Don't let your instructor-led or virtual training disappear because you weren't able to articulate it's value. Many a good idea or project has failed to be supported or adopted because the value wasn't clearly evident. That's a failure on the teller of the story. The challenge is that we've tried to show the financial value by calculating the ROI of our training. I don't know about you, but calculating the ROI of training has always seemed as if we were proving the existence of the mythical unicorn. There are so many variables in the training ROI equation that the product of this calculation is soft and intangible.
As Pangarkar and Kirkwood state in their article titled Rethinking Training's Financial Obligations, "A cost center is never expected to generate a positive financial result from the allocated funds. Like HR, talent development is expected to contribute to achieving well-defined performance objectives". I agree with this statement and the key words are “contribute” and “well-defined”. You've got to be able to articulate specifically how your training contributed. I've seen "great" training classes, that received high level one and level two evaluations scores, not be supported because the leaders couldn't see a direct tie in to the success of the business.
If you are an experienced learning leader, I know that none of this surprises you. You might even be thinking, thanks Captain Obvious! But you'll also agree that what is common sense is not always common practice. Over the years I’ve come across learning leaders that fail to have a strong understanding of their business partner's performance objectives. What I've seen is a lot of guessing and assumptions being made. When I've asked the question about what specific goals their partners are trying to achieve, it's not unusual for me to get an unclear response. Just as I've heard training leaders say that a business partners first response to a problem is more training (and I've said this myself), training leaders must push beyond that order taking mentality and embed themselves in their partner's business.
The solution is to link specific training initiatives to your business partner’s goal(s). That way, when budget cutting happens, the partner may be more reluctant to cut an initiative that directly impacts a performance objective. Think of it this way. When something has a strong anchor, it may be tattered after a storm but it is still standing. In the same way, your group’s learning programs need a clear and well-defined anchor.
Here is one clear example we’ve experience with several of our clients. The line of business wants its customer facing representatives to be more proactive than reactive. By being proactive, they will increase the perceived value of the representative as a trusted adviser enabling them to influence the client at a strategy level rather than a lower implementation level. Virtual training was built to enable these representative to be more proactive. We even put “proactive” and “strategy” in the name of the workshop. Virtual coaching workshops that were set up as sustainment to the learning were focused on resolving real client relationship issues. You want the conversation at budget time to be “how can we not support this program when doing so would provide less support to a team as they try to reach one of my goals.” It also helps that the virtual training may be less expensive than any training that involves travel by an instructor or participants and it is more strategic in the usage of the learner’s time.
I challenge you to look at your training and see how well-defined your alignment is to your business partner’s goals and objectives. For tips on the how read Laura Pierce’s “Can You Read Your Sales Partner’s Mind”.