Before signing on the dotted line
Prospective employees should ask some pointed questions about career development opportunities before accepting an offer. They include the following:
What kinds of training does the company offer?
How are training opportunities organized in this company? Who makes the decisions: human resources or the CEO?
Who gets to go? Is training a perk for managers and professional staff only, or is it for individual contributors as well?
What is the company's training philosophy - to make employees more effective in their present jobs or to prepare them for the future?
Does the company contract with outside providers, or is all training done by in-house people?
How is the company's training program tied to performance management?
What kind of follow-up does the company provide to ensure that learning happens and that productivity and morale are improved?
Training, especially for junior and entry-level workers, can be a very important benefit to weigh when considering a job offer. Be sure to think of your future career development, not only your future within an organization. Some companies require training - which could be unpaid - before you're allowed to officially start working, so make sure you get the particulars if that is the case.
Opportunities for the workforce
Current employees looking to enhance their skills should familiarize themselves with their company's policies concerning training and continuing education. Browse your intranet, dig up that voluminous benefits package you received when you took the job, ask your boss for more information. Find out whether your company covers training expenses, period. No one wants to put time and effort into a proposal that will get shot down before it's even considered.
Once you have confirmed that your company does sponsor educational initiatives, research what types of training or continuing education you would like to experience. If you're looking to enhance your skills in something related to the company's business, get suggestions from your coworkers or your human resources representative. You must also decide how you want to learn - in a classroom, on the Internet, or through videoconferencing.
Ask and you may receive
Research and document your training choices, complete with tuition, related expenses, and length of commitment. You may even want to prepare a statement that shows how you expect to improve and enhance your performance and productivity. Fill out any necessary forms and schedule some time with your boss or manager to talk about the training opportunities you've researched before you present them to the human resources department. Your boss is likely to have to sign off on your request, so be prepared to back up your reasons for wanting to use company time and money to beef up your skills.
Seal of approval
If your proposal is denied, try to learn why. If it's a question of money, look for a less expensive alternative or ask to be put on a waiting list for funds. If your superiors feel that particular new skill won't be as beneficial to the company as you thought, ask what skills are lacking from your team and how you can tailor your next training request to fill in the gaps.
If your training proposal is approved, you may be bound by certain restrictions, including when you can attend classes and what you can submit for reimbursement. Get the details in writing so you don't get stuck with a hefty bill at the end. You may also be required to document your experience through a group presentation or short essay, so take notes and save all the course materials (handouts, books, worksheets). Above all, share your newly acquired knowledge with your team - their success can only make you (and your company) look good.
- Linda Jenkins, Salary.com contributor, and Regina M. Robo, News Editor