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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Business Value of eLearning - Elevator Pitches Needed

April 2008's Big Question was What would you like to do better as a Learning Professional?

The responses to this question were quite varied. It was interesting to see that the first two responses both dealt with selling the business value of eLearning.

Shaun tells us:
I need to be able to sell the ROI on learning better. and
How can I better impress the value of eLearning across the organization?
And from his post, its clear he's not unsophisticated around it. Jay Cross will tell you to forget ROI, but I'm not so sure that you can dismiss the notion that you have to explain the business value of what you are doing ahead of it in order to sell it in the organization.

Michael says pretty much the same thing:
Really improve my "elevator pitch" to really convince sceptical behind-the-curve C-level executives that learning and development initiatives are actually going to grow their business, not send it into a Hindenburg-like crash and burn.
I really wonder if we can't help Michael out a bit by suggesting elevator pitches. There's no single right answer here, but seeing a few examples would be good. So ...
What do you say in your organization or to your clients that help explain the business value of eLearning?

In other words, what's your elevator pitch?


Anonymous said...

Everyone in the organization is trying to pitch the CEO on their program. Is it any wonder they put on a bland smile and disappear behind hooded eyes when they hear yours?

Rather than trying to sell eLearning, ask your CEO what keeps him or her up at night. Examine the key business problems facing the company and propose learning solutions that are targeted toward solutions. Forget about eLearning on its own a look at the all the delivery options. In order to move the big rocks on the problem you'll likely need a blended approach.

If you stay focused on solving business issues and delivering results the CEO won't care about ROI on delivery methods, he or she will trust your judgment on the best way to use training to solve problems.

Tom Haskins said...

Tony: here's a pitch that may be more for PLE's than eLearning:

When learning happens without the formal delivery content, it's out of management's control. What we get in exchange for letting go is learners with the curiosity to find what they personally need online, the motivation to pursue their search for as long as it takes, the timing to get it when they are about to really use it and the responsibility to see it all the way through to practicing it reflectively.

Anonymous said...

Tom, I agree completely with you.

A.G. Lafley (CEO of P&G) said “The power is with the consumer. Consumers are beginning, in a very real sense, to own our brands and participate in their creation. We need to begin to learn to let it go…”

It is interesting to reframe the quote in terms of employment brands: "The power is with the employees. Employees are beginning, in a very real sense, to own our employment brands and participate in their creation. We need to begin to learn to let it go…"

Letting go also has the side benefit of giving employees more control and flexibility in designing their own career paths at companies -- something I see is important to younger colleagues at our firm.

Cathy Aboud said...

I agree with Phil

Grabbing the C-level's attention really involves making sure you are answering a concern of theirs. This may mean not even using the word "learning".

I recommend starting with a statement that grabs their attention eg we have a solution that can cut costs by X amount or we can increase staff skills which will increase profit while cutting costs. (Of course, the opening statement would depend on what is keeping the C-level up at night.)

The statement needs to be short and succinct and enough for them to open the "hooded eyes" so that they ask a question or want more information

The key to the elevator speech is to put it in terms of the listener, not your concerns or needs. Sometimes learning is seen as that "warm fluffy thing" and the more successful L&D practitioners are those that can discuss it so that it addresses the C-level's concerns.

Tom Haskins said...

Michael: If "letting go" becomes a cultural phenom as your quote from P&G's CEO suggests, I'll become a happy camper and start dancing in the aisles! I suspect it may be more a sign of wisdom and maturity, where the ego is let go of with all it's self-importance, need to control others and fears of being wrong. if that's the case, mentioning phrases like "out of control" and "letting go" could push hot buttons and spark anxiety attacks - far from the objective of an elevator pitch :-) Thanks for example with employees.

V Yonkers said...

I had to read this over a few times and I still come to the same question (which will change the pitch). Are you trying to sell "training and education" or the mode in which training and education (e-learning) are conducted?

The first is more difficult because many (especially in the US) look at training and education as the responsibility of the individual. If there is an investment in the individual, who is to say they won't take that investment somewhere else?

E-learning is a much easier sell (as they already recognize the need to keep their employees up to date in skills. Then I would use Cathy's approach (interestingly enough, this was related to what I do with my own students which triggered your question). It is really important to do your research before hand and understand the client's needs and constraints (time resources and material resources included), so each pitch would be different depending on the client.

V Yonkers said...

Just one other clarification: are you talking to the C management person in the functional area (ITS, finance, accounts payable/receivable, customer service, etc...) or the C management from training or HR?

Anonymous said...

Great point, Tom. Maybe it would be better to use language that centers around the idea of creating dialogue rather than talking about it from the perspective of control.

Tom Haskins said...

Michael: Thanks for reframing the challenge in terms of dialogue. You inspired me to revise the elevator pitch!
When managers are out-of-dialogue with providers of eLearning solutions, their fears of "putting money down the drain" are justified. When those same managers are in dialogue, they discover there's more than bottom line results to watch for. If an user of the eLearning solutions has a say in what, when and how fast they learn, they demonstrate more curiosity to find what they personally need online, the motivation to pursue their search for as long as it takes, the timing to get it when they are about to actually use it and the commitment to put it into practice it reflectively.