Skin in the game

In my estimate, 90 percent of the employees attending a training program are sponsored by their employers. (It’s probably more, but I would rather be conservative than quote something that’s not true.) And almost 50% of these attendees are on programs that may not benefit them directly — neither professional nor personally. Yet, they’re okay attending because their manager asked them to. Of course, they would fill in “excellent” feedback for the choice of program. But how is that even helping?

One of the reasons why I decided to work only with individuals was to ensure that the participants are heavily invested in the outcome of the program. A couple of years back, I made the move to include groups as well. But I was highly specific in the kind of individuals I would like to be part of those groups. This made a significant impact in the quality of discussions my trainings had. Why? Simply because these individuals needed the training I had to deliver. And most importantly, half of them invested their own money into the program. Now, that changes the dynamics completely.

I so wish companies tweak their training and development program by making it not just mandatory but also sponsoring only half the cost and have the employee create a business case for themselves. I call this “having the skin in the game.” It’s a much needed change in our world today where companies are either sponsoring their employees on willy-nilly programs or just aren’t doing anything (or making it extremely difficult).

You are damn lucky if all your employer cares about is an invoice for proving that you “invested” in yourself. Make the most of it. If, however, your employer doesn’t really care or encourage this but you prioritize your personal and professional development, I think you should make a learning plan for yourself and be deliberate about investing in yourself. Instead of waiting for your PD fund to come through.

I have a 5-percent rule — that’s the portion I put aside every month from my earnings for books, seminars, online programs, coaching, and mentoring. Yes, sacrifices will have to be made and there are months when I do go over the budget for stuff (mostly books and online programs) that I don’t want to miss out on. But I have never waited on my PD fund to come through. It’s not a question about me being able to afford it, everyone can, if they prioritize it.

And it’s funny how serious things get when you put your skin in the game. You learn not only to respect your investment in yourself but also maximize the investment by staying focused and committed to your plan for growth. That’s exactly what the most highly successful people do. They probably started from where you are right now. What’s stopping you?

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