How to persuade your management board to invest in training

How To Persuade Your Management 1As an HR or training manager you know it makes sense to invest in training, but how do you persuade senior management to spend time and effort investing in it? 

If you are recommending more training for your employees, or are thinking about setting up an apprenticeship or graduate programme, your management team will take a hard-headed look at your business case for investment in people.

Showing the widest business benefits will add weight to your arguments. Here are five things you should consider then tailor to your needs and situation to demonstrate the benefits of training when constructing your business case…

1. Training gives you a positive return on investment (ROI)

One of the best ways to show the value of training is to show the benefits through ROI. Being able to show the real added value that training offers an organisation is key to justifying the outlay for training. When you are suggesting an investment in training you should also be thinking about how you will evaluate its worth.

The CIPD's Aligning Business and Learning report suggests that training can deliver bottom-line benefits such as:

• 14% improvement on productivity
• 19% improvement in staff engagement scores
• 12% reduction in time to competency

So make sure you include some data to back up why training will be valuable and how you plan to show the ROI from training.

Rio Tinto Alcan partner with The Outward Bound Trust on their apprentice programme:“We tasked our apprentices to apply their new teamwork and planning skills to focus on creating value or saving cost in their division. The benefits of this business project were twofold. It enabled a direct link back to work and it provided the challenge of paying for their programme from value creation initiatives. I am pleased to say this has been successful on both counts.” - David Ian Jones, General Manager

How To Persuade Your Management 2

2. Training will help you meet your business goals

Show your board how the training will help to achieve their business goals. For example if a goal is to become more innovative in your sector, personal development can embed business behaviours that allow this kind of thinking to flourish. And if a goal is a reduction in health and safety issues, training can create and embed a safety-first workplace culture.

Training can help focus on the skills and behaviours that you are seeking at all levels of your organisation. The right training helps develop, reinforce and support all kinds of behaviours plus the hard and soft skills your business wants. Linking the desired outcomes of training to business goals is your first step towards creating a thought through business case.

Many employers find that running apprenticeships or graduate programmes gives them the opportunity to tailor learning courses to the critical skills required in their organisation and spread the organisation's culture from the moment an employee joins.

For example, as part of its apprenticeship scheme, Stagecoach uses one element of the course it runs with The Outward Bound Trust to embed risk assessment, using Stagecoach's 'Safe Systems of Work' processes and behaviours.

3. Training makes you an attractive employer and aids in retention

If you want to be an employer that attracts the best candidates, training can be crucial. The top companies in The Sunday Times Best 100 Companies To Work For 2016 list are all rated highly by their employees for the training they offer.

Take a look at what your competitors are doing and whether you need to match the training they are offering to make your business equally attractive to the best talent. Evaluate the cost long-term of not attracting the most able people.

The CIPD also found that businesses that embraced training aligned with business goals had a 9% reduction in attrition rates.

How To Persuade Your Management 34. Training aids planning for the future and helps you spot talent

Many industries are currently looking at an aging workforce – with information and experience centred on a group of long-term employees who are getting ever-closer to retirement age. The result is a potential skills gap on the horizon. How will you ensure that their replacements will have the experience and problem-solving abilities of an employee who has grown their knowledge over many years in a wide variety of situations?

If you don't have in place an effective method for mentoring and passing on knowledge, your company might find itself in difficulties. Gather evidence by auditing to see if you will have a future skills gap. Your evaluation will highlight any future risks to your business.2

Creating a good relationship between older and younger workers is crucial for getting the best out of everyone and developing an atmosphere of sharing and learning. Intergenerational learning can help foster an environment where everyone can benefit from each other’s knowledge. In turn, this helps form an agile workforce that can deal with difficulties by drawing on the experience and innovative thinking of all ages to solve problems and overcome setbacks.

Training can also help you spot talent and develop the leaders and managers of the future, aiding succession planning at the highest level too. Make sure your business case shows the future benefits as well as the current ones.

5. Training broadens the skills base – with both hard and soft skills

The value of the hard skills needed to perform a job are obvious. Historically, these were the skills that employers focused on. But employees increasingly need a range of soft skills to make them truly effective in the modern world of work.

Knowing how to work as part of a team or communicate well with colleagues, bosses and customers can be vital to success. 77% of employers believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills. While 16% of employers said soft skills are more important than hard skills when evaluating candidates for a job.3 Developing these soft skills in your team is vital to the smooth and effective running of a business. Can you show an unmet need for this kind of training, for example, in the results of your annual appraisals?

If you can include some data to show why training will be valuable and how your investment will add to the bottom line then you should have no problem getting your business case signed off.

Notes and further reading:

  1. CIPD: Aligning business and learning (pdf)
  2. Harvard Business Review: Is the aging workforce really creating your staff shortages 
  3. PR Newswire: Companies say a majority of companies say soft skills are just as important as hard skills 

The Outward Bound Trust: Why your apprentices need more than on-the-job hard-skills training