Everything we do in Learning and Development (L&D) needs to have a clear value proposition. Online learning, when well-designed, is usually part of a blended solution that provides value in terms of efficiency, scalability and overall effectiveness.
As learning leaders, we need to ask questions, like:
>> What is the value of reducing travel time and cost of classroom training by four days?
>> What is the value of additional equipment training room capacity in a high-demand environment?
>> What is the value of providing product overview training to additional audiences, like procurement, software and others? >> What is the value of providing customers with free safety training and demonstrating corporate responsibility?
>> What is the value of centralizing delivery and reporting for supplier training?
Notice that the questions did not ask for the ROI. Why? Because leaders understand value and the impact are bigger when you lead the conversation with value. Of course, ROI is important, but when influencing leaders for buy-in, they want to see connections to business indicators that they are familiar with — like Operational Excellence (faster, better, cheaper). Yes, I suppose some leaders want to see the numbers, but connecting with them on the level of efficiency, effectiveness and scalability resonate stronger, because they understand two things: There are many variables that impact performance (not just training) and that faster, better, cheaper can lower cost either directly or indirectly.
I’ve only worked for one leader in my 23 years of semiconductor learning leadership who wanted me to invest significant time in measuring and proving with a productivity time study to show that training reduced time. Why? Because the speed of change is FAST, and they want the Learning and Development function focused on the next business imperative rather than investing resources, evaluating and proving. The business case for solutions is clear upfront with value. We design with the outcome in mind.
As L&D professionals, it is in our nature to want to demonstrate the impact to business results after an implementation. However, showing past success does not necessarily ensure leadership buy-in will come for future investment decisions. The business case is an upfront definition of the value that solutions bring, whether they are learning platforms, capabilities, programs, certifications, curriculum or performance support. The value conversation is one that leaders understand, and that they will come to expect EVERY SINGLE TIME.
So how can we as learning leaders ask better questions around value? We must know the businesses that we support really well. We must be excellent listeners and collect information that seemingly might not be connected. We must make those connections when we hear pain points of the business and interpret those pain points into value-based solution recommendations. We must ideate/brainstorm with our partners and focus on the learner/performer experience. What are performers struggling with? What does the business need in order to learn and perform faster, which, in turn, will help the business implement new systems, business processes and strategic workforce capabilities? This is how we influence leaders — by consistently demonstrating VALUE for each and every engagement we have with them. I am a huge fan of Design Thinking and the Business Canvas for business transformations. Learning and Development can play a dual role in facilitating transformations and providing the solutions to enable them.
— Kristi Conlon is Director, Global Training & Development at ASM.