1. Establish a clear business impact.
Before deciding to do a HR initiative, take that extra moment to consider why you are doing the program and how the organization will benefit. Avoid implementing an HR program just because it is the "right thing" to do. Implement a program that you are confident will drive individual performance and make an organizational impact. If there is not a clear path that shows how the program will drive results, shelve it.
2. Know your customer.
It is imperative that you know the business inside and out. Get outside of your environment and do everything possible to understand the big challenges and issues that the organization faces.
3. Avoid the touchy-feely.
Do your homework and make sure that the program you are presenting is grounded in the reality of your business and provides practical, tangible outcomes. Instead of offering employees chances to bond and get to know each other via a ropes course, or some other event-oriented endeavor, consider a program that addresses real business concerns and development issues simultaneously.
4. Customize, customize, customize.
Avoid rolling out a best-of-breed program that is non-specific to your organization. Do everything possible to ensure that a new program is aligned with your organization's culture, values, goals and needs.
5. Demonstrate staying power.
Show executives how your desired program has legs and will live long beyond its launch date. While it may be tempting to try enticing new programs, there will be more long-term benefit to sticking with fewer endeavors that make an impact. Weave the program into employees everyday work life, meetings and events.
6. Keep it simple.
The more complex the program, the more difficult implementation becomes. When implementation becomes bogged down, programs have a hard time taking root. The president of our firm and author of the best-seller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni, likes to say, "HR programs should be institutionalized but not bureaucratized." He means there needs to be just enough structure to make the program work, without having the initiative get bogged-down with too many policies, forms and procedures.
7. Engage the executives.
Talk informally with senior executives to find out their needs, opinions and hot buttons. Getting early feedback on ideas can help HR executives avoid creating a program in a vacuum. This input will help establish need and drive buy-in. And, as you talk with them, anticipate their objections and come prepared with thoughtful, complete responses.
8. Insist on participation.
To the degree possible, require that executives participate in the program at some level before rolling it out to the entire organization. If not, both leaders and employees may treat the program as an HR pet project versus a program that is necessary for success in their jobs and critical for their organization's livelihood.
9. Enlist executives as ambassadors.
Once executives buy in to a program, give them a major role in the communication process. As employees see executives verbally champion a program, they will be more receptive to the endeavor and realize that participation is critical and required.
10. Stay on the forefront.
As the program rolls out, ongoing progress reports to the executives are key. Distracted by pressing issues daily, executives need to stay constantly in the loop about the program's progress, successes and challenges. Without this ongoing intervention, the initiative can slip. Executives need to feel like program owners, not bystanders.
Jeff Gibson is vice president of consulting for The Table Group and consults regularly with CEOs and their executive teams on the concepts around Patrick Lencioni's best-selling books. Jeff's clients include Southwest Airlines, PG&E, HCA Inc., Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as many others.