Establishing a competitive advantage in the market today depends on a variety of factors, not least of which is a commitment to employee development.  Whether the organization has adopted a continuous improvement mindset or is in need of significant transformation, it must rely on knowledge workers who are capable of leading these types of initiatives.  For these individuals to truly succeed they not only have to rely on past experiences to draw lessons learned from but they must be able to reinvent themselves every once in a while to keep up with the dynamic and changing business environment.

In order to accomplish this it becomes fairly obvious that a portion of the company’s budget should be dedicated to helping these knowledge workers enhance their tool-set and build their expertise.  Training is indeed part and parcel of this activity as it helps employees expand their knowledge and fill gaps in their education that become clear in their professional career.

These training needs vary a great deal not only based on the organization but also based on the person and the type of role he/she is playing within the company.  For example, a project manager who might have been a history major in college will likely need business training in the area of finance perhaps that a business administration major will have likely covered in their course work.

Having been part of a variety of organizations large and small I learned that an important question to ask leaders and hiring managers is about the company’s training policies.  In other words, what type of training is available? Will the company support my attending training workshops? Is there a budget that is set aside to training?

The answers to these questions can offer a strong perspective on the seriousness (or lack there of) of the organization when it comes to employee development and advancement.  I recently read an article about my former company, IBM, and the approach it has taken on its HR policies.  The article highlighted that IBM spends approximately $1700 per employee per year on training. That figure may not seem like much considering that in some instances 1 training workshop could easily cost that if not more. What is truly amazing here is the fact that IBM has over 350k employees.  That means that the company sends approximately half a billion dollars on training annually.  Clearly this is a serious commitment to this endeavor that has to be supported at the highest levels of the organization.

The main idea that’s been going through my mind related to IBM’s training efforts is whether the expenditure is indeed worth it. As a former IBMer I can say that in my own experience the training was an integral part of enhancing my skills and improving my job performance.  Ultimately though the real litmus test here is not one person’s experience but the fact that this expenditure is not a one time event but a practice that has been repeated over the years.  It leads us to conclude that there is value in the expense that allows the leadership of IBM to see this as an investment as opposed to a drain on the bottom line.  That’s the type of company that professionals seek to work for.