Training Programs

How to Trick Penny-Pinching Leadership into Paying for Employee Training

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention! I’m Jeff Havens, and you’re probably tired of hearing about the importance of training your employees. Why?

Because YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS. You know that it costs a ton to continuously hire people, and you also know that proper training can significantly reduce turnover and increase engagement, both of which have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Alas, your leadership thinks in quarters, not in years, and training is always one of the first line-items to cut when budgets are tight. And when they’re not tight, too, since sometimes your leadership thinks that the only people worth keeping are the ones who can figure everything out for themselves.

If this describes your environment, then you should applaud yourself for not yet having strangled anybody – which, as I’m sure you know, is a fire-able offense.

Anyway, if you’ve ever struggled to convince leaders that training is important and that your budget for it should (gasp!) maybe even be increased, here are a couple ways to trick people into giving you what you’re looking for!

Conferences – They’re Not Just for Learning Anymore

I mean, honestly, were they ever?

Because if the only point of going to a conference was attending the sessions, then they wouldn’t have conferences in places with casinos or beaches or winery tours or piano bars. (Side note – that’s why few conferences are held in the lobby of a Motel 6.)

So if necessary, convince your leadership that they need to attend Conference X because it’s going to be an awesome semi-vacation, or because some of your important clients and vendors will be there, or because the closing party is going to be epic, or whatever.

Oh, and by the way, we’ll get a better deal if 10 people go, so which of our team do you think should come with us?

Complain About How Hard It Is to Find Good People

This one shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, because it’s usually the truth – it is difficult to find good people, especially if your leadership expects those people to be ready to go the second they’re hired.

But perhaps you’re not complaining about it loudly enough.

If you show a few terrible resumes to your leadership (and I know you have a few), then make a few not-so-subtle suggestions that it would be so much easier – and cheaper! – to just train your existing staff to do the skills you’re currently trying to hire for, you might convince your boss to give you the go-ahead just to make the parade of bad resumes stop.

Start Collecting Horror Stories from Other Companies

So your leadership doesn’t appreciate the importance of training?

That’s fine. There are plenty of examples of employees making costly mistakes because they weren’t properly trained, and plenty of examples of companies falling off a cliff because their employees weren’t prepared for the challenges they needed to face – thanks, Internet!

So start putting together a file of all the things that have gone wrong when others decided they didn’t need to invest in training, and then periodically share your favorite findings with your leadership.

It’s one thing to say what you think might happen if your people don’t get properly trained, but it’s quite another to say what has actually happened to others.

Unless your leadership is exceptionally dense, the weight of those cautionary tales will eventually help them value training more than they currently do.

Thanks for reading another installment of HR Intervention!

Learn more tactics to gain leadership buy-in for employee training in this free infographic:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-306-1781, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert