50:27 

I think that is so true. And I also feel like with the career coaching clients, I have fewer and fewer of them are investing in desktops, into computers. They are using their phone, and every once while they’ll have iPads that they’re trying to use.

JoDee  50:40 

Right.

Susan  50:41 

But not everybody has a laptop or a desktop, so I do think employers need to be responding to the changing times.

JoDee  50:47 

Right. Right.

Susan  50:50 

Well, please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free at iTunes, Google Play, or Podbean by searching on the word “JoyPowered.” If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.

Emily Miller
Emily Miller
Emily works behind the scenes at JoyPowered, helping to edit and publish the books, producing the podcast, and running the website and social media.

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