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How to make the business case for skill development in tech

March 09, 2023

Building the business case for an upskilling investment can get tricky in an uncertain economy. When executives are scrutinizing every cost center, you may be asked to prove the value of proposed or existing tech skill development programs. These planning questions will help you build the business case for tech skill development and demonstrate its long-term ROI—in any economic environment.

Get the complete business case framework and real-world insights from learning leaders.

Why is skill development important for tech-adjacent workers?

Tech skill development benefits individual employees and organizations. When employees have access to tech skill development opportunities, they often grow their personal skill sets, advance their careers, and feel more aligned to their organization’s overall strategy. This helps organizations efficiently achieve strategic business goals, like reducing hiring costs or navigating the road to multicloud.

Because tech skill development drives growth and innovation, it becomes even more important during times of economic uncertainty. Organizations that look toward the future and continue to invest in their people will emerge ahead of those that let upskilling fall by the wayside.

Making the business case for skill development

You already understand the importance of tech skill development. The challenge lies in convincing others in your organization. If you can answer these planning questions, you’ll be well on your way to creating a compelling case for tech skill development.

What business problem are you trying to solve with upskilling?

To convince executive leaders to invest in upskilling, you need to show them how skill development will bring tangible value to your organization. And to do that, you need to understand the business problem(s) tech skill development will solve and how it can contribute to organizational success.

Put simply, why do you need tech skill development? What are you hoping to achieve? And how will those results impact your organization’s revenue or cost efficiency? 

Let’s say your organization opens several roles for entry-level software engineers, but then a hiring freeze hits. Your goal might be to use tech skill development to create a pipeline of internal talent, fill those open positions, and reduce (or eliminate) hiring costs.

Is skill development really the solution?

Once you’ve identified a business problem, it can be tempting to jump right into designing an upskilling program. But tech skill development won’t improve someone’s soft skills or solve issues like poor team dynamics or inefficient processes. Don’t waste time and money designing a program that won’t fix the root issue. 

Some common topics you can address with tech skill development include skills gaps in the following areas: 

Who owns the skill development budget?

Ask around and find out who owns the budget for learning programs in your organization. Depending on the nature of the upskilling program, it might be the technical organization, the learning and development department, or a mix of the two. 

Tailor your business case to these individuals. Use their specific OKRs and KPIs to explain how your upskilling program will help them meet their goals.

Which stakeholders will you approach for input?

It takes more than one person or team to drive a successful tech skill development program. As part of your business case, explain who will own the upskilling program and which stakeholders need to be involved. Look beyond executives and final approvers—your list of stakeholders should also include people who might have valuable input or push back against your proposal.

Are there any external drivers for tech skill development?

In the same way that certain laws dictate workplace training for topics like harassment, other rules and regulations may underscore the need for tech skill development. For instance, if your organization needs to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), that requirement may make your business case for you.

Build your business case for skill development in tech

Upskilling is often touted as a valuable employee benefit that improves employee satisfaction and reduces attrition. While that’s true, tech skill development is more than that. It’s a long-term strategy for your organization’s success. 

When you invest in tech skill development opportunities tied to strategic initiatives, your employees can leverage emerging technologies and create better products to ensure your organization retains its competitive edge. That alone can help you make the business case for upskilling.

Unlock the full framework for building a tech skill development business case. Download the whitepaper to get access to additional planning questions and actionable advice from learning advocates.