HR & Management

Securing executive buy-in: Making the business case for L&D initiatives

8 min read

17 July 2018

Fredrik Söderlindh, CEO at findcourses.co.uk discusses how to convince decision-makers of L&D benefits and demonstrate its positive business impact.

A recent survey reported one of the top challenges facing professionals was obtaining the necessary resources and budgets to implement learning and development (L&D) programmes.

Although more companies are open to L&D initiatives in the workplace, many still need convincing of the business results it can offer.

Catering to new expectations

According to Deloitte, 83% of organisations are shifting to “flexible, open career models” rather than accepting static career progression. For businesses to create a culture to appeal to these new expectations owners should focus on continuous training and encouraging learning behaviours.

To ensure these initiatives get the best pick-up, businesses need to consider the best ways to engage their individuals, so they are open to adopting and modelling these behaviours and skill sets, to progress in their careers.

Gaining awareness of who is on a team and how to fully use their strengths will boost your people’s ability to learn and engage with business strategies; it can help you predict how employees approach problem-solving too, so you can tailor L&D towards them more accurately.

A 2016 Towers Watson Global Workforce study, career advancement is one of the top two retention drivers in businesses. So, it’s important to engrain learning as a cultural norm and keep employees up-to-date on the latest technology advancements and opportunities for growing ideas and workplace innovation. This way everyone learns and grows, not just those up for promotion.

Encourage a subtle collaborative environment during training, which can prevent employees from feeling forced into sharing ideas and questions. You should also try to integrate mentoring into everyday practices, so staff feel supported at all times, even once they have completed a course.

Aligning with corporate strategy

Only 52% of the senior L&D officers reported their corporate learning academies “enable companies to meet strategic objectives,” a 2016 McKinsey Quarterly report said.

However, attempts to gain C-suite support for training will fail if a programme is not on the business’ strategic roadmap. Executive “buy-in” goes beyond sign-off and leaders must fully understand how a learning culture works, why they’ll need to be visible champions of it and why it’s worth the investment.

Making sure learning goals are aligned with business goals is key. Try to get inside senior management’s heads while discussing the case for L&D. Ask lots of questions to process their company vision, such as ‘What kind of business do you want?’ and ‘What kind of people do you want to hire?’

Once you have these insights, review and share your final strategy, be open to candid feedback and prepared to defend your business case.

Make sure to benchmark your L&D function against industry standards too. Using industry data can help you to set targets and thresholds and leverage that third-party data to secure your learning budget side by side. This creates opportunities to compare yourself to your associates and to determine how well you’re affiliated with accepted best practices and standards.

If required, suggest a pilot programme with a small group and let the board know you would like to assess and review the findings with them to establish the way forward for future initiatives.

Crunching the numbers

According to CIPD, 7% of L&D professionals evaluate the impact of their initiatives on the wider business. Companies need to move away from the mindset of one-off measurements and adopt a continuous process to improve learning methodologies. Assessments must be data-driven, in real-time and actionable to attain the best results.

Conducting employee surveys to establish benchmarks in areas such as knowledge and performance is a good place to start when assessing initial findings and feedback. Over time, you can then measure against those variables to gauge learning’s impact on retention, internal mobility and business results.

L&D outcome evaluation should also be closely tied to goal attainment, which is needed for role-based performance goals. For this HR should measure the return on investment of L&D in quantitative business terms by examining areas like sales growth, cost reductions, improved efficiency and employee retention.

Businesses should assign a monetary value to any increases in results or performance, which will be highly specific to your company. One thing to keep in mind is you’ll want to focus on gains that are attributable to the training.

For example; say your focus is on sales growth and your reps sell an average of £60,000 per quarter. You find that after a recent training course, efficiency has improved and this has increased to £62,000. You could attribute the £2,000 as the indicator for the return value.

Focusing on the future

Deloitte claims technology advances bring with it an increased need for more creative, innovative and entrepreneurial workplaces.

Indeed, the number of online digital search platforms have spiked in popularity, as they create significant value enabling communication, commerce and helping individuals find information and courses that might not otherwise occur.

In-person training courses are still popular, but online training is growing, as it allows employees to fit learning around their lifestyle and work schedules. Employees can meet individual needs for professional development and at the same time, businesses get better-trained staff.

A new education and training ecosystem is evolving in which some job preparation functions are achieved by formal educational institutions in traditional classroom settings, some fundamentals are offered online, some are free and others use virtual and augmented reality.

The gamification of digital learning is a great, creative way for employees to receive constant, up to date, and automatic feedback. By using various leaderboards, it’s possible for employees to see how they are doing compared to benchmarks they set for themselves or compared to other company teams and individuals.

The purpose of learning is to make a real impact on your business. It’s essential to be clear on your purpose and ensure this aligns with your executive board. Businesses with strong training programmes, taking learning and development seriously will stand out from the crowd and continue to attract, develop and retain the very best employees for years to come.

Fredrik Söderlindh is CEO at findcourses.co.uk