Request Approved! Gaining Employer Support for Professional Development

Aug 27, 2010 | Career Development

If I walked up to your desk and asked you to give me $20, what would you say? You’d probably respond with, “Why?” or “What do you need it for?” or “I don’t have $20, so you need to ask someone else.”  I can also hear a few smart, sarcastic replies coming my direction…and probably understandably so after all, I didn’t even give you any context for my request or what I needed that $20 for.

What if I walked up to your desk and said, “I need $20 from petty cash to pay the pizza delivery guy for pizza at our staff lunch today, can you help me?” You immediately know a lot more about my reason for making the request. If you maintain the petty cash, you can probably help me. If you don’t, you can probably direct me to the right person or the proper procedure for submitting the reimbursement request.

I share these examples because a lot of times when we ask for our employer’s support for training or professional development requests, we walk up and ask for their support without providing enough details or a solid business case for why they should consider our request. And many times their responses are disappointing to us as a result. So what can you do to improve your chances of getting your requests approved for employer support of training and professional development?

Step 1: Do Your Research.

Facts are persuasive. Do your homework before you make your request so you know exactly what the training you want will include and what other options may be available in various price ranges, formats (online or teleclass vs. in person), and locations.  Have facts and statistics available to support your request.

Step 2: Prepare Your Business Case

You need to think like a business owner or company executive. Build a business case for your training proposal request. Learning what goes into a solid business case is something you’ll be able to use throughout your career as you support teams and executives who need to gain support for their ideas or projects as well.

The key elements of a good business case include:

  • Situational assessment and problem statement
  • Request description
  • Solution description
  • Cost and benefit analysis
  • Implementation timeline
  • Critical assumptions and risk assessment
  • Conclusions and recommendations

When you create your proposal based on being able to supply relevant information for all of these key areas, you’ll be thoroughly prepared for questions or additional information your executive may request when you make your request.  I’ve created a sample training business case which you can download here to see what a completed training business case may look like. It may not always be necessary to submit this much information, but preparing your request by going through this process will ensure you have put the appropriate thought and research into your request BEFORE you make it.

Step 3: Presenting Your Information

Some times are better than others for presenting your request. Avoid rushed, high stress, busy times. Look for opportunities when your executive is in a positive frame of mind and office activities aren’t as hectic.

If you know your executive takes in information best when it comes in short, succinct, bulleted lists, then present your business case that way, too.  If you know your executive is more relational and likes to know the history and support behind something, then adapt your presentation style to match. Some executives prefer verbal exchanges, some want to see it on paper. I recommend a combination of both. I often suggest planting the seed verbally that you are going to be presenting a training proposal, then water that seed by following up with your written documentation. Your request may require some nurturing, but the effort is worth it when your request is approved.

Never make your request in front of a group of your colleagues or co-workers. Your executive may be willing to approve your request because you’re a dedicated, hard worker, but that may not be the case for everyone you work with. So don’t assume it will be approved for all if it’s approved for one.

Always try to present your requests at the beginning of a budget year if you can.  Your chances of gaining approval are much better when the funds aren’t yet spent or fully allocated.  Better yet, submit your request while they are working on budget planning for the year so your request can be built into the budget from the beginning.

If you’re smart, you’ll also put some thought into how you’ll prepare someone else who may need to cover for your absence. Do you have documented procedures for your position?  If not, then get started putting your Administrative Desk Reference Binder documentation together today so you can be out of the office for training and the office is still able to run smoothly in your absence.

Step 4: Show Return on Investment (ROI)

When you can demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) your company will receive as a result of investing in your training and professional development, the chances of receiving a request approval will also increase.  In order to do this, you need to create pre-training objectives you want to achieve.  Document new ideas, key takeaways, new relationships you want to build, and next steps you want to pull from the training.

Document the objective outcomes after the training is completed and share this information with your executive.

Step 5: Responding to your training request approval!

When your request is approved, thank your executive in both verbally and in writing.  Send them an e-mail, write them a thank you card, show your appreciation for their support!

Thank them with continued great performance also!  Regularly point out the little things you learned that you just used or implemented from the training and how the company or your executive benefitted – continually reinforce the ROI.

What to Do When You Don’t Get the Response You Wanted

  • Respectfully listen to the reasons for the “No.”
  • Ask again in a different way or at a different time.
  • Ask how you can help make it possible (brainstorm possibilities).
  • Ask what is possible if this is not.
  • Ask when it may be possible, if not now.
  • Ask what you can do to improve the way you’re asking.
  • Don’t give up! It may be “No, not right now,” Not “No, never.”

“You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”
    — Julie Perrine

“What you don’t ask for stays the same.”
    — Unknown

As the technology landscape and the administrative profession continue to change at rapid speeds, it’s more important than ever for administrative professionals to stay current in their own professional development. Ultimately, your professional development is your responsibility, not your employers.  But it doesn’t hurt to seek their support when they are also a direct beneficiary of the skills and abilities you bring to the position every day. When you assemble a complete, well researched, solid business case to support your training request, I’m certain you’ll find more favorable responses to future requests.

Additional Resources:

What strategies have you used to successfully gain employer support for training and professional development requests? Share your ideas and comments on our FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn pages.

© 2010 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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