Making a business case for training

Making a business case for training

Recognising the need for training - and identifying solutions - can be a challenging process, but it is also complicated by uncertainty over what will get the backing of the business. Therefore, having a clear strategy for approval can help alleviate the burden.

When it comes to asking for approval on training investment, employees can sometimes experience fears that block them from submitting crucial development requests to upskill their team. One such worry might be that some employees can view training opportunities with a degree of caution, either for fear of judgement or of falling behind on work whilst away from their desk. However, often a more substantial problem, and one that seems to gets overlooked, is that junior staff and managers alike often do not know how best to pitch training to the senior management team.

And yet, the case for training is very simple. Last year, CIM identified today’s top five marketing challenges, and at least four of these can be addressed through specific training. So, why aren’t more people making successful business cases for development when we know that companies who offer training, on average, see a 19% better ROI?

Behind that question is the secret to pitching training solutions to your senior management team. You have to demonstrate the value of the training you are requesting to those approving it. Whilst some development tools have ROI capabilities built into them, such as CIM’s Marketing Analysis Portal (MAP), you will need to make the value to the business clear.

There are five simple techniques that will help you to make your case clear, concise and relevant:

1) Understand that training is more than courses

It may be tempting to think of training as a course or programme that is completed over a set period, but it’s more beneficial to think about it as the continuing development of people’s skills and capabilities. This flexible approach to learning can be achieved in a number of ways, from traditional training courses and study programmes to online learning, from both internal and external providers. You may also have to educate your organisation as to the value of this approach to upskilling. When making the request, be sure to effectively communicate that this is a development process for a specific individual or group that will aid the business as a whole.

2) People are your resource, make them central to your request

To put it bluntly, Britain has a skills crisis. It is increasingly challenging for businesses to find the right people, at the right time, with the right skillset. Finding a candidate who is a good cultural fit for your organisation, who you can then upskill, can often be a more successful way of attracting and retaining the right people in these conditions. It is crucial, therefore, that your business understands that development is as important for those new to the company as to long-term employees, though this can often be a difficult case to make. 

Considering all this, making your application specific to the person you are sending for training is a central tenet of making your case. Are they a good communicator? Can they train others? Are they an advocate for your business who can motivate the team? What is it about that person that can influence others? In other words, what can they bring to the entire team after their training is complete – and how can that save the business money or make it more profitable?

3) What’s the objective?

If you have identified an opportunity for development in your team, you will likely need to convince key decision makers to accept your request. This might be simple if your organisation has an embedded culture of learning, but every business is limited, even in a small way, by resources and budget. All decision makers will inevitably look to whether a training request answers one simple question: how does this help me to meet my business objectives?

The link might be obvious but for bespoke or specialist training, this could be slightly more complex. If one of the objectives for the business is to improve customer retention by 10% over the next twelve months, a request for a content writing course might not, at first glance, be an obvious training option. Yet, if you can make the case that better content will lead to better customer retention, you have made link far more obvious.

Remember, you are potentially selling the idea of investing money in developing staff to someone – executive, board member, CEO – who might not have knowledge of the immediate need for the department, so tying your case in with the objectives of the business – which they will know – can be an effective way to overcome this.

4) Think short-term and long-term

If your business lacks specific skills now, think about where it will be in three years’ time. Many businesses still have a significant problem addressing future needs, so make clear how this training will keep you ahead of the curve – and your competitors – on the application. If your business currently lacks specific marketing knowledge, given the fast-evolving nature of the profession, imagine what that problem would look like in three years’ time. If your application can address both of these points, it will stand a greater chance of being accepted.

5) Follow up and be flexible

It’s important to keep a dialogue with management, whether your training request is approved or rejected. Following up with key decision makers after the training to show how it has been successful and sharing learnings can make future requests easier, but be sure follow up on rejections as well. Establish if it’s a ‘not now, but maybe later’ or a ‘no, not ever’ and make sure you understand the reasons why. This will give you crucial insight that can help make your next proposition more compelling. Creating a culture that actively promotes training is a journey, not a destination, and having these conversations is a fundamental first step. 

Ultimately, training is vital for future proofing your business, but it is also an integral part of the employee offer. Last year, CIM’s school leaver survey showed that more prospective marketers would give up a company car, rather than lose out on training and development, to find their dream job. Employers who don’t recognise that may struggle to maintain the motivation of their employees or attract the next generation into their workforce. Most critically, persist in starting those internal conversations about development. It will certainly cost a lot more to avoid training in the long-term, no matter how many barriers you face in the short term.

If you’re ready to make a business case for training, get in touch with our corporate training team today and find out how you could optimise your team’s learning with our specialist solutions.

Sarah Lee-Boone Director of people and organisational development CIM
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