“People will go to a lot of trouble to learn French or physics or scuba diving. They have the patience to learn to operate a car, but they won’t be bothered learning how to operate themselves”
Newman & Berkowitz
When I first saw this it struck my how true this was for so many people I came across within the client organisations where I work. Although the issue is not uniquely British, I have found that it is truer here than in many other countries and cultures where I train. Why is this? Maybe it is a throwback to memories of schooldays? Possibly it is because so much of training is seen as “corrective” rather than developmental. Also, many people think that it is up to their employer to organise any training when required.
There are a wide range of views about training, what it is, what it should cover, who is responsible for organising it and how often it should occur. That is understandable. However, ask yourself whether you should take more ownership for it? After all, it is your job and your career! It is not compulsory to develop your career in terms of promotion or increased responsibility, but you can develop by improving your own skill base within your role or enhancing your personal skills. Perhaps you have been promoted and are expected to handle the challenges that come with it through experience, luck and divine intervention? (Who can remember CJ from Reggie Perrin? “I didn’t get where I am today through……”) Some form of training would help you surely?
What are the benefits of taking a positive and proactive view of your own training? You gain more control over the areas where you seek training and development. You can also influence what type of training you have, whether coaching, courses or e-learning. You will approach the training in a more open manner and almost certainly gain more from it. Even if you are being “sent” on some training, your attitude and approach will significantly influence what you will gain from it.
Thinking of your career and what you want from it, there are two principle elements where training can help. Basically, these are “technical” skills and knowledge and “personal” skills. From a career maintenance perspective, you need to make sure your technical skills are kept current in both knowledge and also use of technology where required. Your organisation or practice is probably good at making sure that this is available. To develop your career, or maybe your enjoyment of work or other aspects of life, you would probably look to the other part – the “personal” skills.
If you are going to become more proactive about your own training and career progress, how do you decide what areas to address? There is no one, right way. Do you know what the competencies are for your role – and the role you would like to progress to? Find a set of these and assess yourself against these and identify the key areas to develop yourself. If you have some form of appraisal system within your practice, listen to the assessment of how you perform against the various areas of the job. Ask for help and training in the areas you want to improve. Consider doing some self-assessment. What are the things you feel you could improve? What are the areas you would like to learn more about? What are the additional skills you would like to have?
When you have an idea of the areas you want to develop you can do something about getting the appropriate training or support. Remember, not everything has to be done through courses or “classroom” based events. There are different ways of acquiring the knowledge or skills you want. Some of these are:
- Training courses – either in-company for groups of your colleagues or external with a people from a mixture of companies.
- e-learning – there are a wide range of subjects and approaches which can be used to help you learn using the computer. These may be web-based or not. They can be used within the workplace or home or wherever you can get computer access.
- Coaching or mentoring – having someone (usually within your own organisation, although they could be outside) to support you, giving you individual help. The coach will push you to identify your own aims and solutions and work with you on achieving them. The mentor will share ideas from their own experience and encourage you to then consider how to achieve your aims.
- “Shadowing” someone else – choosing someone with the skills you want to learn and spend time observing them and talking about how they do things.
By taking more interest in your own career, present and future, you can focus on the areas where you want to develop. Doing this and approaching the people who are responsible for the training within your practice may make their job easier! Tell them what training or development you want, why you want it and what the benefits will be for the practice and they may give you what you ask for. That will enable you to build your knowledge and skills and approach your own training and development in a more positive way – getting more from it! As a deliverer of training, I would rather more participants were there because they want to learn and benefit from it.
Graham Yemm is a partner in Solutions 4 Training and has over 20 years experience working with organisations, internationally and in the UK. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 1483 480656.