Gaining Support From Your Employer to Invest in Your Professional Development

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What is the value of your professional development to your employer? asks Eth Lloyd

This is always a very tricky subject. The simple thing is to ensure that professional development support is part of your employment right from the start. However, for many it is too late; they are already in their job so it is a case of “How do I gain that support now?”

The most important thing to consider when seeking support is what the value of your professional development is to your employer. Answer the following questions:

Will it help you do your job better?

Will it improve your efficiency, capability or, if you have the time, enable you to take on a wider range of tasks?

Will it assist with improving your contribution to your employer through reducing expenses in the long run?

For example, some tasks may be outsourced to an accounting firm because you don’t have the required skills to complete them. With some up-skilling, at an immediate cost, you could do more preparation of the accounts and send them to the accountant closer to sign off, reducing the accountant’s fee every year.

Another important factor to consider is that provision of good professional development shows an employee that the company values all employees. This in turns leads to job satisfaction and loyal, stable employees. For any company, the long term savings in having a constant workforce are huge. Pay increases do not always make people happy but being valued as part of the whole team, alongside all other employees, most certainly can lead to job satisfaction and staff retention.

If you wish to approach your employer you need to do some research. You need to find out what you wish to achieve for professional development:

• Are you looking at a whole qualification?
• Are you looking at steps on the way to a qualification?
• Do you want a short course for a specific skill that would be of value?
• Is the professional development a long-term commitment or something short term?

You need to find out how you can best achieve your goal and what the costs will be.

To gain funding you need to present the whole idea to your employer with costs, work-time involvement, what you personally are prepared to commit in time and finances, and then show what benefits there will be to your employer. Your employer may reimburse you for each paper once passed, so you cover the upfront expenses. Others may cover all the cost on completion; some may offer a part subsidy. Some employers may allow you time perhaps an hour a week for study, or a study day a month and they will likely expect you to give equivalent of your time as well.

Ensure you have read any company policy on what is available for staff professional development. If there is a policy then that is the basis for your discussion. Do not go in expecting a specific result, go in with your information and discuss how you can achieve it and what help and support they can offer.

Some employers are concerned that if they up-skill their employees they will lose them to another job. Something that might alleviate that concern is to commit to a time frame for staying with your employer, notwithstanding any particular change in circumstances. For example, if your employer has paid costs of $2,000 you might say that you will stay for a minimum of two years – one year for every $1,000 spent – or you will pay the money back. If you then leave after one year, you will pay back $1,000.

Be prepared to look at many options and to work out what will best suit both you and your employer. Remember, you do need to do some research. Work out what you can or will contribute in time and money and what the value of your professional development is to your employer, then present it all. Always have a fall-back position so that if negotiation is required you have some room to negotiate.

Good luck – you may be surprised at how well a thoroughly researched and prepared proposal is received.

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About Author

Eth Lloyd

Eth Lloyd, MNZM, worked for 30 years as a Personal Assistant. Her passion for administrative professionals and their value in the workplace is shown by her commitment to encouraging them to value themselves and their roles. In 2018 Eth was awarded the New Zealand Queen’s Birthday honour MNZM for her services to administrative professional development. Eth is the Chairman of the World Administrators Summit Advisory Council and author of The Executive Secretary Guide to Conference and Event Management, available now on Amazon. If you are interested in Eth training your assistants or speaking at your event, either virtually or in person, please visit our Speaker Bureau.

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