Make the Connection Between Training and Business Success
Don't assume that your audience will automatically see the connection between a very different way of delivering knowledge and skills and their own business goals. Training is the ugly stepchild of the corporate world because its impact on a company's business goals is rarely proven. If you are going to win management's support, you need to make this connection. In this section of your business case, lay out the business goals of your company and then explain how your plan supports those objectives and affects management's ability to achieve them.
Include the vision statement, the five-year plan, and quotes from individual business-unit leaders stating their goals and the obstacles they face. You'll find many of these quotes in your notes from the original executive interviews you conducted at the beginning of the research phase. Then tie your plan directly to their goals. Talk about why the current state of training is failing to meet their employees' needs and how it is affecting the company's ability to achieve its stated vision and business projections. Talk about the education employees will need in order to meet the five-year business objectives and why the training being offered today won't deliver it.
In our business plan we included quotes from Rockwell Collins's Government Systems 1996 Learning and Development strategic plan in the context of discussing the connection between competitiveness and our ability to create a learning environment. We discussed the importance of workplace learning as a business strategy and the implications our initiative would have on the company's success.
To be sure our audience understood the relevance of what we were selling, we put every element of the plan in the context of value to the company. Every chart linked back to the underlying objective, to tie training to the business goals of the company. We hammered home that theme by making unmistakable connections between training and its impact on the company's ability to succeed. For example, the concept of learning councils would hold little interest for executives unfamiliar with the training process, so we included a list defining exactly what value they would bring to the organization ”they would drive business relevance to the training needs; as a result of their input, courses would be custom tailored to meet business objectives; they would reduce learning delivery time; they would improve knowledge transfer; and they would create consistency across the organization.
Rockwell Collins's vision statement includes providing superior customer value, creating sustainable profitable growth, becoming a global leader in the aerospace industry, and being considered the best place to work by employees. We compared that vision with the learning implications of our project. We showed management how easier access to new-product and business-skills training would increase our ability to provide customer service; how learning to work to commercial standards versus Department of Defense standards would improve the quality of our products, which affects our profitability and employee satisfaction; and we discussed the long- term learning requirements associated with future projects. Every biannual "best place to work" survey showed that Rockwell Collins's employees didn't think much of the training that was being offered. We intended to change that, permanently! The baseline comparison chart we included in our plan helped our audience see that connection.
We also showed our audience the gaps in the existing training structure and how those gaps affected the ability of the employees outside Cedar Rapids to get critical skills and knowledge. We illustrated how e-learning would eliminate that problem and allow employees to receive needed education faster and better than ever before. We included statistics from the training industry discussing the benefits of alternative learning formats. For example, the fact that potential savings of technology-based learning range from 30 to 70 percent with an average savings of 50 percent, according to the Government Alliance for Training and Education; retention rates are 25 to 50 percent higher, according to the Multimedia Monitor ; and the fact that it takes 20 to 80 percent less time for the learner to complete computer-based training than instructor-led training, according to Training and Development . Many of the assumptions we made about cost savings were tied to these facts, so including them prominently in the business-case document was vital .
When you create this section of your business case, make distinct connections between the present training program and the impact its shortcomings have already had and will continue to have on business. This is the most important message you can deliver in this presentation, so be specific. Show your audience where the business will suffer if they don't support your plan and how it will succeed if they do. Figure out what issue is most important to your audience and then show them why your initiative will contribute to its success or failure.
One very popular sales-training program teaches salespeople to ask prospective customers about the consequences of not solving a problem. It then teaches them how to ask questions about the payoffs of solving a problem. We used the same process when presenting our plan.
Remember that the basic definition of a need, in sales terms, is the difference between what someone has and what that person wants. It is your job to explain clearly what your organization currently has and what you can deliver in the future ”and make the organization want it.
We customized our business case for individual audiences in order to maximize the impact of this section. Depending on whom we were meeting with, we created versions of the presentation to highlight the specific needs of business units, executives, and management. Always focusing on the "what's in it for me" factor guarantees that your audience will stay interested in what you have to say.
For example, at Rockwell Collins, the manufacturing department was concerned about its aging workforce and the inevitable loss of knowledge when its experts retired , so our presentation for that department's leaders focused on how we could capture and disseminate that knowledge at a reasonable cost. We highlighted the QuickLearns business model, sharing our five-to-one return-on-investment cost projections and the impact the QuickLearns modules were having on the organization as they were implemented.
Every time a QuickLearns module was delivered, we captured data showcasing the impact that training was having on the company's ability to ramp up team skills faster and more efficiently . We added this data to our presentation. Constant updates keep the business case fresh and appealing even to those who've already witnessed it.