When explaining L&D to others outside of work, I often take the short route and say it’s a fancy word for training and employee performance. Most don’t understand that learning is an ongoing function rather than a specific task, which is why it’s not just “training”.
Fortunately for those who are in Learning & Development, it’s really the “feel good” side of the HR function, as you get to provide opportunities to team members to better themselves while also adding value to the company. In order to achieve the mythical “top employer” status to attract “top talent” for whatever that means to you, a company needs to be devoted to the continued development of their employees. It has to be a part of your DNA, and if it isn’t, your value proposition will lack; you will experience increased turnover, lower productivity, and customer experience issues; and most of all, it will hurt where it counts – the bottom line.
Remember when I mentioned that I often refer to L&D as training for people outside of our line of work? Well, that group may certainly include your leadership and executive teams that are approving your budgets and companywide initiatives. I promise, most company owners or execs are not going to want to immediately devote thousands or millions of dollars to development just because it adds to the culture. In the end, there’s real money at stake and a lot of it being left off the table, every day.
I’m fine with admitting that one of the main driving factors behind my company’s investment in L&D is because of revenue being left on the table and the expense of hiring, rehiring, retraining, customer issues, etc. When we first began to take L&D seriously, it was an uphill battle to get buy-in from the executive team.
What I learned is that I needed to stop selling the idea of employee engagement, satisfaction, culture and all of the non-monetary benefits of having a strong L&D presence. Yes, I know these are important, but they are all the side effects vs. the initial goals. Instead, I needed to truly sell the revenue generated, cost savings to the company, and how this is going to help us reach our company vision.
Here are a couple ways to gain buy-in and get the support and budget you need:
1. Appeal to their motivations
What’s keeping your leadership teams up at night? Is it the significantly understaffed teams, lack of sales revenue, training costs, or culture issues? Being able to identify the motivations of your stakeholders is crucial so you can craft your proposal based on alleviating those issues. In my specific situation, we simply tied this directly to lost revenue and expenses. Shhh… They really didn’t know that the true solution being proposed was to increase employee engagement and satisfaction!
2. Best specific and do your homework
In the world of the unknown, you must be the guiding light. If you haven’t been a part of a company with a successful L&D or training department, it’s hard to imagine what one can look like and how it can operate. Clearly lay out your plan and resources required. The moment you keep coming back to ask for more budget or more team members to accomplish your plan is the moment your leadership team begins to lose faith. Sure there are times when you may have underestimated, but having a detailed plan will avoid this.
3. Find a champion
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I’m a proponent of collaboration. In this case, find the stakeholder who has similar goals or potentially has come from an environment where they have witnessed a great L&D team. In my case, our Vice President of Operations helped support and champion these initiatives as he also came from a company with a strong L&D presence.
4. Track, measure results, and highlight even the slightest wins
This isn’t the easiest item to track, as investing in L&D is a long-term investment that often takes time to see the true ROI. However, praise the slightest improvements on specific teams and the results that are being generated. Showcasing your wins to your stakeholders, no matter how big, helps keep their trust in your favor.
Whether you are new to the L&D game or have an established team, take a step back and look at how your initiatives are being perceived. If you find that your goals are not meeting the motivations of your company or stakeholders, reevaluate how you are approaching things and put your sales hat on!