Why You Need a Learning Budget (and How to Ask for One!)

 Why You Need a Learning Budget (and How to Ask for One!)

What’s the single best perk you can negotiate for next year?  A 2% raise?  Maybe.  A better 401(k) or pension contribution?  That’s always nice.  But if you really want to crank up your skills for next year, ask for a learning budget. 

What’s a learning budget? 

A learning budget is simply an amount of money set aside by your employer to pay for your skills to be improved.  When I was in private practice, they called it a “book budget,” but it could also be spent on electronic books, magazines, or trade publications that would enhance my ability to do my job effectively.

How much should I ask for?

I’ve seen learning budgets range from $50 - $1500.  The average is about $250.  It may be easier to get budget if you ask for a specific resource(s) – say, $400 to attend four SCCE webinars or $300 to attend the updated Wildly STRATEGIC Compliance Officer Academy online course.  You might also consider asking for services with a monthly cost, like a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, which will be a small monthly fee but will give you great new content every day.

If your learning budget is big enough, you may be able to use it to take you to conferences like the fabulous SCCE European Compliance and Ethics Institute (March in Frankfurt!) or other compliance-related events.   Books, magazines, trade publications, webinars, conferences – the choices are endless.

What should I spend it on?

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Join the Compliance Party!

Join the Compliance Party!

Want to raise your profile, meet new people in the industry, benchmark you program against what other companies are doing and potentially, find a new job?  One of the best ways to do this is to join a compliance-related organization.  But how do you find one that best suits you your needs and personality?  Let’s look at three types of organizations – large international non-profits, small local organizations, and those run by for-profit companies.  Which one is right or you? 

Large International Non-Profits

Groups the like Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Ethics and Compliance Initiative (ECI, formerly ECOA) are large international organizations created entirely to promote the compliance and ethics profession. 

Large international non-profits have the benefit of scale.  Everything they do can be done on a large level.  For instance, the annual SCCE conference in the fall typically has around 2,000 attendees.  There are ten different tracks of sessions for different professional needs.

The downside to the large size of the SCCE, ECI and others is that it is easy to feel lost in the group.  Unless you proactively work to make friends or to be involved, it’s common to not feel a part of the organization, and to lose interest in it.

Smaller or Local Not-for-Profit Groups...

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No One Can Do Your Push-Ups for You!

No One Can Do Your Push-Ups for You!

Need help with online training?  There’s a company for that.  How about understanding trade sanctions in Iran?  A law firm is waiting for you.  Seeking ISO 37001 anti-bribery program certification?  Consultants, auditors and certification bodies are ready for you.

Everywhere you turn there are solutions to help your compliance and ethics program.  Great vendors, lawyers, consultants and temporary staff exist to help you to make your program better.  It almost makes you think that with enough budget, you could sit on a beach directing the program with minimal effort while the outside help takes over. 

But there’s a catch.  A CEO friend of mine told me he was frustrated because he was trying to get used to his new gym routine.  He said, “I have someone to dry clean my laundry, clean my house, answer my phone and schedule my travel.  But I can’t hire someone to do my push-ups for me.” 

There are some things you simply can’t outsource.  Here are three of them:  

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Don't Be a Turkey...Remember to Give Thanks in the Office

Don't Be a Turkey...Remember to Give Thanks in the Office

This week, my friends in the United States will be celebrating Thanksgiving.  Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, and while we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the United Kingdom, the attitude of gratitude can go a long way wherever you are in the world to help you to be a wildly effective compliance officer.

In most working environments, people are so busy handing out criticism they hardly ever receive praise.  Yet people thrive in environments where they feel appreciated and acknowledged for their contributions.  Knowing this, you can strongly influence your corporate culture by consciously choosing to acknowledge those around you when they uphold and embody your organization’s values.  By verbally and visibly appreciating those around you, you become part of the positive feedback loop that will make your organization not only more ethical, but also a nicer place to work. 

Here are four tangible ways you can use gratitude to ramp up your effectiveness:

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Start with Why

Start with Why

Visibly holding back tears, the man approached me.  I’d just completed the keynote at the American Bankers’ Association Compliance Conference, which I’d closed by showing a video about how compliance officers are changing the world for the better.

“I finally get it!” he said.  “All this time I’ve thought I was pushing around paperwork. But I’m not.  I have three daughters.  I love our home.  In my job, I make sure mortgage paperwork is compliant with the law.  But that’s not what I do- what I really do is ensure people like me get to keep their homes.  I never realized that I have a calling.”  I was overwhelmed with his emotion and the excitement I had for the new understanding he had about why his job mattered so much.

In his Tedx talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Simon Sinek says that great leaders always start with the “why.”  Mediocre leaders start with the “what” or the “how.”  The “what” is the product or the thing company produces, the “how” is the process of making the thing.  Most importantly, the “why” is the reason behind what we do.

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