Do More With Less
Management & Mindset

Doing More with Less: How to Preserve Your L&D Budget by Proving Your Impact

As the economy is changing, boards, CEOs, and CFOs are becoming more cautious with cash and spend. We’re all asked to ‘do more with less.’ It’s happening right now–and we all need to adjust to keep up. 

So, what do these changes mean for HR, Talent, and Learning teams? With leadership scrutinizing company spending more than ever, your budgets will naturally be challenged. You need to show how you’ve re-assessed your strategy, priorities, and budgets when it comes to developing the learning and skills your organization needs to thrive.

This is something we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. In this article, we hope to provide some guidance on preserving your L&D budget by proving your impact to your company leadership and showing exactly how you’re doing more with less. 

Let’s get started with the three core pillars of every great learning and talent strategy.

The three pillars of every great learning and talent strategy

Doing more with less means getting strategic with your budget and proving exactly how your L&D investments are solving the key skills challenges facing your business. We believe every great learning and talent strategy can be divided into three core pillars: 

  1. Mandatory training. This consists of everything that absolutely needs to be delivered to your learners, including but not limited to compliance training and other industry fundamentals. As always, your priority should be to deliver quality training on the lowest possible budget.
  2. Closing the skill gap. The talent market is always in flux. Some jobs are becoming redundant while others are in demand, and it’s our job to navigate this market to ensure our organization has the skills we need to thrive. How much money could you save if instead of layoffs and new cost per hire you could reskill people into a new job? And what kinds of efficiencies could you achieve without having to onboard new hires to fit these roles? 
  3. Enabling company performance with expert-led academies. A lot of L&D and skills leaders are submerged with requests from business unit leaders to train and retrain the workforce in order to drive better performance. It’s your job as L&D leaders to prioritize these requests and work with others to demonstrate how you will make a meaningful impact on key business metrics, including production efficiencies and outputs. As skills leaders, you also need to consider whether having an overloaded L&D team is resulting in missed opportunities to build the capabilities you need to thrive.

By articulating your learning and skills priorities according to these three pillars, you can tie costs to real and tangible benefits, showing your stakeholders how you plan to do more with less. This way, you can sell your talent strategy to your CFO, CEO, and board. 

Now, let’s get into the details.

Need some help defending your L&D budget? Show exactly how you’re doing more with less with our free cheat sheet.

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L&D budget conversation? Nail it with these talking points.

1. Mandatory training

In general, there are two kinds of mandatory training. 

First, there’s the training your company needs to complete to remain compliant with industry standards. For example, you might need to schedule mandatory health and safety training for warehouse employees, or training in data protection practices for your teams handling and storing client data.  

Second, there’s the training you need to deliver to keep your business operational. For example, when someone is promoted to a manager position, they need training in how to manage a team’s performance. If they don’t receive this training, constructive feedback is less likely to be passed on to team members, contributing to lower team performance. This is money. In some cases, omitting this training will also lead to high levels of team stress, and burnouts of high potential individuals. 

So, how can you optimize your delivery of this mandatory training? Let’s look at the specific tasks involved here.

Organizing training sessions involves managing rooms or virtual sessions, sending invitations, monitoring attendance, tracking certification expiration dates, and re-enrolling people to new sessions when certificates expire. It also means making sure rooms and trainers are not double-booked, or re-organizing a session when a trainer cancels at the last minute. It might also involve resources like booking a flight simulator engine–or simply a video projector :).

First, you can lower costs by automating all of that. If you’re currently doing this with spreadsheets, you can shift it to software that will let you automate a lot of the busy work. Doing so you will free resources that can be invested elsewhere where they are going to be more impactful.

Second, you can optimize your sessions. Just like airplane companies optimize their planes to increase the margin per passenger, you can optimize the sessions to minimize the cost per person. Specifically, you can optimize trainer agendas, room agendas, and use algorithms to fill sessions in the most efficient way. You can also manage the community of trainers and prioritize those who have the experience you need while still staying cost-efficient. 

Next up, the second pillar of every great learning strategy: closing the skills gap.

2. Closing the skill gap

Self-paced learning is nice. People love it, and it leads to much higher employee engagement. But here’s the thing: if it doesn’t serve company goals, it’s a total waste of time.  

So, how can you design self-paced learning and cohort-based programs so that they serve your company goals? And how can you design this to be measurable and impactful in the eyes of your CEO and CFO?

