What's Your Problem?

My 'learn from your peers' initiative has backfired.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I work in HR in a medium-sized business. Our training budget was reduced to nothing for a year, so I started a 'learn from your peers' initiative, where any employee can take a session either on a project that they've run or a particular skill/experience they have. Its success has backfired on me, as my boss has said there will be no further need for a training budget. This would be disastrous for me, as I'm spending all my time running the thing. How can I make sure we do get money?

A: Let me gently suggest that you rephrase your problem. It's of no consequence to your boss if the absence of a training budget turns out to be disastrous only for you. It will matter to your boss only if it's disastrous (or even just damaging) to the company and therefore to him.

You say your 'learn from your peers' initiative has been successful; and I'm sure it has. But how do you know? Based entirely on the enthusiasm of your colleagues or on some rather more tangible, measurable basis? The more evidence you have, the better.

You may believe that the more successful your initiative can be shown to have been, the harder it will be to get your training budget back; but that's not the case. Your argument needs to be presented in three stages. First, the demonstrable commercial value of training in general; then the value of training using only internal resources (which is all your programme can employ); and, finally, the crucial importance of adding to the body of existing knowledge and experience by tapping into the outside world.

You need to make this last case strongly and with confidence, because it's a cast-iron one. Only if you continually add to the existing expertise of your medium-sized business can you outwit your bigger competitors. And that means opening things up and out - in other words, a training programme that introduces your staff to new thoughts, new stimuli and new people. And that in turn means a training budget.

So don't see your success as having backfired. Instead, use it as solid evidence of the need to do more. Just make sure you downplay your own ambition and play up the payback.

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