Training & Learning

Need to Defend Your 2021 Training Budget? Here are the Best Arguments.

To say the world has changed a lot in 2020 would be an understatement. 

Now, with the second round of lockdown coming into effect in Europe, the US elections, and Pfizer announcing a potential vaccine, the future has never felt quite so uncertain.

For managers preparing to lift their team’s performance in 2021, this creates a real challenge.

Most CFOs and finance teams will prepare for uncertainties by tightening budgets for the next year, when the opposite is what you need. So now more than ever, you need to defend your training budget. How can you make sure you have enough resources to equip and train your teams to meet all the challenges 2021 has in store? 

To get your training budget and exec buy-in, you need a clear set of priorities. More importantly, you need to know your non-negotiables, because one thing is certain: in most companies, training managers will be asked to do more with less.

This makes training resources more of a strategic issue for managers than ever before. Setting your priorities and picking your battles is a prerequisite for negotiations with your finance team, and is crucial to securing the resources you need. 

You need to know your non-negotiables, because one thing is certain: in most companies, training managers will be asked to do more with less.

Here are the three non-negotiables I see for every company in 2021:

  1. Focus on operational training: The significant ups and downs and acceleration of business in 2020 make it critical to focus on operational training. This helps your company adapt to new challenges.
  2. Rise to the challenges of a new work culture: With the working environment changing at such a rapid pace, leadership training must focus on ensuring an efficient and balanced workplace culture - especially the impacts of remote working on health and wellbeing. 
  3. Adapt to new content consumption habits: The ways employees consume content have fundamentally changed - training content and formats need to catch up to this shift to remain relevant and effective. This can be done through Collaborative Learning.

Let’s look at these three priorities in more detail.

1. Focus on operational training

The current crisis is changing markets, and is having major effects on the competitive landscape. Companies everywhere are undergoing major transformations, and every part of your company’s operations must adapt. We need to find new ways of selling and communicating, including replacing existing suppliers, manufacturing new and different products, changing your product and market positioning and more.

For managers, meeting this challenge means focusing more on operational training. This requires creating and distributing the right content quickly and more often. 

Most hard-won knowledge and operational expertise live within your company. To speed up training content creation, training managers must collaborate more effectively with internal subject-matter-experts with new tools and systems. This is a great reason to put operational training at the heart of company learning investments in 2021.

2. Rise to the challenges of a new work culture

Most companies realized in the middle of this year that effective remote work takes more than just moving everything from physical to digital. It calls for a completely new way of working, and a new company culture: a new way to manage, a new way to organize your day, your teams, and your communications. Managers can no longer rely on work hours in the office to determine someone’s productivity or check in on her team’s well-being during lunch or coffee breaks. 

Micro-management is no longer an option. Effectively managing a team in the remote era means negotiating clear performance objectives and result assessments. This might sound tough, but for your employees, it’s a welcome change. Getting this right takes a high degree of transparency and trust, with a long list of adaptations and adjustments on both sides.

Most importantly, managers must help employees better manage stress and work-life balance while working from home with the uncertainty and fear around the pandemic. Employees will also need help with new remote tools. This new work culture calls for a whole category of training, with specific topics such as setting performance objectives, leading teams remotely, managing stress, leading by example, and building trust. This is a must, but also a rare opportunity to change your corporate culture, attract and retain the best talent, and improve your team’s performance.

3. Adapt to new content consumption habits with Collaborative Learning

Working in confinement has been a pain for a lot of people. But it has also changed the way people use social media and consume content. In a post-pandemic world, how can we expect that our old-school, top-down training still works? 

It’s no surprise that while working from home, most people multitask and do several things at the same time. Your employees’ attention is on their kids, the TV, the laundry. We’re more distracted than usual. Sticking to top-down training is not only ineffective but a missed opportunity to create a better social experience for your team to strengthen their sense of cohesion and identity outside of their usual meetings and to-dos. This is crucial in keeping morale and team spirit up in the new normal.

Old training formats don’t stand a chance against Netflix and Spotify in capturing your learners’ attention. Instead, we need to reinvent workplace training around a collaborative mix of micro-content, asynchronous exchange spaces, and creative activities. In short, we need new collaborative learning platforms designed to cater for these training needs and deliver people-driven, engaging learning experiences.

Secure your training budget to get ready for 2021 

These three priorities - operational training, new work culture, and collaborative learning - will be at the heart of all great training strategies in 2021. How you choose to take them into account, and the weight you give to each, will depend on your markets, company culture, and organization. 

No matter how hard I look, I don’t see how any company could ignore the coming storm: the acceleration of operational changes, the long-overdue revolutions in corporate culture, and the need to respond to these challenges with adapted online training. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. If you need help defending your training budget, we can help too. Get in touch with our team and let them know you came from this article.