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How to Get Executive Buy-In to Build Your Learning and Development Budget

Beth Thornton

February 28, 2018

Picture this:

You have a good idea, found an amazing software or service, learned of a new process or stumbled on a study that could revolutionize the way your workplace approaches employee learning and development. It’s exciting and you’re in a whirlwind of positivity as you dream of all the time saved, productivity gained and employees retained. The only obstacle? Convincing the people who manage the budget that the new and improved idea is as great as you know it to be.

Getting executive buy-in isn’t about forming rebuttals. You’re acting as an advocate for organizational change. Tweet This!

Almost every leader has been in this situation, even if only on a small scale. The process can be even more difficult when your focus is something like learning and development, which despite the benefits, can be hard to achieve. In fact, a Korn Ferry study found that 64% of executives and 66% of managers planned to expand their career development or training programs in 2016. Unfortunately, a 2017 survey found that only 50% of employees felt they received adequate career development opportunities.

And that’s exactly why your ideas are so valuable. Persuading the executive team to “buy-in” can be nerve-wracking, but don’t despair. We have a proven process of gaining executive buy-in for your learning and development budget.

Step 1: Determine the ROI

Money always speaks, especially when it comes to gaining or increasing a budget. There is nothing more motivating than seeing that return on investment, especially in terms of finances. In some cases, the numbers won’t begin in dollar values. If you’re starting from the beginning, you may need to think in terms of time, lost opportunities, frustrations, etc. Learning and development opportunities provide a myriad of benefits to an organization. Think:

  • Improved Time to Efficiency
  • Higher Retention/Lower Turnover
  • Increased Job Satisfaction

While those aren’t communicated in financial terms, some directly affect the budget by way of employee time, which can be translated into salary or hourly rates. Don’t shy away from discussing the intangible benefits of learning development too:

  • Employer Branding
  • Company Culture
  • Succession Planning
  • Productivity
  • Competitive Advantage

If you are just starting your learning and development program, you might not have company-specific history to fall back on. Instead, consider doing a little competitive research. If your top competitor is doing it and seeing success, that’s no coincidence. Feel free to find industry standards, too.

Here are a few ways to measure your organization’s culture!

Step 2: Build a Foundation of Facts

If there is one thing that is hard to argue, it’s facts supported by research. Consider the statistics mentioned above: 64% of executives and 66% of managers planned to increase their career development initiatives in 2016, but a year later, only 50% of employees felt they received enough development opportunities. Now consider the idea that 87% of employees in a Gallup survey said development opportunities are important job features in their job search. Additionally, according to the Work Institute, lack of career development opportunities is one of the top reasons employees leave their job.

These statistics tell the story of a clear dissonance between employee desire and organizational strategy. Add in the negative impact on retention, and you’ve got the high turnover recipe of every manager’s nightmare. If you can, consider doing internal surveys to bolster your argument with execs. Bottom line: be sure you have some evidence to back up your need for this solution.

Check out these 7 leadership development statistics that will convince any boss to invest!

Step 3: Think of the Opposition

You can’t think of every opposing argument that will come your way, but take time to consider the issues or concerns your leaders will have with your idea. Try to build your presentation or pitch around these as best you can. Remember this isn’t a chance to create the perfect rebuttal. You aren’t in a debate; you’re an advocate. Use this as an opportunity to level with them, understand their challenges and express just how beneficial it will be to your organization as a whole.

Employee development improves retention and time to proficiency. Here’s how to get your #leadership onboard for the right program!Tweet This!

Hopefully, with the right care to their interests as well as your own, you will answer all their questions before they can ask. This preparation should leave them impressed by your attention to their unique obstacles, while also building a foundation for your idea. Additionally, you just might uncover some shortcomings of the idea/process itself. It will be better to notice it now than in the boardroom in front of your executive team and peers.

Do you know your learning and development program needs an uplift, but just can’t seem to think of the right direction? Check out how Inspire Software’s customizable tool can bring that learning and development revolution you need, measure the results then help sustain the effectiveness.