Asking for work to sponsor or pay for a professional development opportunity can give many folks a ton of anxiety. It’s understandable. It’s not an easy conversation to have necessarily, and with today’s economic environment, not every company has the extra budgets for this spend. However, NOT having these conversations AT ALL can be more detrimental – not only to your career – but to your psyche and confidence as well. At Crush Limits we often say, “opportunities are created, not given” and it’s your voice to use and your hand to raise that can make all the difference.
A great place to start laying the groundwork for these conversations, especially to brainstorm creative ways to learn, are in your 1:1 meetings with your manager. When the question of “how is everything going?” comes up, it provides you a chance to inject your desire to further your professional portfolio through professional development into the discussion. What are key skills you want to improve on to make it to the next level of your career? What are the skillsets of the future for leadership whether a people leader or subject leader? Just asking one question can really change the trajectory of your career development or your personal engagement.
The following are some tips and tricks that can help you navigate these conversations in your workplace with your manager or human resources department:
Get HR On Board
The Human Resources department can be your biggest ally in a situation like this. They most likely also know budgets, options and potentially an internal learning program within the company. They are aware of the importance professional development holds in the workplace and have a front row seat to understanding the labor market and skillets within candidates they interview, and internal teammates that are promoted from within. Usually, they are advocates for this type of training and development of employees. So, it’s not to say you should go to HR over your manager to get approval, but more so to engage HR in a conversation about advice, company policy and procedure. Often times, they can give you information on group vs. individual scenarios and what sort of stipend or pay range might be available for the company to contribute to these types of opportunities.
Do Your Research
There are a lot of professional development courses out there and not all of them are the same or going to be right for you. Spend time finding the right opportunities that will benefit you as an individual in the long run and potentially be prepared to share in the cost for them. There are bonus points to be had if you go to your manager or HR with options. Look at testimonials, ratings, and things of that nature when researching opportunities. The last thing you want to do is get approval and then feel like you wasted it on something that wasn’t right for you.
Present the Value
This one is important. ROI is everything. As soon as you make the request, the question of “why?” will undoubtedly come in some form. “Why should we pay for this? Why should we support your individual ask? How much time off will this require?” Those are just some examples. Going in prepared is key. You want to be ready to show how the ask is going to help the company, the team and you. What is the value the organization or team will get out of it? How will this training help you bring in or save the company money? How will the training help you build key skills? Most employers do understand the value of professional development. The key is they will want to know why it’s important to you and how it can make an impact across the board.
Report Back/Share the Wealth
Once you’ve been given the green light, it’s important to report back to your supervisor, HR or whoever else you got approval from. Even better is if you take what you learned and share it with the team and/or organization. Not only will this show that you care and appreciate the support, but also that you can maximize the value by teaching others. Not to mention, you remember much more by teaching something you learned vs. just learning it for yourself. Additionally, it could provide motivation for others and perhaps lead to a team or group of coworkers or colleagues going in on professional development courses to improve culture, teamwork and production/efficiency in the workplace.
It can be a challenging time to prioritize professional development between busy home and work schedules, navigating covid challenges and tight budgets – but if you prioritize its importance and go in with a calculated plan, your chances of getting approval go up dramatically. Don’t let your personal or professional aspirations to develop your skillset go to waste!
CEO and Founder