You have an amazing vision for your organisation. You want to be a change-maker. A trusted advisor. You want to change the learning experience for employees, partners, and customers. This is your raison d’être.
Which is great…in theory. But in reality, change doesn’t happen in isolation. All too often, learning leaders try to build learning programs without buy-in from their business. And those amazing ideas and ambitious dreams get dashed before leaders can successfully deliver their vision for learners and drive change.
If you don’t get buy-in, you end up like Dwight Schrute (in the parkour episode from The Office). You’re hustling all over the place, but to little effect.
So, how do you get buy-in? That’s the million dollar question. And hopefully, after reading this article, you should have the answer you need to be able to get your execs to say “Sign me up, I’m in!”
How to get started
First you need to transform your learning teams into trusted advisors. Then you need to pitch your vision like a pro. It’s worth noting these should be treated as two separate (but sequential) pieces since you need to achieve the first in order to achieve the second. You can pitch the best program in the world, but if it’s not aligned to the overall business strategy, it’s about as effective as Dwight’s office parkour…
Step 1: Lead the pack, but walk together
You can’t go on this journey alone. You need to align with stakeholders across the business.
- What are the challenges leadership is struggling with?
- What are the key strategic areas they are focusing on in the year (or three) to come?
Your project, program, or vision should be integral in helping the business get there.
Step 2: Become the vehicle that drives broader business change
Once you understand the key drivers around the business, you can start planning and aligning your learning strategy to the wider business goals. It could be to help with demand generation or employee attrition or to help increase sales or retain key customers. It can be any goal in the book, the important thing to remember is that your learning strategy is informed by the wider business objectives.
Step 3: Future-proof your learning tech stack
What good is a new luxury car if it has a decades-old engine? The same goes for your business. Modern organisations can’t run on outdated technologies.
Your tech stack powers your business. In order for it to drive transformation, your stack must also be able to scale and grow with your business. And that requires best-in-class tools—including the latest learning technologies. But aligning your learning tech with your learning strategy alone isn’t enough. True transformation can only happen when you integrate your learning technologies with the wider business tools (HR, CS, revenue, etc.).
This is the third step to becoming a trusted advisor. It also forms the foundation for the second piece of getting buy-in; pitching your vision. (More on that in just a bit.)
Step 4: Demonstrate the impact of your learning programs
To get sustained buy-in, you need to prove how your programs impacted the objectives execs wanted to achieve. For example, did they reduce customer churn, or did they increase product adoption?
The Kirkpatrick model is your friend here. You’ll likely need to drill deep, evaluating level 4. This requires a shift for learning teams to not only build content, but also to partner with data analysts to correlate engagement with your programs to the success of the business. (Reminder: This is only possible if you’ve connected your learning technologies to your business tech stack, as mentioned in the previous step.)
When you can show leaders how you can help them reach their objectives, they’re much more likely to buy into your vision.
Pitch like a pro
Now that you’ve established yourself (and your team) as a trusted business advisor, it’s time to sell your organisation on your learning vision—whatever it may be!
There are a ton of resources on crafting the perfect pitch. (A quick Google search will yield millions of results. Heck, you can even watch a few episodes of Dragon’s Den to learn what (not) to do). But here are a few key high-level pointers/best practices to keep in mind when pitching your learning vision:
- Know your learner’s needs: Start by laying out who your learners are (e.g., new hires, sales employees, customers, partners, etc.). Then show how your vision will address each group’s needs and how they will benefit from this project.
- Crunch the numbers: Arm yourself with key metrics and costing considerations. How long will this project take? How many people will need to be involved? How much will it cost? And, of course, what’s the ROI of your project? It will be hard for stakeholders to refute hard numbers that demonstrate there’s room for improvement or significant ROI.
- Keep it simple: Don’t over complicate your pitch. Focus on creating a concise and well-structured presentation. Your goal is to clearly, and objectively, show what is currently wrong, how it can be fixed, why that matters, and who can help.
- Bring in the experts: Provide evidence that your vision is based on modern best practices and reflects significant market trends. Back your vision up with quotes and data from analysts reports, insights from industry experts, testimonials from partners and/or customers, etc.
- Tie it back to revenue: Remember all that work you did to quantify ROI from your learning programs? Well, it’s about to pay off. Clearly map the benefits or your project directly to company revenue.
- Be ready for objections: There will be objections. (This is especially true if you’re asking for more budget or resources.) To avoid being blindsided during your presentation, anticipate the objections that are likely to come up and prepare a response so that you have to start from a place of strength if the question arises.
- Practice: Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, comes preparation for your pitch meeting. It doesn’t matter how amazing your slide deck is or how many numbers you’ve crunched if you don’t spend some time preparing your delivery. Practice, practice, practice. When you’re comfortable with the material, then you’re ready to pitch.
If your amazing vision is to pitch a new learning solution, you’re in luck.
Docebo has a downloadable toolkit you can use. It covers a variety of topics (from understanding the current learning landscape to creating a business case for a new learning solution to understanding the buyer’s journey to calculating the ROI of your programs to engaging your IT team) to help you perfect your pitch and get buy-in.
Well, this is it folks! We’ve reached the end of our four-part series. Together, we’ve explored what external training is (and why it matters), what it takes to build a successful external education program, the business benefits of external training, and how to get buy-in. This series might be over, but if you want to keep the conversation going don’t hesitate to get in touch.
If you’re interested in learning more about learning measurement, check out this article from Brandon Hall Group and Docebo.