20 Tips That Will Boost Your Chances of Getting a Budget Increase

As seen on LinkedIn Talent Blog.

Even though most recruiting departments have impressive business impact, they very seldom get budgets that reflect that. This leaves recruiters frustrated and more importantly, prevents them from trying out innovative, high-value projects.

The first and most important lesson that recruiting leaders have to learn is that most recruiting business cases don’t fail because of what’s in them, they fail because what is not in them.

In a recent post, I described the critical “budget approval factors” and phrases that instantly make a business case more compelling. Those are the must-include points that will make all the difference for your and your team.

In this post, I’d like to share another 20 business case components. While the points below don’t cover strategic issues, they will have a significant impact on whether you will get funding in a tight competition and how much.

Here are the points you should include to considerably boost your business case for more budget:

1. Show there is a need/demand:

Rather than assuming that everyone is aware of your department’s need, clearly spell it out. Realize up front that you have no chance of getting funded if you can’t show that your future users/customers want and, at least, plan on trying your program once. Consider phrases like “We surveyed hiring managers and 89% said they shared the need so that they would, at least, try the new referral approach at least once.”

2. List the many benefits:

Obviously, in any successful proposal, you must list and explain the program’s its many benefits and advantages. Be sure and quantify each of the benefits with numbers and dollars. Use phrases like “With its advanced predictive analytics and real-time reporting, the program will rank among the top five in the industry.”

3. Reveal the likelihood of success:

Everyone wants to invest in something that has a proven track record, so reveal the average success/ failure rates of your program. Include phrases like “The project has an average success rate of 86% at firms that have implemented it”. When you have a high-risk project, obviously you also want to explain that you know specifically what the risks are; their probabilities and that you have plans for handling each of the major risks.

4. Explain “why” it works: 

No one is likely to support funding for a new initiative unless it is clear that the team knows precisely “why” the solution works. Experts always know why something works and what factors will cause it to fail. In addition, knowing why something works allows you to fix a process when it breaks and to continually improve your results.

Once you have identified “the critical success factors” that make it work, it is a good idea to include phrases like “The primary reason why blind interviewing works are because it reduces the visual discrimination that can occur during face-to-face interviews.”

5. The project has an executive champion:

Overhead functions are much more likely to have projects approved if they have an executive champion or sponsor from the business side of the firm. Having an executive champion shows that at least one business unit has found this overhead project to be strategically important. Consider using phrases like “The head of our most profitable business unit is our executive champion. She fully supports the proposal and to demonstrate that support, she has agreed to monitor our progress and to fund 10% of the effort.”

6. The effort has a strong leader/team:

Strong program leadership is likely to be one of the most important success factors. As a result, consider using phrases like “The project has an excellent leader, with three years of experience in the area and a 100% on time and under budget success rate.” And also show team strength with phrases like “each of the team members is highly rated and each has complementary skills.”

It’s important also to demonstrate that your team has the necessary competencies and that at least one of the team members is an expert in the subject area, our firm’s critical success factors and the future path of our expanding industry.

7. Show your team’s past success rate:

In order to build confidence in your team, it’s critical that you include information about your success rate on previous projects. You can do that by using phrases like “Our team has an 81% success rate in meeting project goals, including being on time and under budget. Our 4-year track record shows that we can meet the difficult challenges that we will face on this project.”

8. Include a continuous improvement process: 

No matter how well-designed your initial program is before it will get approved it will likely be required to have a continuous improvement component. Utilize phrases like “the project plan includes periodic failure analysis, a scheduled audit and a metric-driven continuous improvement component to ensure that the process and the results continually improve over time.”

9. Worst case scenario planning:

No one is willing to fund Pollyanna’s that don’t prepare for the worst. So include phrases like “We have calculated and prepared plans for both the best and worst case scenarios for this project. As a result of this preparation, there will be no major unanticipated and not planned for surprises.”

10. Demonstrate that the program fits our culture:

Executives are not likely to approve anything that disrupts their firm’s corporate culture or values. So include phrases like “Three executives have independently verified that the program closely fits our culture.”

11. It will impact individual executives:

It’s naïve to assume that executives are not, at least, a bit selfish. So it’s important to subtly show how the major players will personally benefit from any new project. Consider phrases like “For those SBU’s that use it, the program will likely increase their business unit results and thus their executive’s bonuses by 3% per year.”

