Training and Professional Development is a Social Mission

I’ve worked in the nonprofit space for much of my career. Years ago when I wanted to make a transition into the world of corporate training for a big company, the interviewer looked at my resume and asked: Would you even be comfortable working here? You seem to have a job history of working for more… well… “do-good” types of organizations. Be honest, how would you feel about working for an organization whose focus, at the end of the day, is making money for shareholders?

In my interview prep, I had been so focused on making sure I could talk about my L&D prowess that I hadn’t thought much about how to answer this kind of question. And I think it’s a fair question to ask, because a hiring manager doesn’t want to bring someone on board who might struggle to give 100% since the mission of the organization isn’t to save the world in some way, shape or form.

In today’s podcast, I talk about how this interview question made me re-think what exactly we do in learning and development roles.

Introduction 

Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in very bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I am your host. I’m also the Co-founder of a company called Endurance Learning, and today I’m going to be talking with you about the impact that good training can have on people’s lives. Yes, at work, but also outside of work as well.

Before I get into any of that, I do want to make sure that you know that today’s podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which just received Training Magazine’s Choice Award for Authoring Tools for the second year in a row! Soapbox is an online tool that you can go to and you can use it for five or ten minutes, and you can take care of about 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to developing live, instructor-led trainings. It basically gives you a lesson plan and slides and a facilitator guide when it comes to training. You just have to go in and tell the computer how long your presentation is going to be, how many people are going to attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and then you get a lesson plan and slides instantly. Go ahead and sign up for your free trial at www.soapboxify.com.

All right, so today’s podcast is going to be pretty short, but you know what? Sometimes the best things come in small packages. I want to talk a little bit today about what we even do in the world of learning and development. 

The Social Value of Nonprofit Work

What problem do you solve?

I’ve spent most of my career working in the nonprofit sector. Up until I started Endurance Learning, most of my career was spent in the nonprofit sector where I worked for organizations that were in foster care, or I taught GED classes at a youth center. I never thought too much about the social value that my job and training had until I applied for a job at Microsoft.

Working in the nonprofit world, really the mission of the organizations I worked for made me feel good about my work. I never thought too much about how training impacted people’s lives. Specifically, the work our organization as a whole was doing, was changing lives and making the world a better place, and I was just a piece of that. 

The Social Value of All Learning & Development Work

If I could help somebody do their job better or faster or easier, it truly was a quality-of-life action that I had taken.

But when it came time for me to interview for a job that might have paid me just a little bit more money, I was asked, “Well, Brian, how do you feel about working for a company like Microsoft after having been working in a more socially-focused organization for so long?” The interviewer was actually concerned that I wouldn’t like the nature of the work that I was doing because it was a for-profit company. And I really hadn’t thought about this very much, but after a moment or two, a pretty natural response came to me for that interview.

It really didn’t matter whether I was working in a job where I was helping to cure blindness—which I actually did—or if I was working in a job to help the marketing department better track how many impressions or clicks a certain online ad got. What I was doing in the world of learning and development, I was helping people to learn how to do something better or faster. That specific act could change lives, and if I could help somebody do their job better or faster or easier, it truly was a quality-of-life action that I had taken.

Learning & Development Changes the World of an Individual

People spend more waking hours doing their jobs each week than they spend at home with their families. But if they felt better about their jobs or themselves because they learned something new, or if they were able to just go home a little sooner because they did something faster. Or maybe they just went home more satisfied with their work, then what I may have been doing at Microsoft or any other company in my capacity in learning and development, it may not change the entire world all at once. But it was changing an individual’s world. And when we in the learning and development space can change enough individual worlds, well we’re kind of changing the entire world with what we do as we go.

Just the act of going through that interview altered the way I see my work. Really, it's altered it forever.

I didn’t actually end up getting that job at Microsoft, or actually I did, but I had already accepted, on the same day, a different job with another nonprofit. But just the act of going through that interview altered the way I see my work. Really, it’s altered it forever. And if you’re like me, if you’re working in the world of learning and development, I really hope that this helps you to frame what you’re doing as well.

Yes, there are times when it’s frustrating to work with an SME or there are times when we don’t have the budget we’d like to put together that amazing training program. But remember, if we’re doing the learning and development right, if we’re putting together programs– and I’m talking about anything from new employee onboarding to specific technical skills training and everything in between– programs that can help somebody do their job better or easier or faster, then we’re changing people’s worlds.

All right. That’s all I have for you today. Thank you for listening. If you ever need some help bouncing some ideas around on how to help somebody else learn so that they can do their job better, faster, easier, please do drop me a line at brian@endurancelearning.com. I’d be happy to brainstorm ideas with you or I’d be happy to work with your organization in creating a new program. Until next time, happy training everyone.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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