When dealing with leaders, it helps to keep in mind the old adage, "Don't tell: ask." With this in mind, another strategy some training and Organizational Development groups has used is to create a "Training Advisory Board" of company leaders. The purpose of this board is to get input and feedback on training needs and initiatives from the perspective of different departments, functions and levels within the organization. Having an advisory board helps you to include company leaders in your training and development decisions, which helps you gain commitment faster. You have allies and advocates who will work on your behalf to garner additional leadership commitment.
Include the CEO/President
In their book, Execution, Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy say "People are the link between business strategy and the realization of results." I would venture to say that most top executives know and believe this. The skill levels of their people determine how successfully they are able to execute the business strategies. So why don't they support training efforts more boldly? Could it be because no one asked them to? Or if they were asked, they weren't told how to show this support? Or they weren't aware of the impact training has on their goals for the organization?
In order ti get the kind of support you need, it is important to connect the impact your training will have to what they care most about- business outcomes that are crucial to the organization' success, such as financial results, profitability, Return on Equity, people satisfaction and retention, market expansion, customer loyalty or process improvement. Before you can effectively make this connection you must be clear on the company's business strategy. Below are some questions that will help you guide your thinking:
- What is the company's revenue growth goal?
- What new markets are on the radar screen?
- What new products/services are being introduced?
- What are the strategies regarding customers?
- What new technology is the company going to employ?
- What are the plans for achieving the organization's objectives?
- Do any of these plans, goals, objectives or strategies require people to do things differently than in the past?
- If so, do they have the right skills to do those things differently?
Present your development activities to the leadership as an organizational system that gets results. These results can be tied to improved performance, either through achieving the vision to improve profits or improving business processes to reduce costs.
Engage the Vice Presidents, Directors and Mid-Managers
Make it as easy as possible for the next level managers to commit and support your developmental initiatives. Once again, the language you use to garner support is important. Most of these folks don't care about competencies, skills or any of the other jargon used by training/OD. What they care about is how well the group or department will do in reaching goals set before them. To gain their commitment requires connecting the benefits of supporting the training initiatives and the subsequent change in behavior to achieving their desired results.
It is important to explore with them the ways they can support these initiatives. You can show them how you will provide them with the knowledge and tools they'll need to be able to effectively support their employees. This may include some additional training on how to coach. In some situations, if the current culture doesn't support coaching or reinforcement, then you will first have to gain buy-in that this change in culture - and their behavior - is critical to seeing the results they desire. Most importantly, they will need to see results and a return on their investment of time and energy.
Get Your Supervisors on Board
Because supervisors have the most interaction with those who perform the work of the organization, their involvement in reinforcing new behaviors is the most critical. What they do to reinforce and support the use of these new skills must be viewed by them as a way to make their jobs easier and their departments more successful. "Easy" is essential.
If you have any questions on how to engage leadership commitment to training, we can provide 30 years of insight.