Budget for Skill Practice

“There was this one time,” the tale begins, and that draws the learners into the world of story. Shakespeare took it even farther, writing, “the play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” Getting people into the “play” and engaging them with story is incredibly effective as a way to learn. Remember to budget time for learning—and specifically for this kind of story-based skill practice—as you prepare for the coming year.

For many organizations, it is budget season. Planning for the next year’s activities and investments is an important thought exercise. In some organizations, there is even a sort of ritual to it. There is something I would like you to consider in your planning. What it is will be a little bit different, depending on whether you are a business leader or a learning professional.


Advice for Business Leaders

Make time in the schedules of your departments and teams for learning. Depending on the area, somewhere between 2-5% of employee time can be effectively spent on job-relevant learning. (Caution: For specialties and areas experiencing rapid change, this benchmark may greatly underestimate the time needed!) This can be adapting to new technology, tools, or procedures. It can be new product or customer knowledge. It can be retooling skills and processes. Or, it could be developing people to take on new responsibilities as they grow in their careers. Make sure that your teams can keep up with the pace of the business, and budget for it.


Advice for Learning Professionals

Budget time and resources to create the kind of learning experiences that engage and develop people. Don’t short-change skill practice! Help people learn and use skills in practical, realistic situations so that they can transfer their learning to job tasks. Use story-based learning wherever possible—simulations, case studies, and skill practice scenarios. Most of us are prepared to put 100-200 hours of development effort into a major new program. I find that 80% of the simulation work I do for clients takes only 10-20 hours to create. It fits nicely within large or small project budgets. Make sure that as you look at the business needs for learning, you are putting people into business-relevant stories to help them learn and adapt.


Plan ahead! Save some time for learning, and get people into the play of the thing. It can catch far more than just the conscience of a king!