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"How to Gain (and Keep) Leadership Buy-in for our Talent Programs"

There are critical factors to consider when implementing new talent programs. Regardless of the scope, “How will we gain and maintain leadership buy-in?” is at the top of my list of questions to address before launching any program or strategy.

Talent programs are the approaches we take to attract, hire, and develop our organization's employees. Having talent programs--even a seemingly small initiative like implementing or improving an applicant tracking system (ATS)--makes a tremendous impact on organizational performance. An organization that devotes effort to maintaining strong talent programs (especially powerful programs whose strategies interconnect) is an organization that is more likely to achieve results with people working at the highest levels of performance. Our organization’s body of talent, after all, is the fire energizing the efforts towards our Mission. It's certainly in our interest, and the interest of those we serve, to implement programs that empower our Talent to perform at their best.

Ensuring buy-in and continued support from our leaders is essential to the success of our talent programs. Leaders set examples for people in our organization. They set the tone, and they serve as guideposts for what we deem important for the organization. Leaders create accountability around what it means to represent our organization's core culture, and they shape our organization's habits by simply demonstrating their own.

Let’s suppose we're seeking buy-in from our Executive Director to level-up our hiring efforts by integrating a new ATS . Below are three tips to help ensure we get sign off for this initiative and maintain continuous buy-in as our implementation unfolds.

1. Persuade with context

Most leaders will be motivated to endorse our programs when they can see future opportunity from our proposed initiatives. Making a compelling argument to senior leaders as to why a program or process is necessary requires demonstrating how the initiative aligns with our organization's overall business strategy, and contributes to favorable outcomes long-term.

One common reason to have an ATS is to organize candidates during recruitment. However, to sell our Executive Director on the need to invest time and resources on an ATS (especially a really robust one), we'll need to demonstrate the potential value long term. Hiring efficiency is too vague a concept to describe as the reason we need an ATS. Instead, to provide context and a compelling proposal to our leaders for implementing an effective ATS, our aim should be to correlate the need right now with long term goals and benefits.

We might present to our Director, for example, that the organization is always striving to share its Mission and develop its reputation. We might demonstrate how marketing features of an ATS will allow us to communicate more efficiently with candidates during recruitment, and help build our employer brand with our target candidates both during and outside of active hiring efforts.

By tying specific elements of an ATS to present and future goals, we can better demonstrate to our Executive Director that adopting or improving an ATS has both short and long term gains.

2. Make it easy to participate

It's one thing to get our leadership to green light our new programs (and we should definitely celebrate when we do!), but it's another thing to keep them engaged as we implement and the initiative unfolds.

Leaders help set the standard for success so their engagement is essential to ensuring our programs move in the right direction. But it might be true at your organization (as it is at most organizations), that your leaders' attention is pulled in many, many directions. The constant context switching from one priority to another can make it difficult, if not impossible, for our leaders to really dive deep into the "goings-on" of our programs. Our leaders must certainly have a pulse on our ongoing projects, yes, but they count on teams and the individuals on them to execute day-to-day priorities and ensure programs are moving forward without a hitch.

Our leaders tend to invest their focus on "the big picture" and the interconnectedness of all our initiatives, and they are better able to engage with our programs when we make it easy to do so. One way to keep our leaders informed and engaged as we roll out our programs is to provide clear action steps and resources. In addition to acknowledging the short and long term benefits, the best support our leaders can give for our new talent programs is their actual adoption of program-related priorities into their regular work activities.

For them to adopt our ATS , for example, we could provide our Director with a simple, step-by-step guide on how to submit candidate referrals through the ATS and clearly explain what happens with the referral once they've submitted one. Empowering our leaders to be an early adopter this way encourages their participation and helps them set the standard for engagement with our new ATS for others in the organization to follow.

By providing opportunities to easily engage with our talent programs, we can help our leaders avoid getting "into the weeds" with implementation details, and allow them to focus on the activities related to program that specifically pertain to them and require their engagement to move forward.

3. Don't short-change the process

If we want to feel really great about our programs (and reassure our leaders that our initiatives are an integral part of our organization's success), it's important that we respect the thought and effort we put in to developing our programs in the first place. It might be difficult when we're going about our daily activities to keep the long term goals and vision for our new talent programs top of mind. Striving to consistently deliver results faster and with lean resources, sometimes lends to the temptation to take shortcuts.


Now, it goes without saying (but, you better believe I'm going to say it!) that ethical practice is always best practice. Actions that are noncompliant, unlawful or have any hint of shadiness are always off the table and definitely not the shortcuts I am referring to. Instead, think about when we might have rushed through a new hire's onboarding, or was inconsistent with benchmarking and monitoring employee compensation over time, or simply forgot to summarize notes after conducting an interview. Taking shortcuts in our talent programs (consciously or subconsciously) might seem necessary in the short-term for the sake of time or resources, but it might also prevent our initiatives from being the best they can be in the long-term.

So, regarding our ATS implementation: taking the time to understand the ATS' features and adopting the capabilities that will improve our hiring process is a great way to ensure we don't short-change our implementation process. You read above that one common benefit of an ATS is to keep candidates organized. What other features might we have as part of our ATS--or, rather, what features do we need to demonstrate a strong return on our investment? Candidate evaluation and scoring functions? Position posting and promotion? How about capabilities to collaborate and communicate with our hiring teams? Recruitment data tracking and reports? It may not be possible to implement all potential features at once, but understanding them and developing a plan to leverage them long-term will certainly help instill confidence in our leaders in our new programs’ implementation and strategy.

In summary, let's remember that our leaders are ignited by a program's long term efficacy and many prefer not to be mired with "the details" of our new talent program or initiatives. (Of course, by all means, if your Director asks "what's going on," have data and details for the ready)! When we gain buy-in from our leaders for our initiatives, getting them to buy-in again means showing we are being intentional with what we're doing and what we're learning to positively influence future performance.

Are you dissatisfied with your talent acquisition process and having trouble persuading your leadership to make changes? Tell me all about in the PTS Deep Dive Survey and I’ll send you a complimentary Recruitment Kickoff guide.


Pascale Hughes is a passionate Recruiter and Talent Acquisition Coach for nonprofit organizations.

Through her informative blog posts and valuable recruiting resources, tools and tips, Pascale helps nonprofit and human resources leaders identify, attract, hire, and retain, talented and Mission-driven employees.

And when she's not in full recruitment or training-mode or creating resources for clients, you can find Pascale collaborating with her social tribe in the PTS Community, reading (or Audibling) a business or personal development book, or spending time with husband Shannon, and two children, Simon and Tari.

Learn more about Pascale and Proctor Talent Services at

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