After waiting for 2 months and several reschedules, Chris, the Head of Learning got an appointment with Jack, the CEO of Trident Software. Chris desperately wanted to meet Jack. Since his appointment one year ago, he only had one meeting with him. Jack did not have any idea what was going on in the L&D department. Also, the budget discussions for the next year was coming up so the timing could not have been better.
"Please have a seat Chris, but I only have 30 mins for you, I need to leave for an important strategy meeting right after."
"Sure, I will be quick, I just wanted to show you a presentation on our achievements so far," said Chris.
"Ok, go ahead"
"In the last 6 months, we have produced 20 eLearning programs in 10 languages on product training. These eLearnings have been taken by 300 salespeople. Also, all our new hires go through onboarding eLearning and videos."
"Hmm, ok" Jack nodded.
"We have also trained 1000+ customers on our products and services. Our website has been getting a lot of visitors and the reviews on these courses are great" Chris continued.
"Good" Jack replied.
"For the next year, we want to ramp up our development activities. We want to hire 10 more people in the L&D department and create 100 more eLearning courses and do several classroom training"
"Wait a minute, you want to hire 10 more people" Jack pushed forward in his chair.
"Yes, we need them to continue developing our programs"
"What Programs ?"
Chris was slightly shocked with that response but he bravely continued.
"Well, the product training, on-boarding training, customer training, there is so much to do."
"Chris, let me be very honest to you. We have to slash budgets and we have to cut costs for next year. Our sales haven't been growing, despite the industry growing by 2%."
"I understand but there is so much to do. I need to have resources to execute all learning plans for next year"
"Well, I am afraid that you might need to find some other ways to execute them. At this moment, we have 3 clear priorities, generating sales, managing our margins and reducing our nonessential costs"
"Got it, Let me come back to you in a month and tell you how L&D will address those 3 things. Please don't make a decision on the budgets until then"
The meeting ended.
Let me put this as bluntly as possible so this sticks.
A CEO doesn't CARE about your different types of training programs.
Every CEO has top 3-4 concerns at any point in time and this might be a rude awakening to you but "learning" or "Training" does not fall into it.
Many Learning managers who live in their bubble of 'learning world' need to realize that they are part of a larger organization which has 'real-world' business concerns such as profitability, growth and cash generation. They are not doing their chances to be taken seriously any good if they not hitting one or more of these top concerns. Your CEOs won't be impressed.
So what will impress your CEO?
Learn deeply about your business
No matter which department you are in, learn the specifics of your business. If you end up meeting your CEO - Industry, competition customers are the few first things you need to start your conversation with.
And all you need to do is ask good questions. Your CEO is champion in these subjects and he will happily engage if you know what to ask.
Talk about how you are solving his top concerns
Talk about how you're helping the sales growth and margin management.
Your CEO is not interested in knowing the number of product training or how you are delivering your training and doesn't care whether its a webinar, classroom or eLearning.
Instead, you need to mention that you are training sales on managing margins by positioning your product better or providing value-added services.
OR, that you are training sales on account planning so that they can find other revenue streams within a large account.
OR better, how you are making money for the company through commercially offering your content.
Talk about how you are managing your own costs smartly.
Finally, You need to show to your CEO that you are cost sensitive.
I am amazed at how reluctant some learning managers are with regards to business model re-engineering, while their CEOs do that for a living.
You need to have a hard look at your current business model and answer some honest questions.
Do I need to have only classroom training?
Do I need to have only eLearnings or can I do with simple videos or webinars?
Do I need to hire eLearning resources in-house or can I outsource?
If, I outsource who can provide me the best price at the best quality?
Do I really need to create very interactive eLearning courses?
Do I really need a top consultant validating my thought about my own company?
Do I really need an LMS or I am buying one because that's what everybody else is doing?
These are hard questions and are business specific.
Your CEO doesn't need to know the answers to this but the bottom line is if you're not managing your costs sooner or later somebody else will do it for you and you might not have any say in it.
Finally, I believe that learning managers can reach to the top of their organizational charts if they focus on becoming business savvy rather than their pursuit of being learning savvy.