I think if my employers were smart, they would encourage ongoing training programs to get the staff up to speed and keep them there. Even in a tight economy, don’t they realize that expanding team knowledge helps the company? There are so many training programs out there that would help me to do my job more efficiently, but upper management is clearly clueless. How do I get the training I need to keep up with industry changes and do my job well if my bosses are too cheap to see the value?


Your question is an extremely common one, and the answer to it normally surprises both the employer and employee. But first, let me tell you about Tim and Bella.

Once upon a time, a couple that I was friends with were having significant marital difficulties. When he would make attempts at intimacy, she would say she couldn’t meet his physical needs until he met her emotional needs. When she would ask for understanding and the opportunity to talk things through, he would say he couldn’t meet her emotional needs until she met his physical needs. And there they stood, on either side of the bed, arms crossed.

Because neither physical nor emotional needs were met in that marriage, or maybe because her physical needs were eventually satiated elsewhere, they both abandoned the arrangement for the possibility of something better.

As it so often goes with a job arrangement. You enter into a union with your employer amid high expectations of possibility and achievement. They ask you to stay on for better or worse; you ask them to keep you on in sickness and in health. And quietly, after the cake is cut, unspoken expectations of your partner begin to build.

“Why doesn’t my boss make training programs available to me?” you lament. “Why doesn’t she ask for the help she needs?” your boss criticizes. What often happens between employers and employees is that each sits around waiting for the other to tackle an issue. And there they stand, on either side of the conference table, arms crossed.

We assume we know what makes a person tick, but you know what happens when you assume anything. What you perceive as your employer being clueless or cheap could be a variety of other things, namely:

Plain, old-fashioned ingenuity. Have you taken the initiative and asked for any training? Or are you waiting for your employer to present the option to you? Maybe your boss is hoping you’ll step up and show a pro-active approach, thereby demonstrating your commitment to not just keeping your job, but to seeing the company succeed. Positioning yourself as forward-thinking is a particularly good move in the current career climate.

Present a well-thought out case to your employer. Instead of just saying “I want training,” research available programs. Get feedback from past clients about how the training did (or didn’t) help. Compare and contrast options and costs. Stress the benefits this will provide to the company (not to you personally), such as improved productivity and efficiency or the ability to bring in bigger and better clients.

Plain, old-fashioned fear. Many people have a fear-based management style that rarely does the company any good, but is not impossible for you to overcome once you understand it.

Maybe the last person in whom your boss invested with training programs took that knowledge to another company, sticking your boss with the bill and then earning twice her pay elsewhere with all of her new-found knowledge. Perhaps the company had just signed a large client based on her new skills gleaned from recent training, and your boss lost the contract with that big, new client when she left.

Combat this employer fear by communicating that you understand knowledge is power, and you’re sure that there are management concerns around investing in an employee’s skills who can then take those skills across the street to a competitor. Offer to sign a non-compete clause, or agree in writing to stay on with the company through a certain period of time so that the training your employer has invested in pays off. Be sure to consult an attorney before you sign anything, but putting such an offer on the table will ease your employer’s mind and will get you the advanced skills you need to be more efficient in your job.

Plain, old-fashioned sabotage. People are very concerned about job security right now, which makes sense given the current job market. And fear makes people do funny things.

Perhaps your direct superior is afraid of being replaced by you, and he’s whispering in the ear of the CEO that you’re not ready for any kind of advanced training. Maybe the database manager, upon hearing through the grapevine about your request for database training, announces at a staff meeting that anyone considering database training is an idiot because the current program will likely be obsolete in six months.

This is likely the same guy who has promised to get around to training you and just never seems to “find the time.” Of course he doesn’t want to find the time to teach you what he knows, because then he is less critical when it comes to layoffs.

If you’re asking for training on a skill that someone else in the office already has, stress the importance of having more than one person who is able to perform any given task. Should the database manager step off a curb and get hit by a bus, it protects the business when someone else on the team understands the intricacies of how to run the system.

At the end of the day, you may be right: your employer may be clueless or cheap. If she’s clueless, educate her about the benefits of additional training. Or, if he’s cheap, maybe, given the economy, he’s just trying to keep the lights on and avoid layoffs.

More knowledge and better skills are good for any business. Rather than giving into frustration, step back and figure out what may be behind your employer’s approach. Once you understand his or her thinking, you can then develop appropriate strategies to get the know-how you need.