This can be a grey area.
But most of my clients self-fund their professional development, at least when it comes to personal coaching to help them move forward and better their career.
Because a lot of them don’t want their employer to know that they are having issues at work or they are already thinking about leaving their job. They don’t want buy in from their employer to help with their professional development because they don’t want their employer to know they’re receiving help at all. It’s private, it’s personal and they don’t want their employer having any rights over the outcome.
Ok fair enough, I guess that’s quite a clear cut case of the individual paying for their own development costs then….
But what happens to a big chunk of my clients when we jump into the coaching process, is that they discover that they don’t actually want to leave their jobs, or the reason they have come to me in the first place is that they just want to deal better with the challenges they’re facing, they want tools to be more effective and to thrive so that the jobs they actually love become enjoyable again.
There can be a lot of shame attached in admitting that you need help to be better at something or that you may be having problems with performance. It can be easier to admit your weaknesses though if you are asked specifically to look at things like your skills gaps or management training at times like the performance review or appraisals. It can be easier to focus in on tangible areas for development and money set aside accordingly.
But what if the development you’re looking for is around how to deal with your manager or your colleagues? Or when you want to learn how to command more respect or learn how to self promote? These are soft skills and they can be difficult to quantify a tangible result, so who should pay in that situation?
What’s the test?
Well I think it comes down to two simple things – benefit and ownership
Who’s getting it? Well often it goes two ways. You get to upskill, grow and get better at what you do and as a result your employer should see a tangible benefit in profits and customer satisfaction.
If the employer is getting a benefit from your professional development and as a result they get a more effective, more engaged and “more likely to stay and contribute to increasing their profits” employee as an end product then surely they should have some input into paying for your development?
Yes, I think they should. At least in some part.
Any savvy employer already knows that and any good employer will know that there is an ROI when it comes to employee professional development so it doesn’t take too much to convince them to part with their training budget if you can make a good case for it.
If employers are paying you in return for your skill to make money for them (basic terms), why would they not also pay for you to upskill, so that you can make them more money (again, in basic terms)? It makes good business sense.
They have already invested in you by paying for office space, equipment and other onboarding costs so why not continue to invest in you to recoup their initial investment at least? Because if you leave, not only will they have to find someone with a similar level skill set as a minimum, they will have to start all over again with onboarding, initial training costs, and time to train you just to get you up to speed, and time, as we all know, is the most precious of commodities. Investing in you is keeping hold of you.
So believe it or not there is real value to employers in investing in little old you. They want you to perform at your best, they want you to expand your skillset, they want you to get on well with your colleagues and customers so that it’s easy for you and the company to thrive.
Well that’s how the common sense theory goes and if you are working for an employer like this checking out whether there are any funds available can be a much easier task. Its then just a question of pulling together a good business case and approaching the person who is most likely to want to hear you ask.
But of course not all employers think like this and they may need more direct persuasion.
They may think they if they invest in you, you will go off somewhere else and they will get nothing in return. This is likely because they don’t see the value in learning or development, maybe see it as a nice to have, but if you have an employer in this category, it still doesn’t rule out getting them on board to invest in your development. You may just need to be much more direct when you spell out the benefits to them.
But even the best employer may not be fully aware that they have budget to spend or will need very clear reasons to be able to award it to you. So if you want your employer to have a part in funding your professional development you need to clearly outline the benefits so that your manager, who is most likely the person you’re going to be speaking to about this, will also know where to look for the budget.
So if you are happy with your employer being in the picture about your reasons for development, and you can articulate the benefits to them so that they agree to fund your development then you may well be on the way to having your employer controbute towards the cost of your career.
But what if you just don’t want them having any ownership at all? Because surely payment equals ownership?
Well it can.
As a Career Empowerment Coach I talk a lot about taking ownership of your career, and with ownership the test often comes down to who’s actually paid for something. So a good question to ask yourself when you’re considering who should fund your training or development is, are youwilling to giving away some of that ownership if you let somebody else pay to develop it?
I don’t think so.
Because your career is your career.
Any development that goes towards the progression of that career is just part and parcel of the career journey. By allowing someone else to fund part of the progression of that career does not give them automatic ownership of the whole of your career, even though it might feel like that when employer funded development gets the sign off.
Often when employers fund the development of their employees there can be conditions attached. Usually along the lines of “if we pay for this, you will need to remain with us for X amount of time or you will need to pay us back”.
And that can be a stopper for some people.
Maybe they were actually planning on taking the money and running. Maybe they don’t like the feeling of being held ransom. Maybe they just don’t want some else’s fingers in their career pie.
I can see it.
When it comes to who funds your career development sometimes you want full control. And if you’re paying for things yourself then you get to say which course you do, when you do it and don’t have the worry of having to be in debt to anyone but yourself.
So when it comes to who should pay, it’s a grey area and one for you to decide what you feel comfortable with and to what level. Sometimes there will be things that your employer will automatically pay for and will offer you, yes, but if you want professional development that isn’t a done deal, then you may need to decide whether you can ask for your employer’s support, and more importantly, whether you want to ask them.
Assuming you do want their support, because let’s face it they’re going to get a massive benefit and your development needs might run into the thousands of pounds, you may need to prepare yourself to make the ask.
And that can be a bit scary, especially if you don’t like asking for things…
So to optimise the chances of getting a yes and happy faces all round, from whatever stance your employer takes to professional development, here are a few tips to making the request for development funding a whole lot easier:
1. Create a good time to ask
Think about what works well for the person you’re asking and when they are most likely to be receptive to hearing from you. Make a specific meeting request and make sure there is enough time to discuss things fully. You don’t have to put hours in the diary, especially if you have done a good dose of prep work to font load the meeting but you do need an attentive and present ear so creating specific time for the discussion is a must.
2. Go into the meeting prepared
Prepare a business case to say why it is to their benefit (and own any mutual benefits to you too) to fund your professional development. Think about including any of these points:
- Tying your professional development to strategic, departmental, or position goals
- Doing your research and presenting options. Include testimonials from others who have taken the program you want to do, for example
- Find out if any precedents for professional development investment exist in your organisation. Talk to the HR department. Review the employee handbook. Is your boss an anomaly? Or is there a history of others having access to professional development? Find any success stories you can share.
- Describe how the program will impact your job, department, and company. What skills will you learn? What understanding will you gain? How will that make you a better employee?
As well as focusing on the specific benefits to your role and team, remember to make reference to the wider benefits such as the greater sense of happiness and fulfilment to you, the positive impact to the wider team and culture and the implications for brand reputation if employers are seen as investors in people.
3. Be prepared to negotiate
I know this might feel scary too, but again if you’re prepared for it will feel a lot less so. Think about what you’re willing to give, yourself.
Would you be up for a part contribution if they haven’t got funds to pay the full amount? If so, how much? Will you be happy if they agree but on the condition that you will need to give back a certain amount of years service? Are you comfortable with being able to pay back any funds if you should decide to leave soon after?
There may be bargaining involved because as we’ve discussed before there is mutual benefit here so by approaching it collaboratively you shouldn’t feel like you’re making any demands, nor should you be surprised if they ask for something in return.
Ultimately whether you decide to ask for funding from your employer or not, the main question to ask is what’s it worth to me? If you know you will increase your earnings by taking on training, then it could be worth adding into the investment pot yourself. How much do you want or need it?
One last thing to mention….don’t assume that because we are facing a cost of living crisis that there isn’t money available to support your professional training. Companies often operate in budget years and money has already been allocated for certain activities, development being one of them. Even if they are talking about reducing costs generally, it may not apply to all spends so it is always worth an ask, especially if you can align it to their best interests too.
Post Covid, and as we come out of the Great Resignation era, employers are really starting to wake up to the value of retaining and investing in good employees. And when you add in end of year budgets that need to be spent, your managers may actually welcome a place to put money that has already been set aside.
Equally, if you choose not to ask for assistance from your employer to fund your development because you want full ownership or have already asked and know development is not a priority for them, don’t just sit back and stall.
You own your career and it’s actually one of the few things in this world, current climate included, that you can shape and have some degree of control over it’s outcome. As Lady Gaga said, “your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.”
Your career feeds you, it enriches you, it gives you purpose. Continue to invest in it and you will reap the rewards now or further down the line. Now is not the time to sit back and wait.
I am currently encouraging women to have the coversation about funding as we approach the year end and as look to I launch my new group programme, Rise Higher, in January.
This programme pulls together all that I believe undertstated and highly capable women need to truly thrive in the workplace and to become the authentic leaders we need to see in the corporate space right now.
If you’d like to learn more about the programme and how you could open the conversation with confidence and support, then get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a coporate funding pack as well as offering you a free pitch consultation to get things moving in the right direction.
Career Empowerment Coach
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