Do You Speak To Your CEO About Training?

Learning And Development Professionals: Do You Talk With Your CEO About Training?

We often hear company CEOs say “our employees are our most valuable assets”. If that is indeed the case, CEOs should have direct input and oversight into employee training. It is that simple. Employees deserve direct CEO input into employee development. This includes contributing to a learning culture that promotes formal and informal training programs. An employee’s ability to easily learn, share information, and collaborate is critical to employee engagement.

CEOs set company long-term strategy and short-term goals. However, it will be employees that will execute against this strategy and these goals. Assuming the strategy is sound, it is the speed and quality of execution that will determine CEO, and therefore organizational, success. CEOs have a direct responsibility and interest to ensure that employees are equipped with the skills to succeed.

One example of a company that is taking Learning and Development seriously is AT&T. Here is an extract from a New York Times article in February 2016:

Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and chief executive, is trying to reinvent the company so it can compete more deftly…AT&T’s competitors are not just Verizon and Sprint, but also tech giants like Amazon and Google. For the company to survive in this environment, Mr. Stephenson needs to retrain its 280,000 employees so they can improve their coding skills, or learn them, and make quick business decisions based on a fire hose of data coming into the company.

Mr Stephenson has told AT&T employees “There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop”. People who do not spend five to ten hours a week in online learning, he added, “will obsolete themselves with the technology.”. Here is an example of a CEO who  knows the importance of continuous learning to close skill gaps.

Have You Talked To Your CEO About Training And Asked Them Directly For Input And Guidance?

I would encourage anyone responsible for company Learning and Development to get your CEO’s input whether that be directly or through other channels. If you have not done so, I think in most cases you will be pleasantly surprised at their response. CEOs are busy people who have many competing demands for their time, but by asking a direct question you will require a CEO to think about the importance of employee training. To be truly effective, Learning and Development professionals need to understand organizational strategy, and create processes that quickly adapt to evolving market conditions.

Here are some objectives for starting a dialogue with your CEO:

  • Develop a clear understanding of company priorities and how training can support these priorities.
  • Identify specific audiences that would benefit most from training.
  • Understand the skills gaps from the CEO’s perspective and help to inform that perception with supporting data.
  • Agree with timelines and KPIs.

Ask them what they see as critical skills to organizational success, ask where they see weaknesses or opportunities to upskill, to capture the benefits of future trends that are impacting your industry. Choices about what to keep, remove, or add to bring learning activities in line with business priorities should not be made in isolation. Companies have different resources and not every company will be able to establish a corporate university. However, company leaders no longer have a reason not to make learning easily available to employees anytime and anywhere. The cost of training has decreased significantly in recent years. It is the responsibility of those charged with Learning and Development to present options and clearly link Learning and Development programs to business objectives.

Importance Of Learning Programs Being Supported By Senior Staff

It’s difficult to overstate the significance of CEO involvement in driving support for corporate learning programs. Learning cannot be a standalone function it must be integrated with the overall goals of the company. Of all the responsibilities, prioritizing the development of their employees provides one of the biggest returns. Making sure that the culture is strong, that people are learning, and that they know we’re investing in them every day is always ROI positive.

A CEO that becomes a champion, participant, and representative for their training functions will find that by elevating employee performance, the performance of the entire company will naturally follow, and strategic company goals are more likely to be achieved.

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