In any high-performance organization, strong leadership is a known necessity. Most companies rate leadership ability as an issue with ‘urgent’ importance — 85%, in fact, according to this 2016 Deloitte survey. However, only 14% of those companies believe they do an excellent job developing global leaders. Why are so many organizations ill-equipped to develop their pipeline of leaders? The answer often lies in the organization’s approach to learning and development (L&D).
(Psst… want to better understand learning and development models? Head here.)
At first glance, L&D programs can feel like a significant time, resource, and monetary investment with little measurable output. For line-of-business (LOB) leaders responsible for the time, resources, and budget of their teams, that first glance can make or break the decision to invest in employee development. As Ben Franklin put it, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Learning and development programs have an incredible impact on your company. If done right, you’ll open up the leadership pipeline across all levels, from front-line manager to line-of-business leader.
Here are three of our suggestions to help you convince your organization’s leaders that investing in L&D is the key to developing employees, and worth the time and money.
To Prove the Need: Bring Data On Your Workforce
When preparing to pitch the importance of an L&D program at your organization, think to the arguments your audience of LOB leaders will find most convincing. More often than not, relying on data is the key to effectively proving a need.
If your company regularly conducts employee happiness surveys, your historical results are an ideal place to start. If you don’t regularly conduct employee happiness surveys, consider starting now. You may have to push your L&D proposal back in order to glean enough data, but doing so will make your pitch stronger down the road. Consider a one-time trend survey directly asking employees for feedback on learning and development. Trend surveys can be incredibly helpful in giving you insights into a specific issue. Beware of relying on them too often; you’ll risk survey fatigue from your employees.
However you choose to source your data, look for results that answer questions like:
- What pain points do employees struggle with at your organization?
- What is their perception of career development here?
- How satisfied are they with their own development?
- How satisfied are they with their current leadership team?
The answers will give you a metrics-based peek into your workforce’s satisfaction with the current state of leadership development.
To Prove It’s Worth The Investment: Point to Measurable Results
Empowering your workforce through learning has proven to drive positive business results. In your pitch, lean on those results — turn to data again when pointing to the effect an L&D program can have on your organization, such as:.
- Higher productivity — Development opportunities provide employees the chance to think critically about their motivations, connect to the organization’s mission, and push their skill set to the next level. They also engage employees, leading them to be 12% more productive at work.
- More internal mobility — Effective L&D programs motivate employees to invest in their careers: 55% of employees say they believe they could advance professionally if they were offered greater training opportunities. By providing that opportunity at your company, employees will invest in their careers with you.
- Improved retention — Seven of 10 employees say L&D opportunities influence their decision to stay with a company. This improved retention saves your organization money: the cost of losing an employee in the first year can be up to three times the person’s salary.
To Make It Easy to Say Yes: Bring an Operational Plan
Ok, you’ve convinced your leadership team of the importance of an L&D program. What now?
The best way to hit the ground running is to bring a specific operational plan — preferably with a few options on how to get started. This way, your leadership team can immediately approve next steps to keep the momentum going. You don’t necessarily need to have your entire L&D itinerary built out at this point. Do take the time to spell out three details:
First, bring a rough estimate of the resources you’ll need to execute. Your estimate should outline the program’s expected budget, the stakeholders involved, and the timeline necessary to launch. If you’re working with a limited budget, SHRM has recommendations for creating effective training programs without spending big.
Second, identify how L&D connects to your business’ objectives. What is the company focused on achieving now, and next? Speak to how the L&D programs will empower employees with the skills necessary to help the business get there.
Paychex has directly attributed their training programs to improved retention, for instance: “Our commitment to employee learning and development has been a strong contributor to company success for over two decades,” says public relations manager Lisa Fleming. “This commitment has also benefited Paychex from a recruitment and retention perspective. Our programs consistently get rated as one of the reasons people make the decision to work at Paychex.”
Lastly, bring a few options on moving forward. You could propose, for instance, a stretch plan for ongoing development programs across all company levels, a mid-range plan for an ongoing development program for your managers, and one plan for a L&D pilot to prove viability. Giving your leadership team options will guide them towards making an actionable decision by the end of your pitch.