One of the big themes for the professional contributor in the modern era is that they are responsible for their own training and upskilling. I’m not talking about a week long seminar, or a training day. I’m talking about true skills attainment through credentialing or advanced degrees that correlate directly to the job in question. With job hopping, quarterly mindsets, and the ever present drive for increased productivity, no matter how unrealistic improvements may seem, organizations simply aren’t investing in long term talent development. Why should they? Talent doesn’t stick around long term so an investment in people for the long term seems fruitless waste. There is a major problem inherent in this approach and it’s not what you think.
The first thing people will think of when you say there is a core issue with companies not investing in their own talent is that there will be a talent pipeline shortfall, and this is indeed true. Go speak to any organization that needs mid-high skilled talent. When the talent is needed, it’s immediate.. Get HR on the phone!! The Project starts in two weeks!! We need them yesterday!! So to facilitate meeting the need the organization starts paying more and the result is more incentive for job hoppers. Classic supply/demand and negative spiral. Enter the never ending search for the purple squirrel.
But let’s go back for a moment to the idea that professionals understand this. They can not count on the organizations in question to give them time, money, or resources to achieve the next great skill. Since they are professionals, they get the importance of longer term investments and one of those investments are in their own abilities. It’s one of the reasons why so many are going back to school to get a credential or a Master’s Degree.
The real problem is the culture of organizations. The organization pays top dollar and wants employees who will be zero focused on the job. There is an insane corporate work ethic. There is no sense of work life balance when there are unrealistic expectations for performance or activity. So consequently anything outside of work, even if it is highly corollary is frowned upon. I have personally witnessed a company that made virtualization servers absolutely assault an employee for taking classes for an advanced Information Technology degree. The management’s perspective.. it was a distraction from the job. A distraction, to get an advanced I.T. degree in an I.T. job where you were selling complex I.T. products to I.T. integrators and channel partners. Seriously??!!??
In another situation, there is the lower level employee who has a side business. Maybe they are selling another organization’s product. Maybe it’s a craft business. The problem is the same as the higher level individual contributor. The side business is seen as a distraction. Sadly the lower level employee with the more generalized skills is fearful of their job because they know they are very easily replaceable.
Ironically It’s been my experience that the most senior levels of management encourage this behavior. They understand that it’s good for the organization to have individuals invest in themselves. The cost the the company is nothing to the benefit of a higher trained workforce that can be had for less than recruiting highly sought after external talent. They understand that it’s important for employees to run their own business because that means the employee will have a better appreciation of the operations of their ‘full time gig’. Additionally if the side business doesn’t take off as many don’t, the employee will better appreciate their position at the company.
The problem comes with middle managers. The ones who have one foot in the individual contributor world and one foot in real business management. These are the ones who are fighting tooth and nail to climb the ladder. They are the ones who push relentlessly to drive the individual’s productivity. They are the ones who only see the task at hand and rarely see the bigger picture. To them this investment is a distraction. It doesn’t help with today’s numbers. It doesn’t help with the actionable items. If they wanted someone with those skills that’s who they would have hired.. so get back to work!
The lesson, is that sometimes you have to quietly go about your continuing training. Don’t let them know about your business. Don’t expect support. Just announce when it’s done… and then put your resume out there because someone is looking for your newly credentialed skill set. So by all means, you should proceed, just proceed quietly.
Oh, and shhhhhh… Don’t tell anyone you heard it from me.