Question: Why don’t business leaders understand the value and impact training has on the business’ bottom line?
Answer: Because we never tell them!
How could we expect executives and stakeholders to recognize and appreciate the contribution training makes to the business when we so rarely offer any evidence to justify those claims? Are they supposed to go out and search for the evidence themselves? Are they supposed to gather their own data to show that training “worked”? Are they supposed to put together comprehensive case studies to show that they achieved a positive return on their big training investments? The answer is no — that’s our job as learning and development (L&D) professionals!
Proving That L&D Is a Money-maker
If you worked in technology, you just developed and implemented a new software, and you wanted to show your chief executive officer the value it added to the business, you would clearly explain, in great detail, its benefits: the revenue generation, the cost savings and/or the customer experience enhancements. Then, they would understand. Then, they would see your value. Then, they would invest more money in your department.
If you worked in marketing, you just launched a new advertising campaign or commercial, and you wanted to show your CEO the value it added to the business, you would clearly explain, in great detail, its benefits: the revenue generation, the cost savings and/or the customer experience enhancements. Then, they would understand. Then, they would see your value. Then, they would invest more money in your department.
Working in learning and development, you have to do the same thing! You have to put together a business case study; prove it; and clearly explain, in great detail, all its wonderful benefits: the revenue generation, the cost savings and the customer experience enhancements.
It’s that simple. If you want to take a seat at the C-table, you have to prove you’re a money-maker instead of a money-taker. Because we’ve traditionally and so conspicuously missed these opportunities to present the powerful business results of training, we’ve silently helped fuel the notion that training is a function that sucks budget. It’s up to us, as training professionals, to blow up that notion and start showing that training grows everybody’s budget.
What It Takes
The good news is that transforming our image from money-takers to money-makers doesn’t take that much effort. It won’t take decades of business cases and research to reverse the perceptions or enlighten the skeptics. It only takes a few good case studies with a few targeted training programs for your stakeholders to see the light. In fact, I’ve done these studies for some organizations and found that within just a few months, with just one or two visible case studies, a group of otherwise doubtful business leaders were convinced of the value training brought to their bottom line. Once you start telling them the story of impact, it becomes easier and easier with each program. After a while, you’ll find your business leaders and stakeholders rooting for those great results.
CEOs and stakeholders don’t want to be skeptics; we made them that way! By not showing them any evidence and not being them in the room to boast about the tangible business results we produce (like so many other functions do so effectively), we’ve put ourselves in a corner where we are always on the defensive, counterpunching when we have to stay alive. When asked about our effectiveness, we find ourselves stammering and clamoring to convince leaders that, somehow, our training initiatives lead to positive business outcomes.
If you don’t go big now and start measuring your results and showing your value, you’ll always be looking over your shoulder or punching your way out of a corner. Meet them in the center of the ring with your head held high. Look them directly in the eyes, and then hit them with your data and results. I promise they won’t see you as an adversary trying to score a punch; they’ll embrace you and see you as a powerful ally whom they want on their side.
What are you waiting for? There’s the bell!