Show Me the Money!

Are you performing to your leaders’ expectations or overvaluing your learning efforts?

After reviewing Training magazine’s 2015 Salary Survey, you may be screaming, “Show Me the Money!” either because you are below the average or you want to jump to the next level. In either case, the answer is the same.

Start by asking yourself a couple of questions such as, “How does my role compare to those in the salary survey?” and “What can I do to improve my salary performance?” The first question benchmarks your current salary level to the industry median. If you’re above the median, congratulations, you’re among the better-performing practitioners within that role. If you’re not, then you need to address the second question, so you are not left behind.

Learning practitioners we meet often believe they are underpaid and undervalued. It is easy to blame leaders for your insecurity within the business. Before blaming others, however, you must take personal responsibility for your professional development. It is astonishing how many learning practitioners shirk their responsibility to practice what they too often preach to others.. .and that is to be learners themselves. It is shocking that those holding the responsibility for some type of organizational learning fail to challenge what they know and make little attempt to discover what they don’t.

There sometimes is an unspoken arrogance within the learning community in that many practitioners frown upon topics unrelated to learning. It comes across as if there is purity to “learning” and everything else is unworthy of attention. This may be a dramatic generalization, but those thinking this way are, themselves, closed to learning for both their own personal growth and for the growth of those depending upon them.

Your objective (and responsibility) is not only to help employees learn but to be learners, as well. The learning role is to venture into unknown knowledge areas and to lead by example. Your professional development is as relevant as the need to instill learning within your organization.

For both your and your organization’s growth and success, it is critical to focus on relevant skills. Addressing and developing the following top three skills will help you to ascend the salary ladder:

Acquire business skills: Workplace learning is a business within a business just like every other internal function. Like every other function, L&D must demonstrate value and be accountable for its actions. With this in mind, practitioners must respect how learning efforts align with business expectations. This is why it’s essential to develop your business and financial literacy.

Leaders never want to hear about the learning process. Their preoccupation is with results and, in L&D’s case, improving performance. Begin with the end in mind. First, identify primary business objectives to develop targeted learning solutions. This aligns the learning initiative with your leaders’ expectations. Second, always communicate learning results in precise business terms, not learning jargon.

Maintain technology competencies: Evaluating, selecting, and implementing learning technology is dependent upon your learning expertise, not IT’s. No one expects you to become a technology expert. But leaving it to IT will make your learning efforts fit the technology rather than the other way around. It is incumbent upon L&D to decide the appropriate technology (software and hardware) that best fits the learning need. Your combined learning and tech expertise will drive the effectiveness of the learning process, while the technology will deploy the learning solution effectively.

Master leadership/motivational skills: The learning process is more than simply telling people what to learn—it is also motivational. Every learning practitioner must master two types of motivational skills: recognizing the participant’s initial motivation to learn and maintaining his or her motivation throughout the learning process.

Experienced practitioners, from instructional designers to facilitators, never assume that a learner simply wants to learn. They investigate why he or she needs learning in the first place. Respecting why a person wants to learn allows you to adapt the learning process to meet his or her needs. Granted, adapting the learning process for a large group is challenging, but this is why you were hired.

Learning practitioners carry a big responsibility: to be learners and to develop their skills holistically. Do this and then compare yourself to next year’s Salary Survey—you may surprise yourself.

Ajay M. Pangarkar, CTDF, CPA, CMA, and Teresa Kirkwood, CTDP are founders of and They are employee performance management experts and three-time authors, most recently publishing “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley). Help them start a “Workplace Revolution” at or contact