How to convince your CEO to invest in people

May 2, 2018

it's all about people

Victoria Dinkova is a business student, and co-author of “It’s All About People: How to attract and engage the best and brightest employees”. In the book, Victoria says that “regardless of profitability or appearance, the people working for the company are the only ones who can actually add value to its products or services.

If you’ve been following our blog, you might remember an article from earlier this year, in which I mention how the way employers treat employees seems to directly correlate with their company’s profitability. But despite the compelling evidence, many employers still pay little more than lip service to their people, stating things like “our people are our biggest assets”, but without actually following through with positive action.

I decided to speak to Victoria, and ask her what HR professionals can do to encourage their business leaders to invest in people.

Employers only say they value employees because it’s trendy

Before we started talking about the ‘how’, Victoria and I discussed the ‘why’. Why do so many employers say that they value their employees, while doing absolutely nothing about it?

To be frank, I think they give this ‘lip-acknowledgement’ only because it is trendy to do so right now” says Victoria. “When I’m reading Forbes, or listening to a Bloomberg show, I hear business leaders speak about ‘being agile’ or ‘adopting holacracy’ or ‘putting employees first’, and I normally get the impression that they are only saying these things to make themselves look like more competent business leaders.

Victoria goes on to say that there is an unwritten rule amongst CEOs and other business leaders, which is that you must talk about how much you value your employees in front of everyone, all the time. But she also says that while these words are very pretty to listen to, they are little more than a pair of sunglasses to impress stakeholders.

Leaders don’t take action because they don’t believe they’ll get results

If business leaders know that paying lip service impresses people, why don’t they go ahead and take action? Perhaps they are just lazy, and feel like it’s too much effort? Well, Victoria believes that the underlying reason, is that they don’t actually believe they’ll get any results.

I remember a story shared by my professor, about a time he was trying to convince the Chief Regional Manager and the Financial Department, that there was a desperate need to set up a linguistic course for their employees” Victoria recalls. “You see, while most employees were Korean, many engineers were Russian. And it made complete sense to provide them with a way to communicate more easily and comfortably – it was obvious to most, that a linguistic course would be a win-win situation for all parties. But every time my professor had a meeting about this, he found that it reverted back to a discussion of money and numbers. He had a hard time convincing them that it was a good idea, as there was no black and white ROI to speak of.

Victoria says that she found a similar reaction when she spoke to her fellow business students about employee satisfaction initiatives. Each time, the focus went back to questions surrounding money. People didn’t care about ‘soft benefits’ – they wanted hard, actionable stats.

The secret to convincing business leaders to invest in their people

Victoria says that convincing many business leaders to take their focus away from the numbers is a challenge. And convincing them to invest in something with no statistical support might even be impossible. Therefore, if HR wants to convince a CEO that investing in people is worthwhile, then the secret is to get really good at taking numbers to the table with them. To help you with that, tracking the right HR KPIs is a best practice to back up your arguments with real, tangible information.

HR must be more proactive in collecting data and actually measuring the impact of it” she advises. “Employees are a crucial feature of the company’s image, market share and sustainability. In today’s competitive market environment, the good quality service is often the key distinguishing factor for a consumer. HR and marketing managers might also know and understand that, but they need to find a way to communicate the numerical impact, and try to estimate and measure both inputs and outputs of certain employee investment.

Nobody likes dealing with statistics. Except for statisticians, perhaps. But Victoria says that the business context we’re in today demands for HR to be ‘harder’ in terms of stats than ever before. And Victoria is keen to add that there are many software tools available, some of them even for free, such as Relationwise, that encourage real-time feedback from employees – which could be valuable in building your case to the financial department.

Claim your FREE copy of “It’s All About People”

It’s All About People” is available to buy on Amazon. However, Victoria is kindly offering a free digital copy of the book to anybody who discovered it via the People HR blog. To request your free copy, simply send Victoria a connection request on LinkedIn, and mention this blog post in your message.

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