How to Be Ready for Your Big Budget Increase

Written by Bill Cushard | Feb 19, 2013 11:05:45 PM

You are in your CEO's office and she says to you, "I am happy to increase your training budget next year. But here's the catch. The training better be shorter, faster, and more targeted at our top three company goals than training you have delivered in the past. If you can do that, I hardly care how much it costs. Can you do that?"

Well, can you?

In a recent post, I wrote about three positive stats that recently came out about CEO plans to increase spending on training. The reports I referenced had three themes for which learning professions should be ready. First, CEOs are indicating that they plan to invest more in training in 2013 than they did in 2012. Second, cost is not a main factor in determining whether to invest in a training program. Third, CEOs want training to be shorter and faster.

Of course, it is all fine and good to know these stats. However, it is another thing entirely to know what actions to take in light of these themes. In other words, we must be able to answer the above question from our CEOs. There are three things you can do to prepare a good answer to the question above.

Target Your Budget to CEO Priorities

First of all, let's address the issue of planned increases in training budgets. Keep in mind that not every CEO will increase spending on training. In the study referenced, most CEOs say that they will increase training budgets, but just because CEOs say they will increase training, does not mean they actually will. So, you will need to decide, based on present circumstances in your industry and organization, whether your budget is likely to increase. However, if we assume that spending on training will increase in our organization, we should expect that CEOs are not just going to increase it. We still have to make the case for the increase.

In order to best make the case for getting your training budget increased, it is important to know what the CEO cares about most? You can bet your CEO cares most about one of these three things: growing the business, being more efficient, or making customers happier. Focusing our training efforts on helping to improve one or all of these three things will ensure that what we do is aligned with the corporate strategy, and it will make it easier for us to make our case for a budget increase.

Deliver it Faster...

A second issue we must address in our training programs is that we must deliver our programs faster than is traditionally acceptable. I have often cited the ASTD study that says the average amount of time it takes to develop one hour of training is just over 40 hours. If this is the case, it would take one person more than eleven months to develop a one week training program. I am pretty sure, you do not have that kind of time. In order to deliver the training our organizations needs, we need to speed up the process.

One way to speed up the process is to use an e-learning authoring tool. An authoring tool like Mindflash can speed up the development process by empowering you to use content you already have to create training courses. Second, instead of taking all that time the develop an entire one week training program, you should develop it in small sections and continuously release new courses over a period of one to twelve months. So instead of your stakeholders waiting for eleven months to finally see your training course, you give them a series of stand-alone chunks of that program every two to four weeks, so they see a continuous stream of work coming out of your team.

Not only will you be adding value to the business by delivering the training it needs, but you will look like a highly productive team because you are continuously releasing relevant courses.

...and in Less Time

A third issue related to speed is that CEOs say they want training in shorter bursts. They do not want to send people to multi-day training sessions away from the office. The opportunity costs are too great. CEOs want shorter training that is more effective. I know, this kind of talk sends learning and development professionals through the roof, but this is our reality today. It seems impossible, but there are ways to design learning experiences in shorter bursts, that take into account your audience's time constraints, and have the training be quite effective.

In a broad sense, a variety of blended learning approaches can be used to accomplish this, if you are willing to be creative and try something new. Overwhelmingly people are too busy to attend traditional training programs, and any experienced training professional, who has repeatedly rescheduled training, knows what I mean. It is time to starting thinking about how to break up training programs into shorter bursts that people can take with minimal impact to their daily work schedules.

Your Increased Budget...With a Catch

In order to take advantage of potential increased investments in training, with the caveat that the training needs to be faster, shorter, and more effective, we need to focus on narrow objectives that help the business achieve its goals. If we can do that, we have a fighting chance to get more of the resources we need, but also to directly impact the top goals of our organizations. Anything else is superfluous.

Is your budget increasing? If so, what are you doing to prepare for the increase? If your budget is not increasing, how do you plan to deliver what the organization needs from you in 2013? Comment below with your stories.

Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technology (HPT) leader with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Allonhill. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.