As a professional development trainer, I take a lot of pride in my work. My number one goal is to help ensure that participants get a TON of value from their training. In this 3-part series, I’ll be addressing some important topics to help you do just that.
Articles in this series will be published each week and will include the following topics:
- Part 1: Getting Leadership Approval
- Part 2: Retaining Information
- Part 3: Leveraging Learning
Let’s jump right into our first topic, which is perhaps the most important one. After all, if you can’t get approval from your leaders to participate in training, little else matters.
Of course, you’re still an adult with free will; you certainly can (and should) take part in training outside of work hours, and you can always pay for it with your own money. In fact, I highly encourage that if your leaders are unwilling or unable to support your educational endeavors.
But why not first attempt to engage your organization in the process? As the old saying goes: When you don’t bother to ask, the answer is always no.
Even if you can’t gain approval, you haven’t lost anything by making the inquiry. You’ve actually gained quite a bit. In making the request, you show your commitment to learning and professional growth. What business leader doesn’t like seeing that from his or her staff members?
To gain leadership approval, you need to create a business case to support your training request.
Creating a Business Case
A business case prepared for the purpose of requesting professional development training should answer all of the following questions:
- What professional development activity do you want to participate in?
- What resources are needed (i.e. time out of the office for class, time in the office to study, money, etc.)
- What are the estimated dates of participation and completion?
- What are the learning objectives? (Learning objectives are the specific things you will be able to do once the course is complete; they are usually established by the organization delivering the training.)
- How do you anticipate using your learning in your current role and in future roles? If possible, identify a specific plan of action to implement upon completion.
- What specific organizational value will you contribute with this new knowledge/ability? This should be tied to specific numbers. For example: Increase in profits, reduction in spending, time you will save, etc. This information is used to evaluate return on investment. The organizational value should heavily outweigh the cost of the training.
- What will you do to increase the return on investment? For example, can you share what you learned with the team in some way? If so, what is your plan?
- What are the risks of NOT investing in this training? For example: If you and the organization continue to operate without this knowledge, how much time, attention and money will be lost?
Once you have a complete business case, it’s time to broach the topic with leadership. Remember that you want to do this as early as possible. These things can take time and you don’t want to miss a great learning opportunity because of a delay in approval. However, in many organizations, you can apply for reimbursement after the fact so it may make sense to foot the bill yourself initially.
When making the request, be sure to also provide any supporting materials regarding the course or program (like flyers, brochures and website information).
And remember: If at first you don’t succeed, be pleasantly persistent! Don’t completely give up on the idea because it didn’t work in the past. New budgets get allocated, financial circumstances change, employee development initiatives come and go and then come back again. You never know what might be different this time around and how it might work in your favor.
Finally, keep in mind that this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. If your company can only pay a portion of the fees, perhaps you can make up the difference from your own resources. A shared investment is a great way to make sure everyone has a little skin in the game. Get creative if you need to. Maybe you can agree to pay all the fees in exchange for some additional paid days off. You have a wide variety of options for making it work.
Professional development training isn’t something you can afford to ignore. But admittedly, it’s also an investment. There’s no reason you have to shoulder the burden on your own. Get your organization involved and see what can be done to support your growth. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Stay tuned for part two in this series: Retaining Learning.