Training and development are vital for you and your employer. So, don’t rest on your laurels. Follow our guide to getting your company’s backing.
Once upon a time, training meant acetate, projectors and stacks of photocopies that would never again see the light of day.
How times have changed. Today, think singing workshops, creating ‘a play in a day’, or actors abusing delegates who are registering for a customer service course so they know how it feels to be badly treated as a customer. In an attempt to rid itself of the negative connotations associated with public sector training, the industry has gone creative.
Danielle Rush, a human resources (HR) manager for an asset management company, says, ‘Training keeps employees happy and gives them job satisfaction and, for companies, it leads to less need for recruitment and a reduction in turnover.’
Training is now regarded as just a small part of learning and development. Ruth Robertson, an independent executive coach and facilitator, explains: ‘Learning and development is an umbrella term beneath which sit a number of pillars: training, coaching, mentoring, on-the-job learning and self-development. There are numerous approaches available.
‘Developing your employees is more crucial than ever,’ says Ruth, ‘because organisations are leaner than ever. As a result, companies want to retain their key talent and will invest in developing people in the hope that the right ones stick around.’
The main focus is on keeping, nurturing and developing rising stars.
‘Training is vital because the world of work is constantly changing and, to keep up, individuals need to ensure their skills are at the cutting edge,’ continues Ruth.
So, to convince your company that you’re worthy of its investment, follow our guide.
Seven ways to secure training and funding
- Research, research and research
If you want an employer to consider funding your training, you must show that you’re serious. ‘Do the groundwork. Find relevant courses. Talk to HR, talk to people inside and outside the industry,’ suggests David Liversage, founder and managing director of Blue Phoenix, a learning and development consultancy (www.bluephoenixcomms.co.uk). ‘If you find something relevant, it will show that you’re being proactive, which is a benefit in itself and will put you in a good light.’
- Take charge of your own development
‘People who progress more in their careers now are self-starters,’ says Ruth. ‘They’re in the driving seat of their own career development. Don’t wait around for the organisation to develop you.
‘In the old days, it used to be the other way around. The organisation would tell the employee what they needed to do to progress, but now the shoe is on the other foot. Organisations are recognising and rewarding employees who take responsibility for their own development.’
- Put together a business case to help your cause
‘In the current climate, organisations want to cut costs – and training costs money. Organisations want to see a return on their investment, so make a business case explaining why they should put you through a certain programme,’ says Ruth.
David adds, ‘A business proposal shows that you’ve gone through the process of identifying a gap in your knowledge or a skill that you’re missing that could help you do your job better. When you present your proposal, it shows that you’ve investigated what you want rather than just saying, “I fancy a bit of training.”’
Simply preparing a business case shows your commitment. As well as identifying your development needs, show the benefits to the organisation. For example, if you need to hone your interviewing skills, then a relevant course would save you time and save the company money on recruitment.
‘You wouldn’t waste valuable work time carrying out interviews if you knew how to quickly spot great talent,’ says David.
- Explain the potential return on investment
‘Wherever possible, quantify what the benefits of any training will be and make your outcomes clear,’ says David. ‘If you want to go on a course and you can show that, as a result, you could bring in an extra £20,000 or save your company £20,000, and the training costs £5,000, it makes sense. They still profit and the training becomes self-funding. Consider having a fallback in place so that, if you didn’t complete the course or left the company, you’d pay them back,’ he says.
- Remember that there’s strength in numbers
If it’s not just you who needs further training or development, then gather like-minded individuals, says David. Communicate with others and get support from your team before you present your request to management.
And don’t think that if you work for a small company that you’re less likely to get backing. According to the 2009 annual survey report of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, while large organisations have larger training budgets, they also have to spread this across a greater number of people.
However, organisations with 250 or fewer employees continue to spend far more per employee than those with more than 5,000 staff. Smaller companies spend an average of £417 per employee while companies with more than 5,000 employees spend the least, stumping up a sad £125 per employee.
- Is self-financing money well spent?
Look at what the benefits would be in the short-, medium- and long-term and see whether self-investment could pay off for you. Ruth says, ‘I funded a number of training courses early on in my career, at a point when I could least afford it. But I knew it would open doors further down the line and it has. The credentials I established all those years ago are now paying dividends.’
If self-financing is out of the question, consider part-finance, with you and your company paying half each. ‘Don’t expect your company to pay for a sky-diving course,’ says David, ‘but if you’re interested in more of a personal development skill, for example learning French, and this would also benefit your job, your company might consider part-funding it and, for you, it’s a skill for life.’
- Learning that leaves the bank balance intact
‘If a company doesn’t have the money, then think about a job swap or shadowing somebody, so you learn a skill that way,’ says David. ‘It doesn’t have to be a paid-for thing. Learning and development is broader than just training.’ (See It’s Not Just About Training, right.) This kind of career development is also appealing to companies because ultimately you’re not taking time out to train – you’re actually applying it to the job while you’re doing it.
‘No flip charts’
Wayne Howsen, 40, is a primary school head teacher in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire
‘At least half of my staff at school said they had problems managing their time so I found a company that seemed to offer what I wanted. I was able to brief the trainer and specifically said, “No flip charts, no paper and no role-play.”
‘Our particular trainer had been a lecturer in further education so he understood about preparing lesson plans but he came at it from a different angle.
‘We had a two-hour session and before we’d even started he’d learned all our names. He didn’t lecture us but provided around 20 ideas so we could take the ones that would work for us.
‘Some of the phrases were a bit gimmicky. For example, “If you’re busy, close the door to one in four,” but some teachers may remember things like that and implement them.
‘At the end of the session he got a spontaneous round of applause, which is unheard of in schools’ training! The session cost £399, but I’d certainly use an external provider again.’
Gain CV stars
Having current industry-accredited training on your CV is vital. Simon Hunt, of HR recruitment consultancy Oakleaf Partnership, says, ‘When we see on a CV a commitment in time to training or development, it shows ambition and a passion to achieve. And it can be the one thing that differentiates one CV from another.’
It’s not just about training
There are various ways to drive your own career development without joining a course or doing a workshop. Here are a few…
- Spend some time with someone who has expertise that you don’t have.
- Work on a project that you’d like some experience with – ask for a secondment to a different team. Learn from others in an on-the-job capacity. Even ask for a secondment to an office abroad if your company has one.
- Find a mentor – the ‘let e take you under my wing’ approach. Find someone more senior than yourself, whom you admire and who has achieved the sort of things you aspire to. A mentor should offer guidance about possible next steps that would further your career.
- Depending on the stage you are at in your own career, look at developing someone more junior than you. For leadership or management skills, giving guidance and support to a junior graduate, for instance, could be beneficial.
- Read a management book by someone you admire. Want to be an entrepreneur? Read about those who’ve already made it. For example, if you want to learn more about how someone like James Caan did it, read his autobiography.
- Deputise for someone more senior than you. If your boss is going on holiday, take on some of his/her work and learn that way.
- Observe strong people in challenging situations. For example, watch strong managers in meetings with tricky clients. Watch what they do and how they handle them. Learn from modelling.