Written by VP Legacies and Andrea Maliska

Getting buy-in from upper management on any new tool can be a challenge. That challenge becomes even more difficult when you’re introducing a foreign concept to your business like online learning.

Online learning is still making its way into businesses and being recognized as an effective way to onboard new clients, scale employee training, and retain customers. So how do you prove to executives why it matters and how it will help business?

Here are some steps to keep in mind:

  • Identifying business challenges online learning could help with
  • Developing baselines by which you’ll measure success
  • Building your business plan
  • Crafting an argument focused on ROI
  • Pitching it as a pilot
  • Evaluating after implementing

Identifying challenges online learning can solve

There has to be a business reason, something that’s not working or could be improved to consider making a change. For example, if the staff is having a hard time adhering to certain policies, what’s the impact those policy violations are having on your business? Is it costing your company money or time? And could some extra education around the issue help?

That’s where you need to start taking baseline readings.

Finding baselines to set success measures

Now that you’ve identified the purpose online learning could serve for your business, take some time to gather data. Depending on the purpose, you’ll want to look at staff time currently spent on a particular task, the dollar amount that time translates to, how much money or how many customers you are losing because of this issue, what your current budget is, and what company goals can you can tie online learning to.

Another approach to finding baselines would be to survey your intended audience, whether that’s staff or customers. What’s their experience like so far? What would they like to see to better understand a policy, concept, product, or service? Later, after you’ve implemented a tool, you can conduct the same surveys and compare the results.

Build your business plan

You’ve identified a business need, gathered data, set success measures, and now comes the actual plan. Begin with the end in mind. Your business plan should address the pain points you’re solving for by using online learning. Follow that up with describing the impact you expect to see after introducing e-learning.

The plan should be simple and to the point. It should detail who’s going to be involved, the resources you need to accomplish it, the expected timeline, any potential risks, and it should be delivered with conviction. You can have a well thought-out plan, but if you’re not excited about, how are others expected to be?

Craft an argument focused on ROI

Upper management is going to want to know, what’s the bottom line? How is the investment in an online learning platform going to save the company money in the long-run? This is where some of your earlier steps in gathering baselines and developing success measures will come in.

Besides saving the company money, there are other considerations like:

  • Saving time
  • Reduction in support hours
  • More efficient processes
  • Reduced attrition
  • Number of deals closed before training vs. after

Of course, many of the above translate to money saved, but if you can explain how much manpower is currently wasted on a particular effort, or how many more deals you’ll close as a result of better education around a product or service, your argument becomes that much stronger.

Pitch it as a pilot

Online learning tools can be a major investment both in time and money, which may result in weariness about implementing something of this scale.

So try easing stakeholders into the idea by pitching it as a pilot. Start small with an area of the business where you can easily measure online learning’s impact, and ideally, see quick results. You might even be able to prove the effectiveness of online learning without yet buying a tool.

There are plenty of low-cost ways to create training videos, surveys, and host webinars. If these aren’t already part of your business strategy and your company needs more convincing, starting with one of these options might be a good way to prove the need for and usefulness of an online learning platform.

Evaluate after implementing

If you’ve gone through all these steps and successfully convinced management to invest in an online learning platform, congratulations. That’s no easy feat. But the buck doesn’t stop there. After implementation, it’s critical to continue to gather feedback that hopefully proves e-learning was a good investment.

Some questions to think about when evaluating are:

  • What’s different now than before the online learning platform?
  • How has productivity increased?
  • Has the company saved money?
  • Has your employee and customer turnover decreased?
  • How satisfied are staff and/or customers with the tool/the overall experience?

This is where you need to look back at your baselines and success measures and evaluate whether or not online learning has had the intended impact on your business. And after you’ve evaluated, share out your successes. The truth of the matter is, some will still be unconvinced that e-learning is the best path forward. The more you can communicate your wins, the more management will continue to buy-in.

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