Proving Value in the Face of Flat External Training Spend



Does one of your biggest challenges as a training supplier stem from flat organizational spend on external training? If you haven’t felt the squeeze yet, consider that L&D professionals have cited lack of budgetary resources as their top challenge in 2018.


According to’s survey of L&D departments in the U.S., one key differentiator of top performing departments, regardless of industry or size, is their close relationship with senior executives and their commitment to measuring the ROI of corporate learning. Unsurprisingly, these departments were most likely to hold more days of training per employee and oversee the largest budgets. As competition between training suppliers escalates in the face of static spend, how can you stand out from the competition and simultaneously help training buyers champion their investment with you?


Small learning budget, big budget role


Consultative-selling is already an established practice for training suppliers. Taking this a step further by asking deeper questions about how external training is tied to business impact and offering empowering advice could pay dividends. By helping L&D professionals craft a compelling message to senior leadership that external training is a business-driver, you will not only build trust, but become a catalyst for increasing training spend.

If your resources – understandably – don’t allow you to offer this level of consultation for small accounts, consider a more scalable approach. Inbound marketers might use a “lesson-based nurture” strategy, in which you would send short videos or email tips through automation over a period of time.

In this case, you could film informal videos with tips from your senior leadership on demonstrating the value of training, or send a series of blog post tips on collecting and presenting impact stories from freshly trained staff members. If you are a smaller training supplier and this still sounds beyond reach, consider including free, helpful guides, infographics and videos created by industry leaders on showing ROI to help light the spark.


The right questions help share what success looks like


If you’re not already asking what would make your training session considered a success, start. If your client says they’ll be measuring your program based on participation or positive learner evaluations, push back. “The added value learning provides to business can only be solidly proven in the application of knowledge, skills, or reengagement on the job,” according to Jack Phillips, PhD, Chairman of the ROI Institute. Helping to measure how the organization will be positively impacted after your training is the first step to elevating the value of the education you provide, and will set clients on the right path to prizing that value.


Ask to speak to a manager

Many training suppliers request a phone call or meeting with managers who will oversee the employees after their training. Managers are the biggest influence on individuals using learning on the job, according to Phillips, which is why he recommends learning professionals consult with managers to ensure business impact after the training and calibrate your program based on the day-today business challenges of participants. When managers feel like they have a stake in the training you provide, they’ll be keen to encourage employees to use what they’ve learned, and also happy to report success and act as an ally in requesting more training budget from top management to help them meet their objectives.


Help your client own their success

Help your training buyers become heros in their organization by empowering them to take well-earned credit for positive outcomes that stem from the supplier they won budget for and chose.

At BPS World, an international recruitment company and winner of the HR Excellence Awards’ Best L&D Strategy in 2017, “when we have had a successful quarter, there will be a number of people that try to ‘own’ that success” says Jo Rapley, People and Culture Manager. “We therefore set clear objectives at the start of any program. Participants are asked to keep a learning log of how learning has had an impact on their job, team, or business and it’s collated when calculating ROI,” says Rapley. By simply suggesting something like a “learning log” to participants on your training, the manager you speak with, and your client, you could help them create a clear link between training and business impact. If underwhelming corporate learning budgets are a challenge for your company, consider building trust, empowering your clients, and increasing budgets by making a compelling case for the business impact of your training.


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Picture of Abby C. Guthrie
Abby C. Guthrie