Learning Opportunities Are Like Chocolates

Given that it’s Easter I have been thinking about chocolate! We cannot always have the choice of chocolate sweets we want but sometimes being open to the other choices available to us can help us to discover something new and enjoyable.

As much as it pains those of us who work in Learning and Development, nowadays in many organisations, justifying a spend on professional development of staff can be challenging. Unless we can show that there is a direct and almost immediate relationship between professional development and the bottom line the cost can be hard to justify. Even with a rigorous analysis of the Return on Investment (ROI) all too often at a time when money is tight we will find that the costs will not be agreed or our proposed solution will be watered down.

So, as I am sure you are all too aware many organisations really struggle with the idea of funding personal development that they cannot align with organisational bottom line improvements. Yet, we will be approached by enthusiastic individuals who want to develop themselves and make, as they perceive it, an improved contribution to the organisation. So how do we as Learning and Development professionals respond to those sort of approaches? We are of course keen to encourage individuals to develop themselves and don’t want to discourage them. But we know that the money will not be there for them to attend the course they have identified.

I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box when it comes to learning/personal development. It does not have to have a financial cost to the organisation at all. There are a wealth of opportunities for people to develop skills through volunteering, through joining organisations like Junior Chamber International (JCI) etc which they can pursue.

I believe that we as learning facilitators should be encouraging staff to think creatively about their learning opportunities. As an example in my early career I wanted to develop my public speaking skills so I joined an organisation (out of hours) which enabled me to do just that. If someone who wants to develop their leadership skills approaches you then why not talk to them about the opportunities in their local community or through voluntary organisations to develop those skills?

Equally if someone wants to learn how to chair meetings a simple way to start is to get them to observe the chair of meetings they attend, note the positive behaviours and those that don’t necessarily deliver results and then seek opportunities to practice those skils.

Being open to the learning opportunities all around us is something which many of us who work in the field are open to as individuals. Let’s not forget that they are also opportunities which we can encourage those who come to us looking for funding for training to consider as well. It might not be their first choice but like the chocolates they may discover something they really like!

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