What to Do When Your Company Doesn’t Offer Talent Development

Some of us are privileged to work for companies that offer generous professional development.

Others work for organizations that are too small to provide a deluxe suite of development options. Or even a paltry one.

And in some cases, people work for companies that have the resources – but not the values – to invest in talent development. I think this is tragic.

I’ve seen companies that fit all these categories. And I can tell you (and research corroborates this) companies that invest in developing their people are more successful over time than companies that don’t. Holding the training budget reigns tightly creates a stifling noose for development that chokes the company’s growth and flourishing.

All that said, what do you do if you’re at a company that doesn’t have a Cheesecake Factory-sized menu of development opportunities?

Four steps to get the development you need.

  1. Get crystal clear on your current skill gaps. What’s holding you back right now? What do you need to be a top performer in your role? Is it industry knowledge? A specific job skill? Or people and leadership skills?
  2. Maybe you’re thinking of the next role you’d like to fill. What knowledge and skills do you need to be a standout candidate for that role? Get as specific as you can.
  3. Now, search for courses or experiences to build the skills and fill the knowledge gaps you identified. Ask peers or mentors you admire what has been most helpful for them.
  4. Take your recommendation to your leader. It should include these things:
    • Focus on the organization’s need. How will this help the business?
    • What is the knowledge or skill gap you want to close?
    • What solutions have you identified? Try to have two options. Leaders like options and it’s good to have Plan B already in your back pocket!
    • What is the cost and time involved? When would this happen?
    • Ask for approval to move forward. If your leader needs time to decide, suggest a date to check back in. “Can I revisit this with you next Wednesday?”. Getting small yeses is often the path to getting the bigger yes.

Now, there’s one thing to avoid in training and development.

Passive learning!

No bueno.

Watching videos on YouTube is better than nothing. And it’s free. But it’s not great. Reading is good but not great. You want great.

The image below is an excellent guide to evaluate whether a training or development initiative is one that will truly help you retain the information.

Average Learning Retention Rates pyramid chart

The best learning comes through practice, discussing the learning with fellow learners, and with coaching. The very best retention comes when you teach back what you’ve learned! So, consider the modes of learning in the development options you’re considering.

Too often we sit in frustration because our organization doesn’t proactively provide what we want. But many times, if we take the initiative, do the research, and show commitment to the learning and to the organization, they will fund it. After all, it should be a tax-deductible business expense!

What if your leader denies your request for development?

You could kick and scream. Post nasty comments on social media. Create passive aggressive resistance in every possible way at work.

But I don’t think it will go well for you.

If you’ve done your research to put a case together and it’s denied, that can be beyond frustrating.

But remember…the ball is always in your court.

Take a deep breath and then take these steps:

  1. Find out why. What’s holding them back? Try to be genuinely curious and not angry. Ask good open-ended questions like “can you help me understand this decision?”
  2. Consider funding it yourself. It may be worth the personal expense if it will enrich your long-term career. Will it provide a certification or experience that makes you a better performer now and a stronger candidate for another job somewhere else?
  3. Consider moving to an organization that is committed to investing in talent development. Why stay at a company that doesn’t want to help you grow for their own benefit? This is likely to be a source of ongoing frustration that drains your energy and passion. Find a place that matches your values.

What if you’re absolutely committed to your organization – and they are absolutely unwilling or unable to fund development?

Get scrappy.

Find mentors and colleagues who are good at the things you want to improve on. Ask if you can talk with them, or even job shadow. Try to get an organic mentor relationship going.

For the fiercely determined, learning will happen!

And then, when YOU are the leader holding the purse strings…fund development for your people. Your organization will thank you.

Want To KNOW your EQ Score?

Find out with a quick 3-minute quiz!