Six ways to show internal decision-makers how training affects the bottom line.
By Bob Lee, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Learning Solutions, Citrix Online
In tough economic times, training is often the first to be cut from an organization’s budget. However, as the economy begins to recover, it doesn’t always signal a return to reinvesting in training. Internal decision-makers may still not realize the business value of training and how it affects the bottom line. How can the training organization make this connection clearer to the powers that be? Here are some ideas:
1. Educate the right people about the right things.
Training is not seen as a business-critical function, when, in fact, it is. First and foremost, to maximize the internal value of employee learning, you must invest the time and effort needed to adequately explain the role of training as it relates to business optimization and maintaining and enhancing organizational effectiveness. You have to communicate this value in business terms and be prepared to show how training programs that align and grow with specific business objectives can produce measurable results.
Trainers should work with management to understand the goals for the organization and then apply that understanding to the process of defining training programs; what does management need employees to learn and accomplish with the skills and knowledge being delivered? Approaching the design and development of a training program in this way ensures it can function as a critical part of the business from the start, building its internal value within the organization.
2. Think like a marketer.
“If you build it, they will come.” If training sessions don’t speak directly to the pain points of the people in your organization, they won’t make the time to attend. Communicating “what’s in it for me” is necessary to establishing the value proposition of your training programs. Many employee training programs suffer because the learning team cannot show their learners how the training being offered will help meet the needs of the individual and the organization as a whole.
Look for examples of how training can help streamline a process, or save time and effort. From an internal perspective, training can play a critical role in smooth product, IT, and service rollouts by decreasing downtime between technology transitions and ultimately increasing productivity. From an external perspective, training can be an effective sales tool with a direct impact on revenue.
3. Consider the human factor when determining the training mix.
Employees have different work styles and needs. Work behaviors vary by generation, region, and other factors. Forrester Consulting recently worked with Citrix Online to conduct a global studyon work behaviors and shifts related to new technology tools. Interesting key findings include:
Gen Y does not have the monopoly on technology use and social tools during the workday. Meanwhile, the older generation is getting with the program.
Americans have more meetings—and pay more attention.
Usage among users of collaborative technologies is rising fast.
Understanding participant behaviors is an important part of determining the optimal training environment. Many organizations are multicultural and multigenerational, and the above research has shown that different audiences respond differently to information channels. Consider these factors when developing a training program, know how workers of different ages and geographies prefer to work and learn, and leverage different tools and methodologies to create learning programs that best suit behaviors and biases of your learning population.
4. Measure business impact.
Learning teams often struggle to have a “seat at the table” and be considered a critical business function. This results in shrinking budgets and headcount even as the demand for training expands. We believe this issue is directly related to the manner in which the learning organization measures success. Equating your contributions to the number of employees trained does not translate to or equal learning success, and doesn’t communicate the value of training and its impact to the bottom line.
Measuring the true impact of training begins with a clear understanding of your organization’s goals and then working with your business partner or stakeholder to define the results they need to see as a result of your training. Success measures for training can vary widely across departments and functional areas. Working with both management and employees to understand what they want and need from a training is key. Ask managers to help you define the specific improvements that they expect and the criteria to measure those improvements. Ask individual learners to define what they need to meet those improvement goals and map your learning program’s outcomes accordingly. Then build in the necessary milestones and reports to measure and communicate your results.
Explore opportunities to extend and monetize on the investments made in a training program. Companies are realizing that while internal training is of chief concern, external training is equally as important. Look for areas where partner and customer training can create new revenue streams or enhance customer retention.
5. Don’t stop believing.
Building credibility with business stakeholders often requires time and constant attention, but as managers and their teams begin to see training’s impact on organizational and personal growth and understand how it supports their business goals, the value of your training will become clear. When that happens, you and your team will reap the benefits: greater support, more influence, and the resources you need to make a difference. And, ultimately, that is why we are trainers.
As senior product marketing manager of learning solutions at Citrix Online, Bob Lee brings more than 25 years of experience in the learning and technology industries. Lee has served in a variety of roles, including director of education for a major U.S. bank, curriculum developer and classroom instructor, software developer, consultant, and marketer. An early adopter of virtual classroom technologies, Lee has designed and taught hundreds of online courses in schools and corporate learning environments. Lee has led the development and marketing of software products for companies focusing on the education and corporate training markets, including Bank One, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Carbon, and Cisco. Lee’s current role at Citrix Online focuses on the definition, development, delivery, and marketing of Citrix Online’s learning solutions. He plays a critical role in the development of the GoToTraining platform, one of Citrix Online’s key online collaboration products.