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As a former T&D manager, I'd say that learning and advancement can be a reward or an obligation or both. It is situational.

In uniformed professions, it's traditionally both but mostly an obligation. First responders (whether military, health, entertainment, or other) require continual proficiency training, practice, new tradecraft learning and KSA enhancements to stay on top of their game. Note "entertainment" is included, for learning is vital for sports performers, musicians, actors, etc., for their professional growth, too.

There are few fields of work so static that learning (sometimes "education" and frequently other elements like practicing rarely-required skills, working on a task force, being exposed to new aspects, or mentoring) is not required at all but is a perquisite. It is a reward in many places. A few organizations are training grounds for people who leave to advance elsewhere: like the Navy is for nuclear power technicans, where their mission-required KSAs translate quite well to the more relaxed civilian applications where their learning curve tends to drop although their advancement potential may rise.

After all, "advancement" need not be HERE. I've worked places where I did it for the learning experience, to build my credentials to be leveraged elsewhere. In such cases, learning was the primary compensation element. The canny employer understands worker expectations and strives to provide the right mix of learning opportunities that are force multipliers for instant effectiveness and which maximize upward mobility and lateral flexibility HERE, while reducing inducements to apply the learning elsewhere. Those learning methods include coaching, staff meetings, job rotation, temporary fill-in assignments, individual projects, task forces, classroom training, reading, teaching, counseling, and off-job volunteer activities.

Learning can be for now or for the future, for here or for there. A steel pourer trained in basket weaving won't advance at the steel furnace due to that new skill, but a slubber doffer at a fabric mill might apply that art for a promotion.

Sorry, didn't mean to go off in a riff, but this IS important and generally not well thought out.

I definitely agree that there is not the incentive to learn and be trained if advancement in the organization is not possible.

Intriguing post Ann! I think you are right that employers must find a state a balance between their obligation to employees (and their own bottom line) to help them grow and the tendency for training and development opportunities to be seen as a form of reward by employees. However, I often advice my coaching clients that they must take ownership of their own professional development and that their are many ways to grow and advance one's career outside the confines of work.

I have included your post in my Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week (http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2010/12/the-rainmaker-fab-five-blog-picks-of-the-week-2.html) to let my readers onto this interesting topic.

Be well!


Good points, all. Like you, I have also made career choices and taken positions based on the opportunity to learn things that could only be leveraged elsewhere, down the line, in yet another gig. I'm glad I did. And, as is so often true, the answer to the question I pose is indeed situational.


Thanks for the comment. I hear you - and I know many would agree. However, to Jim's point earlier, I think employes do themselves a disservice if they only consider learning and development opportunities that have a short-term payoff (in terms of advancement) in their current organization. Life is too uncertain to focus our personal growth only on the opportunities in our immediate employment environment.


Always an honor to be featured in the Rainmaker "Fab Five" - thanks a lot! Readers, be sure to check out the other great posts that Chris has featured this week - lots of great insights.

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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