Whenever the topic of training comes up in performance or goal-setting conversations, employees often groan. For much of the working world, when we think of “training” we think of hotel conference room with stale snacks, a monotone speaker, and—if we’re lucky—maybe one or two takeaways from the entire day-long ordeal. Or maybe it’s a badly acted webinar with forced time in between questions and an animated guide that you actually want to punch in the face.
We think of training as a chore, something we do in order to keep management happy. But on the job training doesn’t have to be laborious.
A really hot topic in human resources these days is employee experience. Companies, especially those in competitive industries like technology, are having a hard time keeping employees engaged. And disengaged employees look for new jobs. So to keep their roles filled and keep their top talent from going to the competition, many companies are realizing employee satisfaction is every bit as important as customer satisfaction. Crafting a positive, engaging employee experience is top of mind for many hiring managers and human resources departments. Offering comprehensive benefits packages that include training is part of that.
And if you’re not thinking of training as a benefit, you’re thinking about it all wrong.
Training Is a Paid Opportunity to Develop Skills for Your Next Job
When your manager offers you an opportunity for training, you don’t need to think only about training opportunities relevant to your current job. You can also ask for training that’s relevant to the job you want. For example, if you’re currently a graphic designer but you’re interested in account management, you can request training in project management or accounting. Every company wants employees that understand finances, how to budget, and how to meet deadlines. If you feel weak in these areas, that training will help you develop the business acumen you need for your own development and the development of the company.
Let’s say you’re currently an individual contributor and want to move into management. Consider asking for soft-skill training, like communication and presentation, or hard-skills like Excel for data analytics and reporting.
If you’re ever struggling to determine what skills you might need to improve, find someone on LinkedIn who has the job title you want. Look at their skills. Now decide what training you might take to learn or develop those skills.
Keep in mind that at-work training is a benefit: your company will pay for it. It’s sometimes considered part of your compensation package. Which means that if you don’t take it, you’re not getting the full rewards of your employment.
Take As Much Training As Your Manager Will Allow. Really.
Every job wants you to train, but how much training varies from role to role and company to company. Many jobs will require that employees take training every quarter. This might seem like a lot to you—going to training four times a year?! But think about the array of skills you could be learning to advance your career.
If you’re a marketing manager, it makes sense to take a workshop on content marketing, or lead generation, or account-based marketing. But what about video production? Or copywriting? Or Photoshop? All these skills might seem tangentially related to your current job, but you need to be thinking about the future—not just the future of your job, but the future of your industry. Taking training today is what will make you marketable and desirable tomorrow.
In some companies, managers will allow employees to set aside time each week for personal development. Ask your manager what’s appropriate for you. Find out how much time you can dedicate during the workday—and I don’t mean your lunch break!—to develop new skills. You might be surprised at flexible your nay policy is. Ask.
Take Advantage of Online Courses
Some of the best training is available online. Many companies offer subscriptions to services like Lynda.com or Udemy.com free to employees. And not all training has to consist of ongoing classes: you can take one-off workshops from sites like IdeoU.com or LinkedIn Learning. If you’re not taking advantage of these services, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Some employees think that taking training or setting aside work time to develop new skills is taking advantage of the employer. This is not true.
Don’t forget: your company wants to invest in you. They not only want you stay (replacing you costs them a lot of money) but they also want you to improve (so they get a nice return on their investment!). As long as you demonstrate that your new learning is better for the business—whether because it will help you in your current role or because it will help you progress to your next milestone—the business will want you to succeed. Invest in your education. You’ve earned it!