Invest in Employees Who Invest in Themselves

Reading Johanna Rothman’s post titled ”Management Myth #9: We Have No Time for Training” on it made me think about my own approach to competence development, both as a Manager and as an independent consultant.

Many companies, especially those under pressure due to the current economy or self-inflicted trouble, might feel tempted to cut training costs to boost revenues, but that’s a very short sighted strategy. What if the economic drought drags on? What if your best people leave and you get stuck with those who stay, regardless of personal and professional development opportunities or lack thereof.

But what if finances really are scarce and you need to turn every dollar twice before spending it? I was recently in a management position where I had to make some pretty tough calls on who got to go to conferences and who was sent on courses and who was not.

Among other criteria, I valued employee’s willingness to invest in their own development very highly. It was funnily enough never a problem finding employees willing to go on an all paid trip to a conference in Las Vegas or some other exotic location. But what happens if they need to invest something yourself to go? I think even a small investment from the employee can make them evaluate possible benefits/takeaways more carefully and be more conscious about getting “bang-for-the-buck” during attendance.

The employee’s investment doesn’t have to be monetary – actually I recommend it is not. Investing some of their time is a much better option in my opinion. It can be the time they spend during the event or time committed to follow-up activities, such as preparing presentations for co-workers or writing about their experience.

A great example of a cost-sharing opportunity is the upcoming Agile Coach Camp Denmark. The un-conference, which I’m co-organization, starts on a Thursday afternoon at 4 PM and continues until Saturday afternoon at 2 PM. In this case, the employer will only have to invest the € 350 participation fee and one workday of productivity (Friday). The employee in return invests Thursday evening, Friday evening and much of Saturday. If they also commit to sharing some of the key takeaways with colleagues after the conference, then I think it’s a no-brainer of a good investment for employers to let employees attend.

Ok, I know the above sounded a bit like a sales pitch for “my own” conference – sorry about that. However, I think there are many cost-sharing opportunities out there to be explored. Classes at university in the evening, online training that can be done after hours, self-studying for a certification or weekend seminar just to name a few.

I’m not saying that employees should contribute to all types of training, but think about it for a minute – why should anyone invest in you, if you are not willing to invest in yourself?

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  • Brian Søgaard

    October 11, 2012 at 11:38

    I totally agree.
    It is very effective for the overall outcome of a course, seminar, education or other training sessions if both parties (employer and employee) are “sacrificing” something that is valuable for themselves.
    Pain commits, but what generates this pain can be very individual. If you have kids, time can outperform Money. For me, money outperform the most 🙂
    I think most companies underestimate the value of training – especially during hard times. It’s easy to cut back on the education budget, but it is a short-sighted solution for the organization as a whole.


    • Martin

      October 11, 2012 at 17:47

      Thanks for a well thought comment Brian. I’m not sure I would call it pain, but apart from that, it seems like we are not the same page here 😉


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