It seems like everyone is talking about getting the all-important “buy-in” from someone these days. Whether it is your client, public stakeholders, or even your partners, if you do not have their buy-in, then you could be in trouble. The problem is that too few people actually understand what buy-in is, and even the ones that do understand often forget what may be the most important group to have buy-in from: your employees.
“Buy-in” is the latest buzzword for a very old concept known as “commitment.” This is the commitment of support, initiative, and resources to any given idea, decision, or plan. Once you demystify the buzzword, it becomes immediately clear why buy-in is important. Without the support to fully develop any notion to its full potential, the initiative to enact the developed plan, or the necessary resources to realize the plan’s full potential, any project is doomed to be less than it could have been had everyone involved been committed to it.
By definition, an employee is a person employed by another person to carry designated tasks. However, in the reality of a nuanced reality where people are complex and may have competing interests, buy-in from employees cannot be taken for granted. Never fear! These three tips can help getting buy-in from your most important partners (your employees) easier than ever before, improving employee satisfaction and trust.
1. Get Ideas from the Bottom Up. Traditionally, the introduction and development of new business ideas is a top-down process beginning at the highest executive levels. Whether the highest level is a corporate board or a single person heading a small firm, this process dismisses a world of possible ideas by excluding all employees. Worse still, this disenfranchises large parts of the company. In contrast, an open-door policy where employees feel that their ideas are not only heard, but also seriously considered, will create a more diverse ecosystem that enjoys a greater support base.
Practice It: Instead of a policy of grand edicts from the management tower, try instituting an open-door policy that encourages employees to step forward and submit ideas. Lunchtime brainstorms, designated idea “gatherings,” and even old-fashioned suggestion boxes all make friendly portals for employees to submit ideas and for you to find the next great innovation.
2. Employ a Transparent Vision. Transparency is all about inclusion. While traditional business hides the decision-making process in a black box, transparency opens the process up for all to see. This important practice also helps organizations—regardless of size—understand the eventual goal of current efforts and changes. Helping everyone have a clear view and understanding of the company’s vision will help them all see the value, both for the firm and themselves, and give their full support.
Practice It: Instead of sending a memo or an email to everyone to let them know about a new project that you are after or a new policy change, have a group chat. Let them know the long-term goal of this decision. Make sure you see plenty of nods and excited looks before you progress into the details on the immediate task at hand. Excited people will always support and contribute more to a project than bored people.
3. Be Sure to Follow Up. Getting employee buy-in is really an exercise in trust, and one that is repeated over and over. In order to have a greater chance of gaining a person’s trust in the future, you must be sure to execute well on the trust they have given you in the past. Therefore, it is imperative that you follow up with your employees. Get their opinions on whether or not the company is achieving the long-term goals that it lays out. Even if a proposed move does not live up to its potential, proper follow-up can maintain your employee’s trust and buy-in for future efforts.
Practice It: Feedback and follow-up go hand in hand, but there are good ways and bad ways to do this. Online surveys are great tools, but can be impersonal. Use them sparingly, make them short, and be sure to still ask the individual for his or her thoughts. A personal follow-up will help employees feel recognized and help form the needed trust for employee buy-in.
The success of any company requires the full support and effort of every person in the company. Having the buy-in of every employee is not only important as a business concept, but it also helps to remove huge hurdles from the roadmap before they even appear. Taking the time treat an employee’s commitment as high a priority as those of project stakeholders can pay huge dividends in efficiency and morale, so don’t overlook this important aspect!