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A successful business nurtures employee growth to the benefit of the employee and the whole company; because as employees grow, so do their organizations. If you are in the process of identifying employee training or upskilling sessions to expand the skillset of your team, you will need buy-in from decision-makers at your company.
Company executives make many tough decisions throughout the day and are constantly under the gun to make the right choices since their actions affect so many lives. To garner support for a training program from company decision-makers, you will first need to ensure that you are choosing a training program that fits with your company’s needs and is a true value-add. Next, you will need to convince the leadership that the training program is the right decision. You will likely only get one shot at making your case in the best light possible, so you need to get it right.
Below are five tips on how to get leadership buy-in for company training.
1. Know Your Leaders & the Lay of the Land
Identify who will be giving the green light for training and cater your pitch to them. Consider how they prefer to receive information. Are they a digits gal who digs pouring through numbers? Are they a visualization lover who gets a thrill from charts and graphs? Make it easy for leadership to digest the information you are presenting to neutralize any friction in their understanding of your view point.
Of course, you will also need to know beforehand what the company needs are and if there are already solutions addressing them. You will instantly lose your argument if you are caught off guard by relevant complications. For example, there might already be an upskilling program to fill-in the skills gap of existing employees. If you are pitching an upskilling program, you should be aware of this in advance and be prepared to explain why another program is needed to supplement or replace the existing one.
2. Connect to Company Profitability and Growth
The second step in how to get leadership buy-in for company training is to connect the training program to company profits and growth strategies. Nail this part and you likely will have won your case.
To do this, first familiarize yourself with company objectives from the standpoint of leadership. It’s one thing to list off company goals. It is another thing to appreciate the complexity of company goals and their relationship with daily operations from the viewpoint of an executive. Try to absorb this perspective as much as possible because this should guide your entire presentation.
3. Give Leadership Review Metrics
Your leadership is forever keeping a watchful eye on how money is being spent and what their rate of return is on any investment. Show them not only how the training process will unfold, but what metrics will be used to measure outcomes. Naturally, this can gauge the return on their training investment.
Consider metrics and review stages for short-, medium- and long-term analysis since your leadership will want to know how soon and for how long benefits can be assessed. Some outcomes will be noticeable soon after the training, such as time savings on certain employee tasks. Other outcomes may take time to become apparent, especially if the training coincides with company-wide changes such as an organizational restructuring or a new software rollout. Be sure to discuss any such extenuating circumstances with your leadership.
Regardless of the situation surrounding the training, there is one way to make quick and accurate assessments: employee surveys. Ask employees their feelings about the training, and in particular, if the sessions have improved their ability to execute their jobs.
Ideally, these surveys will be part of a continuous performance management review program whereby employees frequently meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and their perspective on their work. This gives the training surveys more meaning because there is considerable context around them. These surveys can also be incorporated into the continuous performance review metrics, which include review templates and an analytics system. All of this works to create a standardized process and builds a database of knowledge on employee workflow and morale. All of this is powerful data to inform key company decisions by leadership.
4. Make the Advantages Crystal Clear
You did all the work in understanding company goals from a leadership perspective and tying them to training outcomes. Now communicate this as clearly as possible. This is absolutely essential in how to get leadership buy-in for company training.
Show advantages at the granular and 30,000 feet levels. Make the line between a specific company goal and a projected training outcome crystal clear. A company concerned about productivity in a specific department, for example, can be swayed by an argument for time management training or digital upskilling this team - that is, if it is shown that the result is projected improved productivity.
Also, take a step back and connect the overall growth strategy to the training program to show how these initiatives are firmly tied and augment each other. As mentioned in point one, present this information in a manner preferred by your audience - be it numbers, graphs, charts, or case studies.
5. Develop a Calculated Risk Strategy
There will inherently be risks with a training program, even if they are minimal. Your leadership team will want to know your calculated risk strategy that considers potential exposure, but demonstrates how it is outweighed by positive outcomes. To this end, do not be vague about costs. Offer hard numbers and time commitments.
Also, anticipate questions raised by your executives. Be prepared to answer for these concerns. Try running your presentation by co-workers, or better yet, an executive who has already bought-in. This will give you invaluable insight into leadership perspectives that you might not have considered.
Sealing the Deal: How to Get Leadership Buy-In for Company Training
Get the five steps above right and you will almost certainly have an executive team giving you the go for a training initiative. You can increase your already great chances by doing a few smaller things well too: consider the timing and be invested.
Time your training presentation so it does not conflict with other dependencies, like the budgeting process or a management shakeup. Illustrate your personal enthusiasm for the initiative. Show confidence in the training, and just as importantly, in yourself for developing a level of expertise around the subject. Your leadership will listen more favorably to your case if you assuredly present yourself as an authority who has what it takes to see a training program to success.