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If you want to build your career, spend time away from work


Job prospects and long-term career success are increasingly being influenced by individuals’ willingness to mix their working lives with time spent studying. Figures published by the Chartered Management Institute show that employers are attracted to staff who show commitment to their own professional development, because of the knock-on effect this has on business.

The data, which comes from a series of research projects undertaken over the past four years, has been issued in the run up to Learning at Work day next week - a national campaign spearheaded by the Campaign for Learning.

According to the findings, employers accept that their staff will move on to other jobs, but see immediate ‘business need’ as a key factor to encourage learning. Asked to identify reasons for supporting employee development, the top three responses were: ‘strategic business requirements’, ‘improving individual prospects for progress’ and ‘enabling staff to do their job’. Individual respondents also gave a clear indication that they see value in time spent learning; a rating of six out of 10 was given when managers were asked if they had been ‘rewarded and recognised’ for undertaking development programmes.

Managers were also asked the extent to which learning had helped their career. Almost a quarter said that achieving a qualification led to a promotion and 23% received a salary increase. The same proportion transferred their skills to a new career and 22% got a new job in the same industry. Half claimed that they also gained more respect from colleagues and 70% focused on the opportunity it gave them to ‘refocus’ their career.

Looking five years ahead five, one in three employers also believe that their managers will become ‘more concerned about professional development’. More than half (54 %) argue that managers will also need evidence of transferable skills to move across industry sectors, with a similar proportion (51%) suggesting success will be based on ‘broad business knowledge’. These findings come in the wake of wider research which revealed that a combination of studying for qualifications and on-the-job experience has overtaken ‘natural ability’ as the key ingredient for successful management and leadership.

Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, says: “It is becoming increasingly clear that, if individuals want to succeed, they must invest time in continually updating their skills. But studying on its own is not the answer – how managers apply what they learn in their relationships with customers and colleagues is critical to ongoing success.”

Most respondents admit that ‘taking time out’ to learn new skills improves their self-awareness and interpersonal capabilities. For example, 79 per cent suggest that one practical benefit is the development of their leadership skills and 66 per cent believe they are better equipped to deal with interpersonal issues as a result of studying for a qualification.

Tricia Hartley, chief executive at the Campaign for Learning adds: “Learning whilst working can be a considerable challenge, particularly with the pressures we all face to deliver on time, every time. However, it is clear from this research as well as the feedback we receive from the many organisations taking part in Learning at Work Day that there is no subsitute for continuous learning, as without this, the ability to meet new and changing demands is diminished.”


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