What is Professional Development?
Professional Development (PD) is a term that describes the learning you need to advance in your career. It includes training courses, workshops, conferences, seminars, etc. PD helps you develop new skills, keep up with the industry, and participate in lifelong learning.
Why Should A Company Pay for Professional Development?
Employers have an incentive to pay for your professional development because it’s good business practice. Your company wants to ensure that its employees are well-trained so they can perform their jobs effectively. This also shows that your company values its employees and recognizes their value. Companies can differentiate themselves in the market by advertising their high percentage of staff with professional certifications. If your company does not provide any form of professional development, then it may be seen as an indication that it doesn't care about its staff's career progression.
How Do You Ask For Professional Development?
Start With Research
Before talking with your boss, do research about the professional development programs you're interested in. Know what costs, duration, time commitments, description, and learning outcomes each program offers. Be ready to discuss how the program will benefit your career and company. Your boss may need to show the return on investment of this training.
If you are not sure whether a particular course is right for you or if it's too expensive, ask yourself these questions:
- What skills do I want to develop?
- How can this help me advance my career?
- How will this training help me benefit my company?
- Is there any other way that I could learn this skill?
- Do I have enough time to commit to this training?
Having a good idea of the answers to these questions will help you craft a proposal and defend the costs of training or professional certification.
Discover Your Company's Written Policies
You should also research what your company's written policies are concerning professional development opportunities. It is important that your request doesn't violate the written policy to increase the likelihood that your request is approved. A good place to start your research for this is your employee or company manual. If this topic isn't covered, ask your direct supervisor or a coworker who has participated in professional development previously.
If your company requires paperwork to be completed, fill out this paperwork yourself as much as you can. Your supervisor will appreciate you doing some of this work for them and may increase the speed with which your request is approved.
Explain how your professional development will benefit your company
Your boss wants to invest in you because they know you'll be a valuable asset to the company. You should focus on what benefits the company will receive from investing in you. Tell them how you'll be able to do more work, reduce the amount of work you need to do, reduce errors, and improve your performance. It is important to stress how the training will help the company in the short term. Many employers fear that they could pay for additional training for an employee and then that employee will leave.
Prepare for Potential Questions
What questions and concerns might your manager have about your training request? Anticipating questions and planning your responses will improve your chance of getting approval from your manager.
1. How expensive is the training?
This will likely be the first question you will need to answer. You should be prepared to explain the costs of the program. Include any additional costs, like travel, lodgings, registration fees, and meal expenses. You will also want to research if there are payment plans, group discounts, or financial aid options. Online courses can be more affordable.
One way to benchmark the cost of training is to pull prices of less desirable training alternatives. This will help the person approving the cost understand if they are overpaying, paying market value, or getting a deal. You should be honest when talking about what you'd pay if you had to pay out-of-pocket. If the training advances your career beyond your current role, it may be worth splitting costs with your company.
2. How will it directly benefit the company?
Your manager wants to know what's in it for them. You need to be prepared to answer this question. Your training will benefit both you and your company.
The following are strong examples (with more details) of how to communicate company value:
- I'm going to use my new skills to help my company grow. My company needs me to be more efficient and effective.
- I will learn about the different ways we can do things better.
- I will also learn how to make decisions based on facts instead of emotions.
- I will learn leadership skills or management techniques
3. How can I measure the return on this investment?
Companies will want to invest in employees' professional development if it's going to pay off. You will want to show your manager how your new training will generate a return on investment. The most common return on investment of training is the ability to save time and labor costs. If you are able to do your job more efficiently, you can save your company the cost of hiring more people to do a certain task. Would your training help your team take on more business and grow sales? This is another common way to prove value.
Planning ahead and anticipating questions like these will help you get approval from your manager.
Create a Specific Request
Be direct and tell your boss what you need. You can initiate the conversation with a professional email that includes key factors like:
- Start Date
- Registration Deadlines
- Link with more information
End your email with a strong ROI statement. A good example is the following:
"If the company will pay for this employee benefits workshop (or whatever), I estimate that we will (not) only decrease employee benefit costs (by X), but we will also be (not) able to offer better coverage (to staff), improve our position as an (employer of choice), help with employee recruitment and (retention), and reduce employee turnover and (those related costs)."
You may not always be able to provide your company with an exact dollar amount when you make a pitch, but you should be able to show them how much time they could save if they invest in your professional development.
In your email conversation, ask for time to discuss your proposed training in person for feedback. You can make it clear you have additional research completed if they have any follow-up questions. Remember, you have a jump start on any questions based on your research from before. Employees should remember that leadership is often not just evaluating the event, but also evaluating the plan the employees have proposed.
Bonus Tip: The Follow-up Plan
The reality for most organizations is that they won't be able to afford to send every employee to every professional development event. Even when the ROI might be positive, some organizations' professional development budget limits will restrict their ability to fund employee training. How can you make your request stand out in a competitive environment? Create a follow-up plan.
A follow-up plan should address how you can spread the value of your training to others in the organization. Examples of ideas to include in a follow-up plan could include the following:
- Plan a 1:1 presentation to your boss on potential changes to consider after your training
- Commit to hosting an internal team training(s) to share the highlights of what you learned
- Create a plan to upload learning documents to a shared drive.
- Write a blog post for the company that showcases the training you attended.
What Professional Development Options Are Available Through LSU Online & Continuing Education?
LSU Online & Continuing Education offers professional development courses and certificate programs that span multiple industries, including business, technology and data analytics, and safety. Whether you are looking to take courses online or face-to-face, we have options available to suit your needs. Upon completion of a certificate program, you will also receive a digital badge to display on your resume, LinkedIn profile, or website. Browse our professional development catalog to see all of the courses and certificate programs available through LSU Online & Continuing Education.
Does Your Company Need Help Setting Up a Professional Development Program?
Studies show that tuition reimbursement programs have proven to lead to 144% ROI at companies like Discover (via Lumina Foundation) - lowering absenteeism and turnover and increasing promotions, transfers and retention. If your company is interested in starting or growing their education benefits, learn more by partnering with LSU!