Consider this situation: some jobs in your industry are becoming redundant (for example, cashiers), while others are in higher demand than ever (for example, BDRs). In this case, rather than making cashiers redundant and hiring more BDRs, you could consider the option of reskilling instead. After all, a cashier might have 60% of the skills of a BDR–not to mention a fundamental familiarity with company culture and best practices.  

When proving your impact to company leadership, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the cost of letting someone go? 
  • How much does it cost to hire someone new? 
  • How long will it take to hire someone new? And how much revenue will be lost due to this delay in hiring? 

To face this situation and close the skills gap, software tools can map out your company’s skills and keep that map up-to-date automatically, tying these skills to job titles. Then, this technology will identify jobs that are becoming redundant because the skills are no longer needed, and screen these against open job positions. You can leverage all kinds of data, from LinkedIn profiles, to manager’s manual inputs and self-declared skills.

Now, you can solve the skills problem. Instead of making some positions redundant and hiring for others, you can foster internal mobility by offering reskilling programs, pushing training recommendations, and other tailored learning experiences to close the skills gap.

By automating these processes, you can build a big-picture understanding of your workforce's skills and reskill opportunities. Once you have this, you can start to take advantage of these opportunities by providing the right learning support at the right time. 

And now the third pillar of every great learning strategy: offering training to enable better company performance.

3. Enabling company performance

Most L&D teams we talk to are overwhelmed with requests to train operational teams in order to increase their performance. 

They might be training a sales team on a new product, introducing factory workers to a new machine, or providing a customer success team with the latest batch of industry insights. The list goes on. 

In all cases, there is a business benefit. And as L&D and talent leaders, it’s our job to prioritize these. After all, you can’t deliver every single training request that comes your way: you have to analyze them to define the expected impact, and show why it’s worthwhile to invest precious budget in pursuit of crucial skills. If you’re not convinced a training request is worthwhile, you need to push back.

Addressing competing learning needs on a tight budget can be challenging–but there is a way through. Modern L&D teams have developed the capability to ship expert-led academies (what Josh Bersin calls a “Capability Academy”) in no time and with minimum effort. These academies can be based on functional area or topical and are places where learners can benefit from internal expertise and gain the skills they need to advance within an organization.

With a learning platform that makes it easy to connect peers and experts, you can create and manage academies (with fully customized branded homepages) where you can curate the right mix of internally-built courses with off-the-shelf courses. This way, you can help your teams develop the right skills and capabilities to drive better business outcomes in a competitive market, all without breaking the bank.

Here’s how it works in four steps:

  1. First, understand the needs by surveying members and leadership. Learners declare training needs and fellow learners can refine the need and ask questions. You can then compare the number of impacted learners and effectively prioritize the learning. Like a product manager looks at a feature request, you’re looking at a training request.
  2. Second, find the right experts and work alongside them to develop training for the most in-demand skills. Instead of doing this in Zoom meetings, through emails or multiple documents, you can work efficiently within our platform. You’ll set deadlines with built-in follow-ups, notifications, and a visual overview of all your projects to make sure they ship on time. 
  3. Third, ensure quality and control the content. Co-create the program with your subject-matter experts, assign reviewers to provide feedback on their work and approve the content when it’s ready to launch. 
  4. Now, it’s time to ship! Feature these programs (either cohort-based or self-paced) in your academy page hub, and watch your teams engage.

Drive better performance–even when budgets are tight

In this article, we’ve outlined a framework to help you pitch your CFO a vision for talent and learning that will: 

  • Optimize the cost of all mandatory training
  • Save costs in layoffs and hirings and foster internal mobility by identifying opportunities to reskill talented employees in roles that have become redundant and making your skills training more efficient
  • Enable your L&D team to analyze, prioritize, and recommend the right selection of incoming training requests according to expected business impact, leading to greater productivity and a more efficient learning experience

With our help, you can develop a learning strategy that points your organization in the right direction. You can thank us later ;)

Interested in finding out more about how to drive impactful learning when budgets are tight? Have a chat with one of our learning experts to see how we can help. 

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To see how leading companies are doing more with less by pursuing their vision for learning, read how Murex scaled their knowledge-sharing by engaging over 400 in-house experts, and how Safran drove over 136,000 hours of training in just one year by upskilling from within.