Imagine working hard every day to increase your knowledge and skills only to have the results of your efforts go unnoticed and unused. It’s an understandably frustrating situation, and it’s something that insights professionals may experience when they conduct research that never makes it past the line manager who commissioned it.
No executive wants to have employees on their payroll who aren’t driving the business forward. And no insights professional wants to uncover a growth pocket for their company or an innovation to improve daily life and just let it fall by the wayside.
At most companies, the difference between making the kind of impact that we all want in our careers and wasting time is that final buy-in from leaders at the top. Here are a few practical tips to get executives to embrace your research findings.
Consider Your Company Priorities and Concerns
Your top executives are held accountable for driving a specific strategy. Their compensation and job security depend on it. Hopefully, all the research you are spending time on is aligned to your business strategy (that alignment is something you should ensure before starting any project). By tying your findings directly to high-level strategy executives better understand the value of your work and time.
Also, really consider the business environment before you make recommendations. For example, if you’re about to present a really great idea for innovation that’s going to take a lot of up-front investment but will provide long-term profitability, and your business is going through cost-cutting exercises left and right, you might want to reconsider your timing. Get a sense from your team leadership if they feel passionately enough about the project’s potential that it’s worth presenting now, or consider holding onto it for a few months when it can be shared at a time when it’s more likely to drive action.
Communication expert Nancy Duarte offers up some great advice for getting executive buy-in: prepare for a shortened meeting. In my experience, not only are meetings with executives often rescheduled due to travel or urgent matters, but they are typically crammed between other important meetings that eventually go over time and cut into the set time. By being prepared to give a condensed version of your findings, you can be sure that you deliver the most important information.
And sorry, research design geeks: executives don’t care about methodology. They hired someone who hired someone who hired you for your expertise in analytics and research practices so they don’t have to worry about it. Save time in your presentation by presenting results and next steps. Think of the future life of the insights, not their past. CEO and professional speaker Anett Grant says it best in this Fast Company article: “focus on impact, not process.”
Find Your Champion
Especially if you work in a large organization, there is no way that every executive knows you personally. If they do, you can skip this point. For everyone else, it’s best to find the highest-ranking person in your function who knows and cares about your project, get them excited about what you’ve uncovered, and humbly ask them to partner with you in sharing it at the top. When an assistant sees a meeting notice on the calendar for the executive with an SVP who has regular meetings with the CEO, rather than an insights manager whose name is unrecognizable, you’re less likely to get the boot off the calendar. Is it politics? Maybe. Is it going to work out better for you? Probably.
Think About Action
Grant also suggests that you “show off your vision of what’s ahead, not your ability to rationalize the past.” It’s great to uncover an insight or growth pocket that is interesting, but if you can’t articulate how it can be placed into action or strategy, it’s likely to die as it exits the room. Understanding the past is important, but it needs to be put into context, and quickly, on how to change for the future.
Your work is important, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. So take care in how you move it forward so it has it’s best chance of coming to fruition. And be patient. If you’re new to the role or the organization, sometimes it takes time to establish your track record and grow the trust and support of your executives.
One Final Strategy: Make Your Research Easy to Find
To increase the impact of your research, make sure that your executives— as well as other stakeholders across the company— can access your insights whenever they need to.
By making it a consistent practice to save and share your findings to your insights platform, you’ll ensure the work is ready to present when the time comes. When your champion or executives are ready to reference your work, they can find it by performing a simple keyword search in your insights platform. Make it especially easy for them to find your research by creating a key visual that ties into your presentation (the visual will help jog their memory when the presentation appears in their search results). You should also group together the supporting documents, appendices, and notes from the meeting once it has occurred so it’s easy to dig into resulting probes or questions.
Remember that your executives don’t have the time to dig through raw data or poorly-labeled presentations to find the big takeaways from your research. Present your insights so that your executives can quickly and clearly see the impact they could have on the future of the company.
This is a guest post from Diana Powell. Powell is a marketing and customer insights professional with experience in both large CPG and small non-profit organizations. She understands the knowledge sharing pains of both worlds and is passionate about reducing churn and disorganization in the workplace.