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5 Ways to Defend Your Training Budget


Mon Oct 08 2018

5 Ways to Defend Your Training Budget

Forty-nine percent of companies surveyed said their training budgets stayed the same year over year.

How do you feel about those chances? When it comes to budget planning and expectations, some may play it safe. The result: Your training budget may become an easy target for trimming in a competitive budget environment. Whatever your goal is, embrace it with vigor and ask for what you really need.

As a talent development professional, you face challenges when it comes to defending your budget. One, of course, is the difficulty of providing a clear dollar value based on an agreed-on return on investment metric. That’s not always possible, but when it is, meaningful ROI data should be at the top of your budget defense checklist.


Here are five ideas to consider before it’s time to defend your budget.

1. Keep your training program fresh

We’re surrounded by trends, new ideas, the next best thing. Steer clear of buzzwords and fad ideas with little promise of staying power. Learning and development is an innovative category filled with promise. From new inroads in e-learning to dynamic in-person workshops, your program can benefit from keeping the best of what you offer now and blending it with new, exciting ways to motivate and engage learners.

2. Design clear performance metrics

You believe in training. Your passion for developing the talent of those who participate in your programs is real. So you know that dollar metrics never tell the whole story. Focus on what your evidence does show. What is the rate of promotion that can be attributed to or associated with training? What is the level of knowledge that has been carried over by the learner to their job? How have managers evaluated learners’ performance pre- and post-training?

3. Anticipate questions

Budget presentations should be a two-way conversation. To be prepared, take an honest accounting of your program’s performance over the last year. Review what your program promised at last year’s budget presentation. How has the training program stood up against promises given and expectations raised? If there has been an obvious problem, don’t leave it to leadership to raise the point. Bringing it up yourself demonstrates your own dedication to making adjustments to ensure meeting the company’s expectations.

4. Capture and share learner feedback

Testimonials are powerful. Take the chance to step back and let your program’s results shine through the words and stories of learners. This is a way to personalize the value of training. One idea is to have learners submit a brief video clip of their impressions of what specific training meant to them and their job performance. Putting those smartphones to work on your program’s behalf creates vignettes you can use to break the tedium of a budget presentation or slide deck—and let the budget value speak for itself.


5. Walk the walk

What makes a talent development team stronger? Training, of course. Showing your own commitment to improving your skills, keeping up to date on industry issues, and learning how to perform your job at a higher level makes a convincing statement. Rallying support for the notion that everyone can benefit from additional training is made easier when your team has itself taken advantage of development funds to invest in their own learning.

There are other challenges worth noting when it comes to defending your training budget, and both require looking at training from a leadership/company point of view.

Navigating Organizational Change

What goes around doesn’t always come around. Employees in management occupations have a median tenure of just over six years. Last year’s budget presentation audience may have moved on. Being aware of and responding to changing personnel and priorities is savvy budget management. A change in the organizational structure or management roster can create new opportunities to put forward training ideas that didn’t have support in the past. This leads to the next training budget challenge: aligning to the company’s strategic goals.

Whether a program or course is an old favorite or a hot new item, it still needs to be aligned with company needs. You’ve likely heard the question raised in past budget meetings: “Do we really need this?” It is much easier to answer with a confident “yes” when the program in question clearly develops employee skills that achieve a direct positive benefit for the company.

Above all, be sure to use all of the resources allocated in your current budget. Leaving unused budget on the table means someone in your company missed an opportunity to improve their performance.


View the ATD Fall/Winter course catalog and arrange the right training to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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