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5 ways for Learning and Development teams to get training buy-in from stakeholders

Research shows that training not only increases profits, it increases employee retention as well. Businesses who spend at least $1,500 per employee annually report 24% more profit than those with smaller learning and development (L&D) budgets. Plus, 93% of employees say they will stay with a business for longer, if a company invests in their development. 

During the pandemic, learning and development leaders became more involved than ever in executive-level conversations. According to a LinkedIn Learning report, L&D presence at C-Suite tables around the globe increased from 24% in March 2020 to 63% in March 2021. This undoubtedly shows that the value training brings to businesses is being recognized. However, it still means that more than 1 in 3 L&D teams don’t have the engagement that they need from senior stakeholders in order to achieve their goals. 

A manager and team member in a one-on-one coaching session.

It isn’t just senior stakeholders who affect the success of a training program. Employees typically model their manager's behavior, so if managers are not invested in training, their employees won’t be either. That’s why it’s essential that stakeholders at all levels, from managers to C-Suite executives, endorse L&D initiatives and actively demonstrate the behaviors training programs promote. 

So how can L&D teams get buy-in from stakeholders at every level?

1. Present a proposal

The average CEO works between 60-70 hours per week. If we assume this is true for other C-Suite executives, they have limited time to look into training initiatives. By preparing and presenting a clear, well-researched proposal, L&D professionals can demonstrate the value of the training and gain buy-in from the start. A proposal is particularly important if a stakeholder needs to release funds for the training program to go ahead. 

We suggest including the following: 

  • Up-to-date data which relates to business KPIs
  • Results from employee engagement surveys, or similar
  • A high-level overview of training content, including delivery methods
  • Details of similar, successful programs 
  • Timelines, including details of any test groups and when ROI will be measured
  • Required resources, including risk assessments
  • Overall costs, including transport, food, and other essentials
  • Projected ROI

2. Create a pre-training pack 

Once a training program has been approved, it is important to involve other relevant stakeholders, such as team managers. The long-term impact of a training program often relies on the support employees receive from their line managers. Keeping managers informed and encouraging them to get involved with training development can help foster a positive attitude towards the program that employees will pick up on. 

Many of the details in a pre-training pack can be taken from the initial proposal, such as KPI data and an overview of training content. Other information can be taken from timelines or the overall training strategy, such as a timeframe for follow-up coaching, and when any ROI data will be shared. It is also important to include how the management team can support employees so that they see the best possible results.

3. Ask for input 

At Quadmark, we know how important it is to collaborate with SMEs (subject matter experts) and key stakeholders when creating a training program, whether it’s an instructor-led session or an onboarding curriculum. This collaboration not only ensures the specialist aspects of our materials are correct, but that the training aligns with business needs and values. By allowing time for stakeholders to review training content, L&D teams can be confident in the robustness of their program. For internally delivered virtual or face-to-face sessions, invite stakeholders to run-throughs to really enhance buy-in.

For L&D teams, sharing ownership of a project with managers and stakeholders comes with many benefits. Collaboration helps to create a positive workplace atmosphere and increases an organization’s potential for changegood ideas have a habit of spreading throughout a company. Providing clear deadlines and training objectives also provides teams with a source of motivation, ensures they work towards accomplishing company goals, fosters positive workplace relationships, and encourages career growth—both for those taking part in the training and those behind it. 

Employee giving a presentation on a screen to another colleague.  The screen shows a bar graph.

4. Think like a marketer

Learners are key stakeholders in training programs. While the design of the training should consider them, they are often forgotten about when it comes to buy-in. The learners’ responsibility is to learn and to have a strong sense of ownership for the learning process. Yet they are often the last people to know about a training program and don’t always understand the business need behind it. Even with the support of their managers and advocacy from senior executives, learners may still feel skeptical about the benefits of training.

Learners need to know two things: why the training is taking place, and what’s in it for them. They want to learn when there is a reason to, and when the learning is applicable to their role, such as leading to better performance at work. 

This is where marketing comes in. Build excitement and engagement for training by: 

  • Sending email invites
  • Sharing details in company bulletins and newsletters
  • Circulating pre-course videos, podcasts, and interviews 
  • Creating pre-course quizzes 
  • Displaying posters 
  • Sending out SWAG 
  • Asking managers and executives for testimonials 
  • Sharing previous reviews for external training providers

5. Keep it fresh 

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, introduced the Forgetting Curve — a visual representation of how we forget information over time. Ebbinghaus suggested that memories weaken over time. In fact, the biggest drop in information retention happens soon after learning has taken place.

Graph illustrating the Forgetting Curve by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus.

Being reminded of information regularly helps us to remember information for longer. For learners, this should be built into the training design and accounted for in post-training strategies. The same applies for stakeholders. To keep buy-in high for the next L&D initiative, it is important to keep them updated about the success of the most recent program. We recommend sharing: 

  • Tips for manager support 
  • Trainee feedback 
  • Training photos
  • Blog or newsletter highlights
  • Successful post-training projects
  • Periodic KPI improvements 
  • The final ROI 
  • A post-mortem, including suggested improvements for next time

Engaging key stakeholders by showing them the benefits of training ensures buy-in for future L&D projects. Perhaps more importantly, it creates a company culture of learning. A learning culture recognizes that learning is a journey, and it can be supplemented by coaching, mentoring, and peer learning. It can encourage employees to lead their own learning, experiment with new strategies, learn from failure, embrace feedback, and feel more content at work. There’s no wonder that companies that invest more in L&D see bigger profits and a boost to staff retention

Speak to us to find out how Quadmark can help you create engaging training programs.

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