Want your agency to give you training? Then know your learning and development goals first

Stephen Waddington is partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum and visiting professor at Newcastle University.

What are your learning goals?

I’ve been talking to people about learning and development during interviews at Ketchum this week.

Three times I’ve been asked by candidates about what kind of training our business offers employees.

It’s a good thing that personal development is front of mind. The pace of change in digital media means that learning and development has never been more important.

It would be a full time job for any one individual to have an expert knowledge in every area of digital.

In fact my own firm, Ketchum, has a well-developed internal university. The 2016 course guide offers our people dozens of courses across four broad streams of skills and concepts: technical, management, service and leadership. You could attend classes every single day if you made a good case.

My response to people asking about career development is to ask them about their personal learning and development goals.

It’s a question frequently met with a blank response.

Employee vs organisation skills gaps

High performance organisations align employee skills to the purpose of the organisation.

But good managers who take responsibility for their skills development and work hard to align career development with the goals of the organisation are few and far between.

Professional development frequently falls by the wayside in the harsh reality of organisational pressures and family life.

Smart people are self-motivated and firmly in charge of the development of their own careers.

Setting personal goals and matching learning and training activities is a good way to ensure that you stay ahead.

Learning and development payback

In more developed professions such as finance, human resources and legal, continuous professional development is firmly embedded within practice.

We’ve some way to go in the digital business where expertise is typically measured in time served.

Time is a lousy metric. Not all experience is equal and some people plainly work harder than others.

I track my profession development via the CIPR’s Continuous Professional Development scheme. It’s not the only way but it’s a good discipline.

Each year I set a series of learning goals and match training against my personal needs.

It enables me to prioritise internal and external courses and areas of original research.

It also enables me to have a robust conversation with my manager about my own skills, performance and development for the year ahead.

Return on learning

There’s a compelling financial reason for taking control of your own learning development.

Each of the significant steps forward that I’ve made in my career have been as a result of a period of formal training or coaching. It’s no accident.

Back to the original interview question.

How are you planning to develop your skills over the next 12 months, and how can your organisation help?

You need to be singularly self-interested when it comes to learning and development.

Stephen Waddington is chief engagement officer at Ketchum. Follow him on Twitter @wadds


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