How to Talk to Your CFO About a New Benefit Idea

Make change happen by making it easy to say yes

Posted on October 18, 2018

Has this ever happened to you?

You went to a conference and spent two days being inspired by your peers and thought leaders in the field. You heard about hundreds of new ideas from flexible work arrangements to innovative diversity and inclusion strategies. Every session was interesting and thought provoking, and you returned to your desk energized and engaged. Of all the new information you heard, one idea stuck out, and you’re certain it would be a great benefit for employees and your organization.

You spend the next week researching your idea and talking it up with your colleagues. You can’t wait to get the ball rolling. You put together an outline showing when and how you could get it launched, and send it up the chain. Back comes a one-line email from the CFO: “We don’t have budget in this fiscal year for a new expenditure.” Your brilliant idea is dead in the water, and you feel deflated and demotivated. All that fresh energy has gone nowhere.

It’s easy to feel like there's nothing you can do to get a better response from the CFO or whichever senior executive put the brakes on your plan, but there are strategies you can use to make it easier for decision-makers to say yes. When presenting your company with a big new idea, consider these steps for getting buy-in and making it happen.

Show the Value

Executives in every organization, especially those in finance roles, are always thinking about the costs and benefits of every idea. While you may be looking at things through your HR lens, your CFO is looking at every part of the organization, from supply chain to market competition and beyond. Every day she is looking for tweaks to make the operations more efficient, save money and squeeze extra value out of each expenditure. Make sure you do your homework to show not only how this new idea adds value, but how that specific value aligns with your organization's current priorities, or reinforces your company's mission, or solves a problem that's been troubling leadership.

Make Your Case

Case studies, especially at similar organizations, can help show value and lessen the concern of risk. While you might have only seen the potential positives of this new idea, the CFO is always looking at the potential downfalls—anything new and unproven is likely to be shot down. But if you can show positive results from other organizations and demonstrate that the rewards are worth the risk (or at least that the risks are knowable and limited), you’ll have a better shot at getting the green light. Beyond written case studies, dig in and get references. Better yet, get the CFO of a similar organization to talk to your executives about why they made the choice to say yes and the results they've gotten.

Be Budget Savvy

Every organization has a budget cycle when things get approved for the year ahead. Typically, this is the time when increased operating costs are most likely to be approved. There may also be money allocated for special projects, or money being freed up as contracts come to an end. If you are asking for new funding, you need to know where that money will come from. Will it be returned directly through a cost savings? Can it be reallocated from a project that was cancelled? Understanding the cash flow, having a realistic plan for how your initiative will get paid for and knowing how the approval processes work in your organization makes it much easier for your CFO to say yes.

Don’t Give Up

You won’t always get to yes on your first proposal, even when you know you have a great idea. Sometimes it will a few budget cycles and several tries to get something approved. But if you really believe The more you can support your position with a strong value proposition, the more likely you will be to get from idea to reality.

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twitterInnovative new ideas often feel risky, especially to the person in change of the budget. So how do you convince your company to invest in a new program that you believe is really right for your #workers? #HR #WorkTrends #CSR

Topics: innovative workplace benefits,


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