So you want to take a professional class or certificate program. It will look nice on your résumé, you’ll make new connections and gain new insights in your industry, and most importantly, you’ll add to your current skill set. You know it will benefit you. Have you ever thought how it will benefit your employer?
“It’s not really all about you.”
That’s a good reminder from Lisa Hughes, SHRM-SCP, GPHR, SPHR. She teaches in our human resources program and has been in the HR field for more than 20 years. She says when it comes to selling your boss on paying for class, you have to connect what you’ll learn to what you do on the job.
“Connect the new knowledge or skills you will gain to the needs of the business,” she said. “How will this help the business be more successful? How will the new knowledge or skills empower you to solve a business problem? Could your new knowledge or skill bring them positive recognition through marketing or PR?”
These are a few of the questions you want to have answered before you approach your supervisor.
Many businesses offer educational support, Lisa said. They want to invest in their employees because that makes those employees feel valued. As a result, turnover decreases and productivity increases.
But you still need to know how to make your case. Here are some tips:
Make a direct connection between the course topics and your company’s needs. Show how what you will take away from the class will help solve a problem your organization is facing. Be specific. Here’s an example:
“Our company Facebook page isn’t regularly updated and we don’t have a presence on other social networks, although my research shows that our target demographics are active on Pinterest and Instagram. In the Social Media Marketing Certificate program, I will learn how to increase engagement on our current page while expanding our brand on other channels, tracking analytics and streamlining updates through content management tools.”
Highlight how your training can enable you to mentor others. Will you be taking something like Project Management? You’ll graduate with a toolkit of resources, presentations and know-how that you can share with your team. This is true for many of our programs. Talk about how you can pass along what you have learned to coworkers.
Tie the course to a national certification. Along with providing a foundation of industry knowledge, many of our programs, such as Payroll, Bookkeeper and Administrative Professional, prepare students to sit for a national certification exam. Your boss might not have heard of KSU’s Information Systems Security Professional Certificate, but he or she might be familiar with the CISSP® certification, a global industry standard. Earning the certification can be a point of pride not only for you but also for the company you work for.
Anticipate questions you will encounter and prepare thoughtful answers. You don’t want to be caught unprepared. Here are two big ones Lisa suggests thinking about in advance:
- Will the class take away from work time? Answer: Evening, weekend or online classes can be a great solution.
- Is this expensive? Answer: Course fees will likely be more economical than hiring an employee with the necessary skills. Companies may also be able to capitalize on tax credits or deduction for funding employee education.
Make sure the arrangement is fair. A manager might wonder if the employee will only stick around long enough to get the certificate and then take that credential to get a new job. It’s common for companies to ask employees to sign education reimbursement agreements, Lisa said.
“These usually say you will continue to work there for a specified length of time or you will repay a percentage or all of the education expense,” she said. “This makes business sense — your current company doesn’t want to pay to train you for your next employer. If your employer doesn’t already have an agreement such as this you could propose one. This shows you are training to take ownership of your professional development and being fair to your employer.”
Ultimately, this is a win-win scenario for the employer and employee. You gain new skills. The company improves its bottom line. Approach your request with the company in mind, and you’ll be much more likely to gain a receptive ear.