Learning & Development is a vital function for any business whose priority is its people. It is after all the people in a business who drive business success. Our CEO, Obinnia Abajue, recently spoke on a panel at the Learning & Development Leaders Conference on the topic: Learning Strategies That Always Win The CEO’s Support.
A key highlight of his remarks was that L & D leaders should find themselves on their company’s income sheet. The valuable work that they do should be able to either grow the revenues of the company or reduce the costs of the company.
The panel featured a number of other CEOs including Segun Akintemi of Page International; James Agada of CWG Plc; Adesimbo Ukiri of Avon Healthcare; and Temitayo Ogunbanjo of Aexgen Energy. The panel was moderated by Bolaji Olagunju, CEO of Workforce Group, conveners of the conference.
This piece will be a digest of the tips shared by all the CEOs except where we indicate Obinnia’s own tips.
On finding affordable ways to train people
Find the cheapest way to achieve the most impact. There are quite a few paths to L&D that aren’t necessarily driven by much funding. If you can focus on the long term objectives of the firm and those of the CEO’s as well, you’ll be well on your way.
Also, are your strategies aligned to what the younger workforce wants or needs? If they aren’t, fix it. Millennial colleagues do not necessarily want or need the trappings of a classroom environment. You should be able to craft a learning plan that satisfies the business’ goals and the preferred learning styles of your people.
If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and not getting the results you’d like, you should go out on a limb and try new things.
Obinnia says “If you have no money, be creative and change how you train people. Putting people in new roles and having them do new activities is a form of training.” He also advised L&D leaders to be pragmatic and understand where their business is going. He strongly emphasised the value of communicating with your CEO and being present and actively supportive. He asked the audience, “Are you part of your CEO’s warm blanket?”
Speaking up is vital because when things get tough, people talk to the people that are already talking to them. Again, are you part of your CEO’s warm blanket? Most people are constantly searching or open to advice, even your CEOs.
Obinnia averred that L&D leaders may need to change how they behave if they are to grow. He says:
– If I don’t know what to train people on, I won’t spend on it
– You should demonstrate the value of previous trainings per individual
– Make me convinced that ROI shows more often than not
– Bridge the gap between the priorities of your CEO and your focus as an L & D manager
To the question: What should be the deliverables of L&D be for it to be strategic?
A common answer from the CEOs was to develop a growth and succession pipeline aligned to the business’ growth trajectory. This must be aimed at delivering people that can make the plans happen.
L&D leaders should be able to use the past to define the present in preparation for the future. They should be able to provide guidance to CEOs on how to assess and enhance emerging talent in their organsations.
Obinnia advocated for the L&D practitioners to “find themselves on the income statement of the company”. Is what you’re doing increasing the revenue line or reducing the cost line? Knowing this and communicating it is what puts you in the game. Employees that have gotten a productivity or efficiency boost from L&D initiatives rarely attribute their improved performance to those initiatives. It is the responsibility of the L&D responsible to highlight these to the CEO.
Know your CEO
A crucial aspect to getting anyone’s support is to be able to understand their frame of reference and tailor your message to that. For every CEO, if you start your conversation with how you can boost revenue or reduce cost you get their full attention.
CEOs also need you to understand the culture, the individuals, the future of the business and be seen to share this understanding with others. Let the CEO see that you have a finger on the pulse of the company.
You should also be relevant to not only the CEO but also the other executives. Building a reputation for being proactive will help you get support across the C Suite.
Listen and talk. Working in learning and development is not a desk job, it’s a people job. When you have the confidence of the people and are able to curate the insights for your CEO, you can speak effectively.
Speaking up is essential as no one knows what you’re thinking if you don’t say it. Contribute when you are present and have something meaningful to add not just when you are asked. That’s how to become active participants in the strategy crafting system
How to influence your boss
If you are committed to working with your boss, improve how you communicate. Some do not talk much so you should watch their actions to determine their priorities. Others are more vocal and you should listen.
Also, help your HR head shine so you can shine. In many cases, you may not have a chance to pitch directly to the CEO and have to rely on your direct boss to do it. Build your boss up and arm them with useful information. If you’re the star in their team, you’ll get more influence on what gets done than others.