It is not always necessary to get your employees to agree with the decisions you have made. However, if employees do not agree with changes or decisions, how do you motivate them to put effort into the work? You have to establish "buy-in", or the understanding that a decision is necessary for your organization to succeed and that they should accept it and stay engaged.
When employees accept decisions or changes, they are more likely to be productive when tasked or when changes are introduced.
Buy-in is not necessarily receiving 100% agreement from every employee. You don’t need employees that eagerly rubber stamp whatever comes out of the corner office. Buy-in is the necessary support of whatever has been implemented.
The difference between agreeing and supporting is that supporting a decision does not require agreement. There will probably be employees that do not agree with decisions, but they need to be able to support them. Support requires acceptance of a decision, and the ability to continue working at the best of their abilities.
Team members need to believe that leadership has the best interest of shareholders and the staff in mind. they are likely to support the changes.
Whether or not your employees buy into a decision can depend on three aspects: the character of the leadership team, factors behind the decision, and the benefits of a decision to all stakeholders. You should sell your employees on the features and benefits of the changes.
Selling For Buy-In
As you develop changes or make decisions that will affect your workforce, you should consider how you will communicate the reasons for the decision. Selling your decisions is not always necessary, but it is a great help for decisions that might cause controversy.
If you've already communicated the reason for a decision, you could consider letting your employees know how it will affect them. Decisions sometimes come with both good and bad news, so a good approach is to have prepared to outweigh the bad news with the benefits created by the decision.
If a decision causes more work for employees initially but reduces the workload over time, you'll have succeeded in creating buy-in for some extra work initially. Employees are generally accepting and supportive of decisions when they can see how it is beneficial.
Do your diligence before implementing any changes or decisions. If you cannot find any features or benefits of a decision to outweigh employee concerns, it is best to reconsider the decision if possible.
Character Counts in Employee Buy-In
The character of the leadership in an organization is a key component of buy-in. If leadership routinely treats people poorly, denies vacation, screams, insults, or steals credit for achievements employees will not buy-in to decisions because there is no trust.
On the other hand, if leaders treat people fairly and decently, people are likely to trust that decisions are being made that are good for everyone involved.
Publicize the Reason for the Decision
Changes that affect people's work, routines, processes, benefits, compensation or work-life balance will be met with resistance unless there is a good reason behind it. When there is an acceptable reason, that reason should be broadcast to every person affected or involved.
For example, in 2018 United Airlines tried to implement a bonus change in which a random few employees received large bonuses instead of all employees receiving a bonus. Employee backlash was severe and United Airlines scrapped the initiative. This embarrassing debacle could have been avoided if the leadership had included the affected employees in the decision-making process.
If you have a good track record with decision making, and you seek input or keep your employees informed when possible, people will be more likely buy-in to the changes you see necessary without any problems.
How Employee Buy-In Affects Engagement
Employee engagement is the act of developing an environment where people are actively focused on and interested in their work. This doesn’t require you to have fascinating work; sometimes work is just work. But, people need to feel as if their presence and contribution make a difference.
If they buy-in to the direction the company is taking and changes being implemented, you will have employees who are more engaged in their work. Engaged employees work harder and treat customers better when they know that their management supports and cares about them.
If you notice an employee complaining take them aside and listen. Sometimes complaining is simply that. However, there may be a valid reason for an employee to complain about something. You might learn something you didn’t know, and the way you handle one objector can impact how others react to you.
Employees need to know they can speak up if they see something that needs to be addressed. Listening to your people may not change the outcome, but it lets employees know they will be listened to if they think there is a problem. They also need to understand and accept any necessary changes. Establishing buy-in with your employees helps your team stay productive when things are changing.