Connecting the Dots: An Overlooked Skill?

Experts say the outlook for formal skills development in 2013 is rosy. According to a recent study, overall spending on training increased by 12% in 2012, and the technology sector saw a 20% increase. connect the dots

“As the pace of innovation accelerates, and companies look to expand their operations, employees should acquire more specialized skills and adapt to a workplace that grows more transient, mobile and self-serving – what we call the ‘borderless workplace,’” said Bersin by Deloitte’s Karen O’Leonard, lead analyst, benchmarking, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Perhaps you will be attending a training class this year. Here’s a question to ponder before you start crafting your out-of-office auto-reply:

  • Why are you going?

If you initiated the training request, you should be able to answer quickly with one or more job-related benefits because, for lots of us, submitting the request means providing a justification. At most organizations, gone are the days when you can take a class just because it sounds interesting. Typically, the justification documents how the training relates to your current job responsibilities (or references your professional development plan if your organization uses those).

If you can demonstrate a direct relationship between the training you want to attend and your organization’s strategic goals, your odds of getting approved go way up. Why? Because your position exists for a reason, and it costs a lot of time and money to recruit and ramp up employees—then cover ongoing costs of salary, benefits, and taxes. Your organization spends this money on you because your role is needed for their success. So it makes economic sense to train and develop existing staff as changes in technology disrupt and change the organization’s strategy.

On the pace of change, O’Leonard has this to say, “For U.S. organizations, that means committing more dollars to develop internal talent and to build the desired skills for competitive advantage.”

Documenting how a training class relates to your organization’s strategic goals doesn’t have to be a long dissertation on the state of the industry or even take a lot of time. Some basic research may be all that’s needed. Go to your organization’s website and check out the mission statement, recent press releases, and news articles featuring your organization’s projects and partnerships. If management periodically holds meetings or sends out e-mails to share the strategic vision, then you already know what they’re trying to accomplish. All you need to do is read the class description and map its content to the strategy.

Arming yourself with this information will go a long way towards convincing your manager that the training will help you build skills that align with what the organization wants to achieve—and that you’re committed to contributing to that achievement. You can call that a conversation about training ROI, but it’s much simpler than that—it’s connecting the dots.

When you’re a child, connecting the dots means drawing lines to make a cute picture. When you’re a working professional, connecting the dots means articulating how your unique combination of skills, experience, and work ethic align with strategic goals. Whether you’re an individual contributor, a manager, or a job seeker, your best bet for professional advancement is to develop skills that advance the organization.

And once your training request is approved, don’t forget the case you made. During class, keep the strategic goals in mind. You’ll probably pay closer attention and work harder to make sure you absorb and retain the new knowledge and skills. You’ll also be more likely to apply them in ways that count.

Suppose you determine the class you’re interested in doesn’t align with strategic goals. Should you try to attend anyway? If you believe the class will improve your job performance, then absolutely. The organization will benefit from your increased productivity and, by showing they value you enough to invest training dollars in you, they get to give you a morale boost. Employees who feel valued are less likely to leave. Organizations connect the dots on that.


About SuzanneB

Suzanne is a Maryland native with a degree in English Literature who enjoys writing about Esri technology and other topics. She works with Esri Training Services in Redlands, California.
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