How to get managers to prioritize learning
'Hey team, we need to postpone the training on Time Management. We have a spike in client contacts and cannot afford to lose any agents for the next few weeks."
We have heard similar statements many, many times from people managers. As L&D professionals, we know the real value of training. It:
closes skill gaps
improves organizational agility and continuity
is a reliable tool for people engagement, development, and motivation.
So, the real challenge is how do we get leaders to see this value and prioritize training activities for their teams? How do we move our learning initiatives to the A-list of priorities for the organization? How do we attract executives into fostering a culture of learning and development without feeling that they may be neglecting any other part of the operation?
The process is not simple or fast, but it's achievable. We are sharing 5 straightforward 'hacks' on how to get managers to prioritize learning for their teams:
#1 Business strategy alignment
Make sure you are fully aligned with the business strategy. Our function is to support the organization's tactical plans, and we must be in the loop of what is going on and what is coming up. For example, suppose the company is embarking on an Agile Transformation. In that case, L&D should focus on building people's capabilities to meet the challenges ahead. Your networking skills should be sharp, so you have open communication with key stakeholders regarding what is happening and what's on the horizon. As an L&D professional, you must always be 5 steps ahead of the game!
How to do it:
meet regularly with business leaders and HR
keep up to date with all developments in the business
stay informed of new products or services
read the news about the industry and competitors
keep a close eye on customer and employee satisfaction surveys
#2 Scale-up and budgets
The effective execution of L&D initiatives (timely and within budget) is vital to gaining trust and support from business leaders. We may face numerous training requests and low budgets (who hasn't been there, right?). We must keep the 'conversation going' with executives about their priorities, timelines, and budgets to ensure we meet the expected learning deliverables.
Our mindset needs to go from limited audience learning initiatives to programs with the potential to be rolled out for the entire organization. The program's cost per person will decline, and the impact of your work will increase! Win-win!
How to do it:
track all costs
measure the impact of all learning offerings
set clear success measures for each initiative and program
be transparent with the budgets and costs
set the expectations of your stakeholders early on
#3 Data, data, data
Managers are running a business and need data to analyze their progress. The measurement of the impact on business performance becomes a MUST! We need to move away from traditional metrics like completion rates and old-school satisfaction surveys (aka 'vanity metrics').
How to do it:
We suggest three areas to focus on – these can be your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
Business sync: how aligned are our initiatives and investments with business strategy and priorities?
Learning results: did the learning intervention change and/or improve people's performance? How? What data can support this?
Operational value: how well are the resources and budgets being used? Get familiarized with ROI (Return on Investment) statistics.
As important as the design and execution of great training sessions are, our ability to measure results in the areas above matters (sometimes more). Have your numbers ready to share in your meeting with any executive.
Tip: Ensure that all the metrics have been agreed upon in advance. This way, you can showcase the impact more efficiently and take those metrics into consideration for the design itself.
#4 Get them involved!
While leaders may not need loads of details most of the time, you should consider an occasional invitation to one of your sessions or a more detailed walk-through of the training design. Your credibility as a training delivering person will increase, and you can showcase the real value of the learning event. Get their feedback and apply it!
How to do it:
agree on the training objectives with the managers
get in the habit of sending the first drafts of your training design to managers for their approval
invite them to contribute to the design or delivery (ask them to tell a story, share their experiences, get involved in a discussion, etc.)
ask managers to step in as coaches or mentors
ask managers to pick the best time and place for the training session
discuss all challenges and pain points of their teams and what they are doing to overcome them
after a learning event, reach out to them to ask for their observations on the changes in their team members
#5 Be flexible and versatile!
So…yes…training will be canceled or postponed eventually. It's ok; it's part of what we do. BUT! Be ready to offer alternatives, and be flexible and versatile. If a training cannot happen in the scheduled time, is there any material you can share in the meantime? Any videos, self-paced training, or any other option? Can the session be split and/or prioritize the most critical parts of the content? Your adaptability, resilience, and fast adjustment to change will take you a long way in these situations. Don't be afraid to try new and alternative things. Be creative and offer solutions!
Lastly, the most important suggestion is to foster the communication lines with the leaders you work with.
How to do it:
Have periodical, short meetings or touchpoints
keep them informed of the progress of each of their team members
listen carefully to their needs, worries, and positive feedback (do more of what they liked!)
ask many questions to ensure you understand the context and environment of the team
Transparency, trust, and open communication will make you and the managers a fantastic team!
What other things have you tried to help managers prioritize learning for their teams? Let us know on social media by tagging us @thelndacademy!