Any training process starts with a business need. That is, someone in the business wants or needs their employees to be more productive than they currently are and looks to training or a job aid to generate that productivity. The business owner is that person, who starts the process of improving productivity.

In this series on the actors in training development, we’re walking through the roles in the process and why they’re important. Ultimately, training services the needs of a business. Training needs a champion, and that champion has to own the development of training by providing funding, gentle guidance and sometimes a swift kick to keep it moving. The business owner role is the genesis of the training project and the person with whom we start.

What Is a Business Owner?

Literally, a “business owner” can be the owner of a business, but in the training development process, the business owner is the person who is responsible for the need and who typically has the budget to support the development of training. They ultimately set the goals and decide whether the progress made with the training meets the goals they set. As the final arbiter of what they want and believe they need, they’re the ultimate customer, but likely not the ultimate consumer, of the training.

Sometimes, but not always, they’ll defer their assessment of what is needed and whether it was effective to their subject matter experts, but make no mistake: The end judge of success is the business owner.

What Is Expected of the Business Owner?

The business owner can make or break a project just as easily as any other team member. They are expected – and required – to be articulate in the goal that they’re trying to solve and the resources they have available to accomplish the goal. Training development is expensive, and it’s important to have a business owner who can justify the expense based on the problem that’s being solved.

Good business owners recognize that while training development is expensive, poor training is ultimately more expensive. They focus the team on the activities and deliverables that will help reach their goals effectively.

The business owner should also expect to answer questions during the development process, particularly as the team acquires new information. Training development projects, like all heuristic processes, evolve over their lifecycle. It’s the business owner who should keep the process on the right track.

What Is Not Expected of the Business Owner?

There’s a reason why the process includes other roles. Business owners aren’t expected to be experts in the subject matter area or know how to address the performance gap most effectively. They’re not expected to have the solution when they start. While they may, and often do, offer their perspective on what they expect the answer to be based on previous experience, they shouldn’t specify the exact solution.

The business owner is also not expected not to have a change of heart, goals or perspectives, or even to have a shift in priorities. While it can be intensely frustrating to the rest of the team, there are times when the realities of business will interfere with good training.

Where’s the Role Going?

Business owners are being pressured to improve not just employee performance but employee engagement as well. This means helping employees understand how the organization values them – beyond just a paycheck. Business owners are going to be increasingly concerned with the training offered to employees and the quality of the training experience.

For training professionals, this change is good. Corporate training is receiving more focus, and as a result, professionals get to work on more projects. Those projects are potentially more challenging, pushing them to the edge of their abilities to deliver and, in the process, create new training experiences that are more immersive and better received by employees.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Like every role in training development, there are some good, a few bad and some downright ugly aspects:

  • Good: Training has the potential to improve performance and make the business owner look good or line their pockets.
  • Good: Technology barriers are shrinking, making it more possible to create great training experiences.
  • Bad: Training takes time to create, and most business owners are feeling the pain of poor performance now.
  • Bad: Training is expensive, and funding the development process can be a strain, particularly on smaller organizations.
  • Ugly: Creating custom training experiences is expensive, and finding funding for projects can be exceptionally painful.