Secure Boardroom Buy-in for Your eLearning Development Wishlist

Adriann Haney | 06/20/2013

The need for the HR specialist to have a recognised and respected place on leadership boards is something that the L&D community is frequently talking about. Given the pressures they face on an everyday basis when it comes to influencing and facilitating positive change, there’s no doubt that the HR world recognises the need to step up and truly add commercial value as an integral part of the business.

But when it comes to the practicalities of asking for a budget for elearning development projects, it’s an area fraught with difficulties.
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Here, we look at common mistakes that L&D professionals should avoid when asking for boardroom budget.
 

Not speaking in the language of the business

When presenting to the board, it’s imperative to ditch the ‘HR speak’and talk the language of the business.  Enrichment of staff, continued development, and engagement levels may mean a lot to you and your team, but it won’t persuade decision-makers from other disciplines that your new elearning content solution is something they should invest in.  You need to step out of your HR shoes and consider the wider business strategy. Avoid any jargon and match your arguments with the direction of the company.

You will of course be asked about costs, so make sure you’ve prepared your answers. The figures should include promotional activity, faculty fees, materials and facilities. Be ready to discuss the expected return on investment, which could be in the form of labour savings, productivity increases or cost savings. The board might also want to know what is the payback period, or in other words, how long they can expect to wait before seeing results.

Not aligning outcomes and goals with business strategy

For the best chances of success, any L&D professional needs to articulate a clear
understanding of how their work will impact on the bottom line. In these straightened times boards need to hear a solid financial argument to convince them to spend on new training products. So, imagine for example that a current business priority is to increase sales. If your proposed L&D project up-skills frontline staff and gives them the skills and confidence to upsell and increase the average basket, make this very clear. This makes your offer almost irresistible to the board and validates L&D as a business tool.
 
This point is much wider than just a one-off meeting, and in many businesses, will require a complete shift in culture. The wider role of HR is in a state of change, and demonstrating that you can play a vital role in the corporate strategy of the future has never been more important than in these times of economic hardship.

Making boardroom presence a one-off

The HR function should have a place on the board at all times, and not just when a request for budget needs to be made. In an organisation where an HR leader is an accepted member of the board that helps to drive forward the business strategy, it’s much easier for HR to have a respected voice and be listened to when they make a budget request. Of course, cultivating these relationships takes time, and requires a highly confident HR leader with business acumen, strong influencing skills, as well as a good overall understanding of how the business operates outside of the HR function.

Not reporting back with results

Once the budget has been signed off and the elearning project is underway, a wise L&D professional knows that this isn’t the end of the conversation. If you’re determined to build a positive relationship with the board and continue to influence in the future, make a point of reporting back with hard facts and figures about how the project has benefited the business. Again, it’s vitally important that you talk in a language that the business understands, avoid ‘soft speak’, and demonstrate how your work has impacted on the bottom line.

While this more granular financial information is often available in LMS software, many HR people don’t utilise it simply because they’re distracted by the HR-related data. Make a point of learning to use all the tools in your arsenal. If you have a portfolio that clearly shows the ROI of previous projects that you were responsible for, you’ll have an excellent negotiation tool.

As discussed, there are many ways in which L&D professionals can lessen their chances of success when it comes to asking for budget in the boardroom. When you take action in these four specific areas though, you’ll find that securing the funds that you need to give your L&D project the green light is a much easier possibility.