By Kenneth Matos, Senior Director of Research, Families and Work Institute
Workflex is a slam dunk when it comes to creating an effective workplace. Most managers realize this; but, for the folks who run smaller organizations or small divisions within larger companies, implementing flexible work programs can feel like more work than benefit. For others, changing strategies they believe have been successful for a long while can appear counterproductive.
Small business owners, in particular, have enough on their plates running operations, so putting in the work needed to create a flexible workplace may not be a top priority. Even with a strong business case, how do workflex supporters convince entrepreneurs, senior leaders and team managers to embrace changes that will ultimately help them and boost the bottom line?
It’s time to rethink how you make the pitch!
Workplace flexibility is all about a dynamic partnership between employer and employee to figure out solutions to how, when and where people work that work for all. But, sometimes it feels like only one side wants to participate. People often attempt to promote organizational change by developing the best business case they can to show all the ways that the organization benefits from making the change. Yet, despite rock-solid data and logical arguments showing how a change would benefit the organization, staff and clients, leaders may still refuse to alter course. So, advocates go back and build ever more elaborate and well-founded business cases that frustratingly fail to move the needle. Rather than give up, it’s time to change your approach.
The new, free Workflex and Small Business Guide: Big Ideas for Any Size provides a series of tips for rethinking this process. These tips help you move beyond the perpetual search for a better reason for them to say yes to an understanding of why they are saying no. With that perspective in mind, you can shift your efforts towards more persuasive tactics.
Though we like to imagine that leaders are unemotional, purely logical agents of business interests who will always be swayed by the best arguments, the fact is they are not. Leaders are people with all the strengths and liabilities that having individual experiences, assumptions and goals entail. When a solid business case fails to persuade someone, you need to switch gears and build the person case. Note that these strategies work for any strategic proposal, not just for workflex.
1. Identify persuasive strategies that matter most to the specific leader. Is he/she motivated best by numbers or by stories? Do they need lots of examples or just a few powerful ones? Look to past successful presentations for the qualities that seemed most persuasive to that leader.
2. Identify the issues that matter most to the specific leader. Focus your presentation on the essential business issues that the leader is responsible for managing or which impact their role. These will be the ones that will have the best chance of catching their attention and getting them to seriously consider your proposal.
3. Engage the leader as an unintentional ally. If a leader rejects a proposal, don’t ask why they rejected it. That just gets them to rehearse their objections yet again and reinforces their position. Instead, flip an objection by asking the leader how something they’ve rejected might work. That switches their thinking to considering ways to make the proposal possible and gets you the same information for improving your arguments.
4. Consider the person. Does the leader have a personal reason for resisting the proposal? Does it suggest that the leader has been doing something wrong up until now? Does it create personal complications for the leader? How can you help focus both their business and personal motives towards your proposal?