Making a business case for training: How to secure buy-in

colleagues listening to ceo

Training programmes, when delivered in an effective manner, can be a valuable, important component in learning and development of both you and your workforce.

Training programmes, when delivered in an effective manner, can be a valuable, important component in learning and development of both you and your workforce. And although you’re probably aware of their significance and benefit their value might not always be apparent to others, particularly stakeholders and more senior members of staff.

They might be thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’ or they might argue that training programmes are just a waste of time and money. And while it is true that some training programmes can be ineffective if executed poorly, the onus is on you to make a sound business case for training, and to emphasise what you are going to learn and why it will be a good thing for all involved.

To navigate this tricky task, here are some tips and advice to help you take a more strategic approach when it comes to securing buy-in from senior management

Define the business challenges

Take a look at any issues facing your business and see what might call for an investment in a learning and development programme. There may be potential to earn or save money, create more value for customers, or make other members of the team more productive.

man pitching ideas to his team

When it’s time to deliver your case, emphasise how a change in behaviour as a result of learning new skills will help to benefit the business as a whole and improve its overall performance. The new initiatives brought about as a result of training will help to foster an ever-expanding pool of talent, including both current and future employees that can keep up with the demands of the business.

Define the organisation’s needs

A common mistake that companies make is buying a generic training course that is so broad that there is little relevance in it for the team who might struggle to apply new knowledge in their roles Such programmes can be costly and aren’t particularly useful for anyone involved.

To avoid this, use hard evidence to identify what your team wants and needs from training. Begin by conducting a training needs analysis based on the requirements of your team. This way, you’ll be able to measure actual employee performance against optimum employee performance. As a result, you’ll be able to focus on the people who need training, as opposed to attempting to train everyone without considering whether they actually need it.

business meeting

Identify the benefits

Identifying goals and targets you hope to achieve with the desired training will help you to measure its success. What these goals are is entirely dependent on the nature of your business, but the quantitative results will help you make your case in terms of value and cost-benefit.

This will show how long it will take to earn back your investment after training has ended and calculate ROI (Return on Investment). If you can show how the initiative will pay for itself in a comparatively short amount of time, you stand a better chance of getting buy-in. There are other financial analyses you can carry out to show how much time and money is spent managing, training and reporting with current systems and processes. Using this information, you can present a case for centralising and automating these functions.

Additionally, the business case can also show how taking the time to develop current employees is more cost-effective compared to recruiting new talent.

discussing financial data and plans

Focus on outcomes and results

For the most part, training involves identifying weaknesses and improving on them. But equally as important is the need to build on and develop strengths; if you’re a gifted salesperson, upping your value and improving in this area is surely better for business.

In making the case for training, think realistically about how the organisation will benefit from these new skills and make it clear to senior members of staff. Quantify the benefits and compare it to the cost of the training. You might want to estimate the benefit of applying new skills in areas like financial gains for the company, time saved, cost savings and how they will contribute to any of your organisation’s strategic aims.

Prove its successes

If you’ve been given the right funding and the training programme has got the go-ahead, it’s essential that you then prove that the targets originally outlined will be met. Build an evaluation step into the training itself; if the programme isn’t working out the way you’d hoped, you can pause training and identify the problem before continuing with it.

joyful female colleagues celebrating

As the training moves forward, make sure you’re supplied with data relevant to your objectives. If you wanted to reduce customer complaints by a certain amount over a specific length of time, you’ll need weekly complaint figures for at least that length of time. While you’ll initially use forecasts to build your case before it’s confirmed, you’ll have to convert those forecasts into outcomes. Hard evidence of your success can prove that training has had the desired effect, and shows skill at planning and value-adding to the business, which will help in building your case for additional training when the time comes.

What if your boss says no?

Even after all your planning and preparation, your stakeholders may remain unconvinced by what you’ve put forward. Perhaps you didn’t make your arguments as clearly as you could, in which case, it may simply be a case of stepping back and revising your approach

Daria Tishchenko, L&D Advisor at SEFE Marketing & Trading says: “Don’t despair if you don’t get your desired solution straight away. If your request is met with scepticism, try and understand what underlying reason or thinking behind the refusal. Make sure that you understand not only the current organisational goals but the direction of the company and link it with the skills that you need to develop to add value to your organisation in the future.

In most cases, requests are refused when there is no clear connection between the learning need and business need, so bridging that gap is always a good idea!

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