I recently read a post on the PR blog Spin Sucks about the need for people to continue to develop professionally. The post makes the case for reading regularly in one’s field, networking, and taking online classes as an investment in your future. These are great ways to continue to learn and grow in your profession, no matter what your field is. My question is this: Does your employer bear any responsibility for helping you grow professionally?
If you’re a free-lancer or self-employed, it’s up to you to stay educated and informed. Reading, participating in online communities or networking groups, and taking courses are your main methods for staying up-to-date. You may even choose to go back to class and earn a certification or degree. It’s up to you, though, to get what you need. This is your investment in growing your business.
If you work for a company, chances are good that there are in-house opportunities to learn. These could take the form of mentoring, on-the-job training, classes, online resources and discounted tuition for degree courses at a local college or university, just to name a few. Many employers view professional development or training as a way to develop talent internally and increase business development through enhanced customer service or product offerings. Professional development is a good thing for business, and many businesses invest greatly in their workers’ training and education.
Then there’s the hybrid situation where the company offers education and training for the independent contractors who operate under the company’s supervision or in partnership with the company. It benefits the company to make sure that those independent contractors are able to present the company’s offerings well or to minimize risk in their business activities. If the independent contractor is a licensee, the state will most likely require continuing education for license renewal as a way to ensure minimum standards are met. Professional development benefits the company and the independent contractor.
Who’s responsibility is it for independent contractors to come to class or take an online course? If both benefit from the education, they should share the responsibility, right?
Usually it falls on the company to “sell” the benefits of training and education to potential participants. This forces professional development professionals to consider the end when designing courses. What will be learned? Who does this benefit and how? How will we judge progress? Why should someone want to learn this material?
I’m sure many professional development pros in situations where they deliver training to employees consider these questions, too. However, the company has the ability to condition employment on participation in training. Independent contractors can leave and practice elsewhere. Attracting these people to training, convincing them to invest time (and perhaps money), and keeping them learning is no small feat.
Some people will always be self-motivated learners. They like to read and discover new things and ways to do their jobs better. For those who need a push, we have to clearly state the benefits and deliver quality education that will help participants grow and flourish in their chosen profession.