Corporate training is a lot like doing the proper stretches before you get out on the field. Without that prep work, your performance would likely suffer. However, stretching doesn’t get much credit for the amount of wins or loses you get. Zig Ziglar once famously stated, “The only thing worse than training your employees and losing them is not training your employees and keeping them.”
Professionals who lack sufficient corporate training are not only dragging the company down in terms of performance but in overall morale as well. According to the source, negative employee culture is strongly correlated to how well staff members are trained to execute their organizational duties.
Engagement levels also see a considerable dip when there is a lack of adequate investment in training initiatives. A recent Gallup study titled “State of the American Workplace” found that a mere 30 percent of workers in the U.S. consider themselves fully engaged in their current positions. Inc. explained that this lack of engagement is one of the biggest catalysts for high turnover rates and stems from companies that hire and then underinvest in proper training. In essence, training is a necessary component for an engaged, loyal and happy workplace.
Training initiatives are more crucial now than ever due to the rapidly changing nature of the workplace – from new hires to new technology. The very structure of organizations is transforming due to an onslaught of digital innovation and a shift in executive priorities. Additionally, the workforce is growing rapidly. The Wall Street Journal reported that employers plan to hire 11 percent more new college grads than in 2015. With seniors across the country graduating at the end of this spring, there is soon to be an influx of new hires, eagerly awaiting new positions and thorough training.
The Missing Puzzle Piece
Training clearly has some positive effects on an organization as a whole, yet it can be hard for L&D professionals to secure executive buy-in. But what exactly stops executives for making these investments?
The reasoning behind this dilemma can be boiled down to a couple of main issues. For starters, tracking training investment ROI is cumbersome. In an earlier blog post we discussed how training leaders can accurately nail down the true return on learning and development projects, this task is not often at the top of executives’ priority lists. On a base level, when executives can’t see the pay off, they are unlikely to buy in.
Beyond difficult ROI calculations, a major explanation behind the lack of support may have to do with low visibility. According to the Harvard Business Review, oftentimes, middle managers don’t identify and advocate for the necessary changes. Without this managerial indication, it is common for executives to not even see the need for an initiative or a shift in the first place. There are plenty of reasons for this lack of action by managers from fear of negative feedback to compliance with a hierarchical structure; whatever the logic, this inaction can contribute to executive hesitance toward training investments.
There has been some improvement in learning and development backings. Bersin by Deloitte released a study that found spending on training measures increased by 10 percent. In total, this comes out to around $1,000 in L&D dollars spent annually per employee. While this is a promising uptick, there is still more to be done to build up training initiatives across industries. So, how can trainers truly get executives to understand the value of corporate training? Let’s take a look at some tips for getting your C-suite on board.
- Cut to the Chase: It’s no secret that executives have a lot on their plate on any given day. The best way to grab their attention? Get to the point and get there fast. L&D leaders must lead with key points and keep the overall pitch short and sweet, explained SweetRush contributor Erin Krebs. If you think your presentation warrants 40 minutes, make it 20. Time is of the essence when looking for investments, so be mindful of this when approaching your team.
- Show Them the Money! ROI should be your main priority when creating a compelling case for your C-suite audience. This doesn’t have to exclusively regard money but can include other ROI contributors like employee retention and engagement rates. According to FastTrak Consulting, potential improvements in performance due to training tactics can be measured most efficiently by labor savings and increased productivity. Your executive team is going to be looking for concrete ways in which the bottom line will be improved by these investments. L&D leaders would be wise to make these crystal clear from the start.
- Frame the Issue: Any given task is placed on an executive’s priority list based upon how it is packaged, explained Harvard Business Review. C-suite players need to understand how this investment fits in with the strategic framework of the company. When it comes to training initiatives this is no monumental task – any successful organization wants increased productivity and engagement rates. Sometimes, it is merely a matter of spelling it out. Show your executives how these new training programs fit into the larger long-term picture of your company. According to HBR, connecting these dots is more likely to convince team players to devote resources to your L&D plans.
- Be Assertive: This may seem like an obvious tip but it’s an important one. L&D leaders need to go into their an executive meeting with confidence. You know better than most why these investments are for the betterment of the company, so let that show when you speak. Avoid harping too much on problems; executives have enough of those on their plate. Explain why training is a solution. Be respectfully assertive in your proposal and don’t wait for someone else to take the initiative.
- Timing is Everything: As with most things in life, timing is crucial to helping your executives truly understand the importance of corporate training. Trainers should seek out the right time to bring up the idea of investments in L&D initiatives. There are certain openings that can create the perfect opportunity for new ideas like during a time of company restructure or a period of new leadership. HBR reported that internal research found that professionals with a successful track record for pitches were more sensitive in choosing the right time than those who tended to fail. Whether the right timing is brought on by a trend or a shift, learn to recognize these moments and frame your proposal accordingly.
Getting executives to buy in to training programs is a crucial step on the path to L&D success. Whether you use one of these tips or all of them, trainers need to approach executives with finesse and expertise. Execution should be easy once the cards are laid out effectively on the table.