Obviously, before you can say that, you need to identify the appropriate bonus formulas and the strategic goals of each of the major business units represented on the budget committee. If key executives are also encountering significant business problems, it’s always a good idea to demonstrate how your project will help to alleviate those problems and improve their KPI’s.

If executives also seek the limelight, also mention how “They are likely to be recognized internally and written up in the media externally if they participate in our STEM diversity hiring initiative.” Inferring that a new recruiting program may help an individual increase their power/influence, get a raise or a promotion can, in some cases also be a positive addition to your business case.

12. Prioritize your targets:

Strategic executives simply don’t treat all of their customers/users the same. So in your proposal, it’s essential that you identify who will be your highest priority customers or users. Include phrases like “Top priority in recruiting will be given to revenue-generating positions and jobs that have been designated as mission critical.”

13. It will not distract from regular work:

Executives are always concerned about projects that will distract from day-to-day operations. So it makes sense to reassure them with phrases like “The effort will require a minimum of management time and the work will be done in such a way that it does not distract from our primary tasks.” You can also reassure executives by stating that no new equipment, office space or other scarce resources will be required.

14. Provide alternatives:

In a volatile world, executives expect you to plan for all likely contingencies. So consider phrases like “We of course of put together a “Plan B” for each of the pre-identified potential problems or roadblocks.”

15. Compare your results to other functional results:

Executives think in broad strategic terms across the entire business. So it won’t be enough to have the best numbers in all of HR. Instead, you must compare your results in ROI and business impact with those attained by powerful business functions like finance, marketing and business development. Consider phrases like “Our ROI is 16%, which compares favorably to the ROI in finance of 8% and in supply chain of 17%.”

16. A list of the likely problems:

Everyone expects project leaders not to be naive. That means they must upfront be aware of all of the likely problems and risks that may occur during the project. Show that awareness with phrases like “The team has through benchmarking and risk analysis has identified 23 possible problems, and for each, we have at least one action to minimize or prevent each problem.”

17. Results are measured and rewarded:

It is an axiom of business that “whatever gets measured and rewarded gets done.” So show that your project measures and rewards performance results with phrases like “For every 1% measured increase (over the average) in the on-the-job performance and retention of their new hires, each recruiter will receive a $500 bonus.”

18. Technology is included: 

At firms that emphasize technology, in order to be respected, recruiting projects must also include it. So consider using phrases like “This project includes technology like Skype interviewing and the use of virtual reality in assessment.”

19. An easy to understand executive summary:

It’s critical that on a quick read, everyone understands the concept, your goals and how/why the program works. Because many evaluators will rely heavily on the executive summary, it must be written so the concept is simple, logical and that it is easily understood after only one quick reading of the summary. It’s essential that the executive summary is pretested to ensure that everyone who reads it immediately understands what you’re trying to accomplish and its value.

20. Anticipate and answer tough questions:

You will, of course, be expected to answer tough questions during any in-person presentation. However, it’s also important to anticipate “bone-chilling questions” that will probably arise while executives are immersed in reading your proposal. As a result, it makes sense to include a phrase like “We have anticipated 25 potential questions that may occur to the readers of this proposal, and for each we have provided a one-paragraph answer.”

Final thoughts

The secret to a powerful business case is to put it together from the perspective of a finance executive or a CEO. It shouldn’t read like it was written by a recruiter. This fact needs to be highlighted because, after 35+ years in recruiting, I have found that most recruiting leaders forget that the people that are approving their projects don’t know much or even care much about recruiting. Why, because they are business people with a business mind set.

As mentioned earlier, I have found that the primary problem with most business cases emanating from HR or recruiting is not what’s in them, but what is not in them. Omitting critical “budget approval factors” (and their associated phrases and support materials) has been in my experience the #1 weakness in 95% of recruiting business cases that I have reviewed. Now you might think that including many of these nearly 60 components in a business case will make it longer and more complicated. But length isn’t the main issue, it’s omissions!

When proposal evaluators continually find information that precisely covers the actual approval criteria that they use to approve business projects, they instead will be pleasantly surprised and pleased. In part because those factors are so seldom found in proposals emanating from HR. If you don’t believe the impact that these “power factors” can have, conduct and A/B test and see if a test section of your business case isn’t much better rated than the standard version when it includes many of these “power factors.”

And finally, remember that whenever you get stuck when writing up a business case, you can seldom go wrong by once again “showing them the money.”


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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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