Buy-In is Not Enough: L&D Needs Senior Execs to Champion Learning Throughout the Organization

champion learning

The number #1 takeaway from LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report is that while L&D budgets continue to grow, the effort to encourage execs to champion learning remains a challenge.

The report found that 83% of L&D pros say their executives support employee learning but only 27% of L&D pros say their CEOs are active champions of learning.

Of course, supporting learning is not the same as championing learning.

Supporting might mean simply approving a budget. After all, having a learning team in place is generally seen as a good thing: it’s necessary for organizations in regulated industries or those that work with governments, and it’s most certainly very people-friendly, as L&D strengthens the company’s image both internally and externally.

But L&D cannot progress without being championed by those at the very top of the organization. What does “championing” mean, or what might it look like?

Championing L&D would have a profound, if not dramatic, effect on the entire organization. Here are a few examples of what a truly “championed” L&D effort would look like:

  • L&D’s results are referenced in the company’s annual report.
  • The company has a Chief Learning Officer who reports directly to the CEO rather than to the head of human capital management.
  • Each department receives its own budget to spend on L&D initiatives.
  • Hours spent on L&D are a requirement for every position in the company.
  • Hours spent serving as a subject matter expert are a requirement for certain positions in the company.

To get to this point, how can learning leaders and talent developers get the most influential people in the organization to not only support but also champion the L&D effort?

Data, data, and more data

Executives make decisions based on evidence—that evidence is data.

The more of it that exists, the more you can state your case that L&D has a significant impact and influence on the organization.

However, go deeper. Try to find evidence that the results of the training directly affect employee performance. While this might be easier to uncover with something like sales training—after the training was completed, the salesperson sold more—it might be a challenge with employees in other departments.

This will require you to lean on managers to find measurements that demonstrate success. Here are a few ways to measure the outcomes of training on employee performance:

  • Less time is spent completing projects
  • Fewer errors are made
  • Fewer complaints or issues are raised from co-workers
  • Additional contributions are made to the department’s knowledge base or wiki

Another source of data demonstrating L&D success can be your training intake system, as outlined in this training intake ebook. From training request to course completion to assessment to implementation, you can show how a simple request can translate to tangible outcomes.

It might take some time to figure out the optimal mix, and no two departments will be alike. However, as you get used to asking departments for these, you might discover other ways that managers evaluate employees. You can take this data with you to the c-suite in efforts to convince them to champion learning initiatives throughout the organization.

submitting a request for training

Build the groundswell

Further to the previous point about uncovering data, you simply cannot do it alone. The larger your organization, the more difficult it will be to interact with every manager and capture the training data you need.

As such, you want to build the groundswell: identify those managers and directors whom you know are in a position to carry out your mission. If they support you, they will encourage other managers to support you as well.

Remember that it’s not only about you trying to make yourself look good, but it’s also about them trying to look good as well. They, too, want to demonstrate that they provided the right mix of learning initiatives for their team members, which produced impressive results. In fact, you might be showing them ways of capturing training data that they hadn’t thought of before.

Further, focus on the employees, too. They don’t want to feel like the training initiative was only one-way—position it so that it will benefit them in the long run, too. While their managers might be observing and tracking any performance changes since completing a training module, the best observer is the employee herself. Indeed, with enough encouragement, the employee can provide her manager—and in turn, you—with the data needed to claim that L&D efforts are successful and your senior executives can champion learning.

Need to build a presentation that convinces senior decision-makers of the need for additional technology for your L&D initiatives? Our 4 part toolkit provides the assets and advice you need. Download it today!

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