Heading back to work (literally or virtually) after a break can help bring fresh perspectives to what you want out of your position. Today we want to focus on helping you achieve your goals around “upskilling” at your current job; that is, training programs and other development opportunities that support employees’ continuous learning and improvement.

Many organizations have established a workplace culture where requests such as professional development dollars only occur during an annual performance review.  This can put staff in the unfortunate position of feeling powerless to negotiate aspects of their total compensation package outside of that one window of opportunity.  In working with both employers and staff, however, we’ve found that early in the budgeting process is an excellent time to consider what you might want to upskill and to think creatively about how your employer can support your goals.

For example, say you want to increase your expertise in a software system in use at your organization.  In our experience, it’s helpful to go into this conversation with a variety of options. Here are a few variations on how to go about doing this:

  • Identifying a training opportunity that is free and requesting that your employer allow you to complete the training “on the clock” so that you’re still compensated for your time
  • Identifying a training opportunity that your employer is willing and able to pay for
  • Setting up a structured check-in with somebody else in the organization who is already an expert in that software
  • Setting up a structured mentoring program with somebody outside of your organization and asking to be able to meet with that individual during work hours, or shifting your work hours to accommodate the mentorship (e.g. can you start your work day at 10am if you and your mentor meet for coffee in the morning)

If your employer meets your suggestion with skepticism, here are some ways to navigate potential roadblocks you’ll get:

  • “This will take you away from your core responsibilities.” Make the case that by making a modest investment now in increasing certain skills, you’ll be able to work more effectively down the road.  It’s a short-term tradeoff that can yield big dividends.
  • “If we do this for one person, we have to do it for everyone else.” Make the case that research shows that employees who pursue professional development opportunities are often more motivated and confident in their work, which can lead to higher overall performance and morale throughout the organization.
  • “We simply don’t have the resources to support anything at this time.” Be ready to respond with 2-3 ways in which your newly acquired skills will directly help you achieve your individual goals and contribute to larger strategic goals.  It’s helpful when employers can see how their investment in an employee will return dividends to the mission, as well as to that person.

The above approach also aligns with the “70/20/10” concept, which supports the notion that 70% of learning is truly on the job, 20% is coaching/mentoring, and the remaining 10% occurs through formal training opportunities.  This concept means that outside mentoring and training opportunities may have limited value if your current position doesn’t afford you opportunities to continue to learn on the job. We recommend talking to your supervisor to put a plan in place for that 70%, so that you can actively apply those newly acquired skills. There’s more about this concept on our website

At Movement Talent, we’re committed to working with organizations that support employee growth and exploration.  More and more, we’re seeing that employers welcome the opportunity to invest in their teams in creative ways, be it offering flex time, remote work, or changes to upskill in a variety of ways.

Have you asked for professional development support at your job?  And how did that experience go for you?  We’d love to hear your thoughts on our suggestions above, as well as your own tips and tested methods for achieving your goals around upskilling.