How to Get Employee Buy In and 7 Warning Signs To Watch For That Indicate You Don’t Have It

by | Sep 20, 2016

unenrolled-employeesChange at work can be daunting—both for the employees who must adjust and for a leader who wants to effect change. The challenge of how to get employee buy in is a critical one.

Organizing an enrollment conversation is an excellent way to introduce change and win team support and commitment. New initiatives are always met with varying levels of buy–in. Your job as a manager is to bring everyone into alignment and ultimately committed, enthusiastic enrollment.

Identifying where people are along that spectrum is critical in driving ideas or initiatives forward. Spotting the “unenrolled” employee and taking steps to get them onside are crucial if you want to move individuals along the continuum of change and find support for your ideas. Watch for these seven signs in meetings, which indicate that your team is not fully on board:

  1. People state opinions as facts. While beliefs and opinions have a valuable place in the decision-making process, team members (and leaders!) can fall into the trap of stating them as facts and expecting others to accept them without question.
  2. People leave the room saying, “My views were not heard. No one listened.” As a leader, you see a lot of pushback when people feel that they are not acknowledged. It is not possible to enroll a team member when their objections or concerns are not validated and addressed.
  3. People are fixated on one idea. They may be the promoter of one course of action and refuse to be swayed by others or by facts.
  4. Body language indicates skepticism. Body language speaks volumes. Look for crossed arms, closed faces, tight postures, or lack of eye contact. While there is danger in misreading body language (maybe the air conditioner is set too low), consistently negative cues are meaningful and indicate that individuals are not buying in to your ideas.
  5. Key influencers are not present. Perhaps you are disengaged with these individuals and haven’t made it a priority to accommodate their schedule. In any case, this situation indicates that something about the idea misses the mark for your team. The key influencers’ disengaged attitude can and will rub off on the rest of the team, and others in the room may ask, “Why should I care?”
  6. People only talk about the boss’s idea. They have figured out your position and will promote that idea instead of engaging in a full and frank discussion of alternatives. It may seem, at first glance, as though you have tremendous support; however, how long-lived is their buy-in? Does it wither at the moment that change is actually implemented? Is it just lip service without substantive action?
  7. Passive-aggressive behavior manifests in later stages. Months into a change initiative, you may realize that those who are displeased, or unenrolled, have been saboteurs of your efforts. This may show up when the quality of their work suddenly slips, they become lax with deadlines, they fail to share critical information, or they leave parts of their work undone.

While not actively refusing to participate in the change, they are doing their utmost to ensure its lack of success. We’ve all met people who cannot fathom change. They want to maintain the status quo because it is comfortable, something they know, and something on which they can rely. This mindset is a primary reason why organizational change is often thwarted, and the primary reason why you as a leader need to focus on facilitating effective enrollment conversations. This is a key part of how to get employee buy in to the new vision or plans going forward.

Remember: Absolute agreement is not the goal. The goal is to get everyone moving in the same direction. One conversation doesn’t accomplish this for everyone, which is why enrollment is an ongoing process. It is a progression built on open, honest discussion and acknowledgement. A leadership team that owns and effectively implements change doesn’t just appear; it is nurtured

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