Friday, 21 May 2010

Working Smarter 2: Training and development on a shoestring

This is the second of a series of posts following the Career Development Group's national conference 2010, 'Working Smarter'.  Carol Brooks gave a great presentation on finding ways to further your professional development even if there are no funds available - it's our responsibility!  We should always be watching for learning opportunities and how they will benefit us.

We need to take a systematic approach, identifying skills that we need to develop and finding ways to fill these gaps.  Start by doing a needs analysis, then identify what you will gain from each training opportunity.  Training does not have to cost a lot - look for night classes, CILIP groups, workplace and other sources of cheap/free courses. Courses could be planned internally for staff and using staff skills and knowledge, meaning that the learning is much more specific to the needs of the organisation. Skills can be exchanged with another authority.  Special interest groups looking for a venue for training courses will usually be happy to reserve places for your staff in exchange.

If planning a course, don't start from scratch – tweak to make more relevant, but don't reinvent the wheel.  Consider how long the training needs to be - a shorter course may be more economical and more focussed.  If trying to convince employers to allow staff to attend, highlight the risks of not having the training.  Consider the various learning styles in developing the course.

There are lots of opportunities for CPD on the job, from shadowing and secondment to mentoring and coaching. Induction training is the most important  opportunity for an organisation and doesn't cost much.  Everything the new employee learns during induction will be specific to your organisation.  Never underestimate it and never cut it short!

I liked the suggestion of mystery shopping as a tool for customer service training.  Other good methods include learning hour (colleagues come together to hear about something you've been working on), learning sets (topic brought in by one person, everyone in the group contributes questions/solutions to the problem) and shadowing programmes (either at own level or more senior level). 

Learning resources
  • youtube
  • web2 applications – e.g. using facebook for learning sets
  • web-based emails
  • rss, discussion groups, blogs, twitter
  • professional press: read it, but also consider writing an article
  • professional networks: make friends and contacts
  • Forums: contribute and share ideas
  • committee work: attend meetings, perhaps take on a role
  • organise meetings, fund-raising events or training courses.
I am already very committed to my professional development and have made the most of working part-time to follow up topics of interest to me through conferences, blogs, discussion groups etc.  Just a couple of weeks ago I discussed the possibility of shadowing a colleague here in the medical library to gain an insight into cataloguing in an academic environment.  I have to confess that I could take a more structured approach to identifying skills gaps and filling them.  My first priority at the moment has to be completeing my MSc though!

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