Business is all about numbers, but numbers are always generated by people -- great people.
That's why professional development is such an important factor in the growth of any business -- yet with the constant pressure to perform this quarter, this month, today... professional development gets a lot less attention than it deserves.
So how can you make sure developing your people stays at the top of your business's list of objectives?
Good question -- and one Andy Lothian, co-founder and CEO of Insights Learning and Development, a global people development company, and the EY Entrepreneur for the Year for Scotland in 2016, is perfectly suited to answer.
In my thirty-year career, I've never seen a board room resolve not to invest in professional development because they don't care about people.
In fact, I've seen quite the opposite. Board members and senior executives are ready to invest in people development and training. Somewhere along the way, though, the hands of even the biggest advocates of people development become tied when they aren't able to show how it delivers business results.
The need to strengthen this connection doesn't appear to be lessening. A 2015 report published by Oxford Economics titled Workforce 2020 said, "It's always tough to motivate for HR money in any business. The board will not provide us with funds for something that's not clear."
Consider that perspective along with Deloitte's 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report: "60% of executives in this year believe they are holding HR accountable for talent and business results -- both a higher proportion than a year ago."
Holding dual roles as CEO and Head of People for a global learning and development company, Insights, I know how important it is to support HR and Talent leaders to garner internal support for the people development initiatives in their own organizations.
Here is what I consider the heart of my business case:
1. Personal breakthroughs enable business breakthroughs.
Among the many skills and types of knowledge we ask our people to demonstrate, it is their knowledge of themselves that truly has the power to multiply their own success and the success of their teams and organizations.
In 2013, a study by Korn Ferry analysts David Zes and Dana Landis titled A Better Return on Self-Awareness confirmed the "direct relationship between leader self-awareness and organizational financial performance" through an intensive multi-year study. Through analysis of the stock performance of 486 companies and administering 6,977 self-assessments to the professionals within those companies, the authors found that "public companies with a higher rate of return also employ professionals who exhibit higher levels of self-awareness."
It is this interconnectedness between the effectiveness of the individual, team and organization that warrant consideration of people development as a business essential.
2. People development underpins enterprise strategy.
Although most instances of people development or training are likely to yield some benefits, training for training's sake doesn't necessarily yield organizational success.
Rather, it is only talent development that is intrinsically tied to strategic business goals and an organization's purpose that is worth the financial lift.
David Vance, Executive Director for The Center for Talent Reporting says senior leaders need to "move away from thinking training is a cost to be minimized, to thinking it is an expense that can help achieve company goals." Similarly, Stephen Cohen, Founder and Principal for the Strategic Leadership Collaborative says, "the most effective leader development requires an organizational commitment to giving leaders the tools for success and ensuring alignment with business goals."
When HR and Talent leaders can show how people development initiatives support their organization's priorities and solve their most pressing issues, the conversations turn from "why do we need this?" to "when can we do this?", very quickly.
3. C-speak can help get you through to the C-suite.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, to change the perception of ambiguous and fluffy outcomes of people development initiatives HR leaders have to brush up on their C-speak.
This means they have to talk about what the C-suite cares about and present the information in the way they understand and want to engage with. Author and CEO of HR Capital Source Jac Fitz-enz said in his 2010 book titled The New HR Analytics: Predicting the Economic Value of Your Company's Human Capital Investments, "Talent managers' ability to maximize HR's value is now married to their ability to talk in understandable terms."
The heart of getting through to the C-suite is rooted in the same principles required of tailoring any message -- matching what you want to communicate with how your recipient prefers to receive it. This approach immediately changes the dynamic from asking for support to influencing the buy-in for a proposed solution.
People investment in today's business landscape is not just an HR interest. It's a philosophy, indeed it's an opportunity, that needs to be shared and owned by all business leaders. I firmly believe that when organizations are dedicated to unlocking their people's potential, the organization also unlocks its business potential.
The business-enabled growth of your people can be exceptionally rewarding to witness as well as delivering extraordinary results. Philanthropist Agha Hasan Abedi said it well when he wrote, "the conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work."