How to get your employer to fund your professional training
Yet often, employees do not fully appreciate that many companies will fund, or at least part-fund, these opportunities. What’s the best way of approaching your employer to secure funding for courses?
CPD doesn’t just benefit the individual: it benefits the company too. Knowing this, and knowing what your company wants (and doesn’t want) is vital to showing your employer why they should invest in you. ‘Make the business case,’ says Emma Waddingham, Director of legal services consultancy Emma Waddingham Consulting. ‘Show how by growing your skills in a particular area, the company will make gains.’ That might be taking on new responsibilities or learning about new technology in your particular role, for example – the key is to demonstrate to the company that there’s a gap in their skill base, that you could be an ideal candidate to fill.
‘With the increasing use of KPIs in appraisals,’ Waddingham says, ‘if you speak the right language to your boss, it will unlock funding. You don’t have to wait for the appraisal to say, “this is a course that I could go on, that will benefit us in this particular area.” Part of the point of CPD is that you engage with it all year round.’
Make your case achievable, realistic and timebound, and be aware that the easiest way for a company to decline your CPD request is cost. ‘If you say, there’s a conference I could go to, that will use up a day and a half and I’d need a hotel for the night – all your employer will hear is time and cost,’ says Waddingham. ‘Instead, make a clear case for how the training will benefit the company, why they should invest in you, and how it will take you forward.
Proving added value
Showing this is not as challenging as it might appear. Most companies will be well aware of the need to keep employees’ knowledge and skills up to date with external training. ‘It’s vital for companies to look at how quickly the job market is changing, and how quickly technology changes,’ says Edward Shorney, Founder and Managing Director of Go Rookie. ‘We’re constantly looking at what courses are available for our staff; and how we invest in them.’
‘We don’t take the view of asking, “how much will this cost”,’ Shorney says. ‘We ask, will be ready for the next wave of software? Are we ready for the next trend? Can the company continue to grow with the resources we have?’
Thinking outside the box
For Damian Evans, Partner at Evans Entwistle, a firm of Chartered Management Accountants, if you show your commitment and willingness to learn, this communicates itself positively to the employer. ‘An accountancy degree [or qualification] isn’t the most important thing for me. The key is, good on-the-job training, and having the right kind of character. Accountancy is expensive to train for. [Candidates] then have to consider, can I fund myself further to gain Chartered status?
‘A degree [or qualification] in a related subject is fine if you then use training to make the grade,’ Evans explains.
CPD training is therefore good for both company and individual. ‘You need a continual supply of appropriately trained and qualified professionals, from straightforward accountancy to auditing, corporate finances and insolvency.’ Most people don’t reach Chartered status until they are 26 or older, Evans adds. He shares the experience of having two potential candidates for external exams. ‘They were both similar calibre candidates, but one had already started the groundwork, registering with the appropriate institute and starting the first round of exams.’ That helped make the decision when it came to the casting vote.
Not just an add-on
In financial, legal and chartered roles, CPD is not a luxury – it’s a requirement. So be confident in how you approach your employers, knowing that they will be receptive to the employee who understands their CPD responsibility and takes it seriously.
Show the added value in both short and long term, and show strategic planning. ‘If I do this training this year, I might be able to get a new qualification next year,’ says Waddingham by way of example. ‘If I do some management training now, then next year I will be able to bid for a new role when the company expands.’
This does two things, Waddingham says. ‘It shows the employer you’re thinking about your role and your value to the company; not just yourself. And it shows you have an understanding of, and interest in, the growth of the business – that’s a massive asset to any company and will really appeal to your bosses.’
Focus on the benefits, not the costs. Whenever approaching your business for funding, demonstrate how it benefits the company; not just you as an individual. Be professional about your approach and make the case strategic and long-term. Identify what your company needs, and apply for courses that meet those specific needs.
Show initiative. ‘Demonstrating seriousness about the task in hand, being keen and not just waiting for help’ in Damian Evans’ words, is admired by employers, and can make the difference in securing funding.
Bear in mind financial cycles. Be aware of how much CPD you need to undertake and establish at the start of the CPD year what you’re going to need in the next twelve months. ‘Make sure this is staggered; find the best quality courses to go for, and look ahead,’ says Waddingham. ‘Don’t leave things till the last minute as that will impact on the quality of what you can do; avoid getting stressed trying to get those points at the end of the year.’
Use the resources. Many Government and industry-specific websites offer employees resources to help you make your case for funded CPD. Look for what best fits your needs, but as a starting point try CIMA, ACCA, ICAEW and AAT’s new CPD page.
Evans Entwistle partner Damian Evans was interviewed for this article which originally appeared in AAT comment by Mark Blayney Stuart, copyright AAT. Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing