Here are a few tips to bolster entry into the C-suite:
Learning is not a dumping ground. First, raise hiring standards for the learning function to include a requirement that people have sufficient business acumen, or for junior hires, have the capacity to quickly acquire a thorough understanding of the business. Use this standard to screen out poor performers who the business units try to dump into your learning group. Professional credentials, successful work experience and functional expertise earn a rotation in the learning group — nothing less.
Accounting knows best. Meet with the finance and accounting groups and ask them where out-of-line costs are. Ask their opinions on what needs to change and who to work with to get costs in line with business plans. Then be proactive with those business units to discuss and determine if learning can help better control costs. If the answer is yes, negotiate and implement an appropriate initiative to do just that, with stakeholder backing direct from finance or, even better, the CFO.
Work where the money is. By observing where executive management spends its money over time, you can gain an understanding of an organization’s true priorities. Similarly, mapping learning resources to support those priorities is usually a smart way to operate.
Push organizational financial literacy. The best way to increase the financial acumen of learning staff is to develop a program to increase the financial acumen of all employees. Executive management is interested in increasing employee understanding of how the company makes money and seeing that understanding as a real impact on the capabilities of the workforce. For the learning team, driving financial literacy has the benefit of building the team’s financial acumen while building program content.
Suppress the whining. Even as you’re doing all of the above, it’s likely that getting to the table won’t happen overnight. Building a good reputation with management usually takes time. While that is happening, consistently remind learning staff that better times are coming. Whining now about unrealistic project time frames or budgets turns stakeholders off and won’t increase the speed with which you get to the table. Encourage staff to look and think ahead to spot stakeholders’ future needs and to be proactive where possible so learning has a better shot at getting realistic resources to do its job.
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