Professional Development

Getting Buy-In From the C-Suite​

April 4th, 2023 – SkillCycle

A white man in a suit stands in front of a screen and presents a graph to people seated at a table

Companies often invest in professional development because they want to keep team members — and it’s an important factor in employee retention. When asked why they left their last jobs, 41% of people surveyed cited a lack of career development and advancement as their top motivation.

However, learning does more than just boost retention. Opportunities to learn and grow are considered the number one driver of a great work culture, according to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report

This also helps companies drive progress toward business goals. People development is often not used to full potential, but is “critical to attracting talent and driving lasting market advantage,” according to McKinsey

Carving out resources to implement learning and development programs isn’t always easy, and HR leaders often struggle to gain meaningful support. Creating a learning culture that ties employees’ professional development to overall business goals can help HR teams gain the traction they need to implement meaningful learning experiences across the organization.


In this blog post, we’ll examine: 
  • How a learning culture is tied to your company’s success
  • What organizations get wrong about building a learning culture
  • Three tips HR leaders can use to influence executive buy-in
  • How a learning experience platform connects the dots

How is a healthy learning culture tied to business success?

Learning should be included in the early stages of any decision made in the company by anyone at the executive level. As organizations create long-term strategies and set goals for the business, leaders should also be aware of what type of talent development will need to happen to reach those goals. 

When you take learning into consideration from the very beginning, the next questions become, which employees can already do the work that needs to be done? And who can learn how to do that work? 

“The question should always be, how do we implement learning so people can learn how to do what we’ve outlined, so we can obtain the objectives we’re setting?” says Rebecca Taylor, Co-founder and CSO of SkillCycle. 

When everyone within an organization is involved in the conversation and understands that people development is connected to business performance, you can tie learning to your desired outcomes. And once learning is connected to outcomes, you’ll be in a better position to ensure you have the people and skills required to achieve company goals.

What are organizations getting wrong about building a learning culture?

“Everyone says they want a learning culture, but they lack the systems to do it,” says Kristy McCann Flynn, Co-founder and CEO of SkillCycle. “Tons of critical employee development data is holed up in disparate systems with no outcomes, progress, or return on investment (ROI).” 

People forget that it takes a village to develop valuable employees, to drive meaningful learning, and to hit business goals. It also takes resources: time, money, people, and tools. “Learning is a conduit,” says Taylor. “And it needs to be a conduit to growth in a way that has relevance and applicability for people.”

Creating a meaningful learning culture requires feedback loops and clear areas of development for everyone. It will take HR, the managers, and the individuals to create space for learning, build relationships, and establish a safe place for feedback.

If development opportunities aren’t connected to what makes the business successful, employees may feel the learning is irrelevant to their job and their long-term goals, which can kill engagement. “People can be focusing on learning with no way to actually apply it, and with nothing that actually makes it relevant to their trajectory in the company or how they do their job day to day,” says Taylor. 

In contrast, when leaders begin to see learning as a critical component in business strategy, it becomes easier to ensure the necessary resources will be available when needed.

3 tips to influence executive buy-in for a learning culture

Consider how HR functions in most organizations. Employees report directly to a manager, who is largely responsible for their work and how they spend their time. Managers are tasked with achieving goals for their teams or departments. 

If managers aren’t involved in deciding how learning will be prioritized within their teams, HR leaders will likely be met with resistance. This pushback can happen because either the solution isn’t what was truly needed or the managers didn’t buy in enough to make time and space for the learning.


Instead of working to build a learning culture alone, try these three tips for getting the buy-in you need:

1. Partner with leadership

Bring key managers and leaders into conversations around future skill needs and related talent development early to create solutions that dovetail with larger organizational strategies. 

2. Bring solutions to the table

Connect learning to business outcomes, present solutions that drive meaningful progress toward these goals, and pull people into a collective effort.

3. Act as an advisor or guide

Support managers in owning the execution of learning programs and skill development within their teams because ultimately, managers are responsible for the employees answering to them. 


HR can make powerful connections between the outcomes desired by the executive team and the professional development employees need to achieve those goals. The trick is to identify where you have the most influence, and that may not be directly on employees. Ideally, HR isn’t solely responsible for the execution of learning programs.

How a learning experience platform connects the dots

A better solution involves integrating learning and organizational goals into “one fully connected ecosystem that brings together people performance data and outcomes to create clear progression and ROI,” says McCann Flynn.

What does this connection look like in the workplace? Let’s consider the example of a company setting an annual sales goal of $100 million. 

When company and learning goals are connected, the next step would be to immediately break down what skills and competencies your team needs in order to generate $100 million in sales this year.

For example, you might identify that your sales team needs negotiation, communication, and analytical skills. With a fully integrated learning experience platform, you now can map out the development needed to achieve these core competencies and which employees are best positioned to develop these skills. You can implement the necessary professional development relevant to the employee’s career goals and that shores up the company’s likelihood of success.

Over time, as you develop these competencies in people, you can track and analyze how they are developing in their own personalized journeys to source more opportunities, sell more, and close more deals.


The biggest impact you’ll see from a learning experience platform that connects all this information for you? As you see the data showing increasing competency development, you can see clear ROI to the employee, to the sales team, and the company as a whole. 

When performance management, engagement, goal tracking, and analytics are all held in one place, you create an operating system that connects the dots between professional development and business outcomes. 

Connect with us to learn how SkillCycle can support your journey in building buy-in for a learning culture in your organization.


Subscribe to our newsletter