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Selling the business case for investing in your Employer Brand

You’re in the boardroom. You’ve gathered the ExComm together to hear your business case for investing in the Employer Brand. They’ve agreed that telling the business’ unique employer brand story is critical for hiring and retaining the best people. They nod encouragingly when you explain your process and how you’re going to engage with a cross section of colleagues. They quiver with anticipation when you show the emotive and compelling stories you’ll tell.

Then comes the budget bombshell, and suddenly, it’s like you’re telling them you need to buy a golden unicorn for the office. Arms are crossed. Everyone casts furtive glances at the CFO, expecting him or her to pipe up. The CEO is imagining all the capital investments they have to hold-off on, just to invest in your programme.

You walk away without a clear answer. And as every salesperson will tell you, the only thing worse than a ‘no’ is a ‘maybe.’

So, when it comes to getting leaders to put their money where their mouths are, where does it all go wrong?

Let’s face it. Revenue generation is not one of an Employer Brand’s expected outcomes. And as People professionals, we often get so wrapped up in fulfilling colleague needs that we forget about the business needs. That’s where the ExComm starts to disengage. They can’t visualise how this programme will help the business move forward. And therefore it falls down the list from ‘Must Have’ to ‘Nice to Have’. And in a trading environment like today’s where money is tight, ‘Nice to Haves’ get relegated to a dusty filing cabinet.

So, how can we get our project right up to the top of their agenda? From our experience of seeing our customers’ successes and failures, in pretty high definition, here are our top tips:

1. Know where the business wants to go. And what’s getting in the way.

Forget about people, just for a minute. It could be new countries to be opened up. It could be funding lines. Maybe there are issues with new product development. If you truly understand the business context you can show where people and by extension, your Employer Brand can help, the conversation will already be better received. Making your ‘thing’, the answer to their challenge and you’re already halfway to victory.

2. Hero the competition

There’s nothing that exorcises the C-Suite more than hearing that the competition is eating their lunch. Show how your competition (either for customers or talent, or both) are doing a stellar job of making your organisation look like dinosaurs. You’ll press the automatic pride button that says, “we can’t let those losers be better than us!”

3. Highlight the risk of doing nothing

The pull of the status quo is insidious, especially when there are so many competing demands for time, resources and budget. Sometimes doing nothing is easy, and comfortable so it can be tricky to catalyse action. Your job is to surface what could, or maybe already is, happening as a result of inaction. It might be flight-risk of high performers, the money spent on recruitment agencies versus investing in our own storytelling and recruitment marketing or even the productivity cost of onboarding new staff as replacements. Focus on numbers, not emotions.

4. Paint a future picture

Don’t focus on happy people, focus on a happy business. Show how your Employer Brand will reduce costs, get better people onboard quicker, align leaders and managers, reduce attrition and increase productivity. The CFO will be one of your key gatekeepers. Their idea of a beautiful future state probably looks more like a scene from the Matrix than Bambi, so cater to that vision.

5. Get pitch ready

So, you don’t need to resemble a sweating participant on Dragons Den (or Shark Tank for our US friends), but you do need a compelling story. If you have a mentor, run your business case by them for their advice on who— and how to navigate. Keep your slides or memos concise and focused on the business needs. And remember not to talk about the cost, but rather the investment.

Securing investment for your Employer Brand may seem like a daunting task, especially when faced with budget-conscious execs. Follow these tips and you can significantly improve your chances of turning a ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes.’

It’ll be you in that boardroom soon. Make sure you avoid the crossed arms and sceptical glances; be armed with a compelling story that not only resonates with the emotional side but also speaks the language of the business. After all, a golden unicorn might be a bit pricey, but a thriving Employer Brand? Priceless.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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