You found the perfect professional development program—it’s interesting, challenging, and relevant to your current or aspirational role. But, it’s also more than you can afford on your own. What if your company could help you pay for all or part of it?
Before you enroll in the program, whether it’s a webinar, conference, or online course, see if your company can financially assist you. It might be scary, but you’ll be happy you asked—especially if there are available funds.
This article will help you navigate the conversation of asking your employer to pay for your professional development. It provides preparation tips, questions your boss might ask, and an email template you can copy and paste.
1. Do Your Research
Asking your boss to pay for professional development is no light question. A quick way to squash your chances of getting your program covered is to ask before knowing the pertinent details about the program and your company’s policy (or lack thereof) about paying for employee training.
About the program
Before you talk with your boss, do thorough research about the professional development program you’re interested in. You should have working knowledge of the following aspects of the program:
- Time commitment (daily, weekly, or monthly)
- Description and learning outcomes
Be ready to describe how the program will enhance your professional future and help your organization. It’s likely your boss will have to prove the return on investment of your ongoing education, so be prepared to talk numbers.
About your company
You’ll also want to research your company’s policy about employee development, if it has one. A good place to start looking for this information is in the employee handbook or on the company website. However, it’s likely this information isn’t clearly available in either place.
If there is no written policy on employee development, you might want to do some informal investigating and talk to your coworkers. Do you know of anyone who’s completed professional development training? If not, who might be familiar with the company’s position on paying for it?
2. Prepare for Potential Questions
What questions and concerns might your boss have about your training request? Anticipating these and preparing your responses will improve your chances for getting approval from your boss.
Here are some potential questions you should be prepared to answer:
How much does it cost, and is there financial aid?
Nothing can hurt your chances of approval like not having the numbers. Know how much the program costs, if there’s a payment plan available, and what it takes to get financial aid, if it’s offered. Taking the time to figure out this information will show you’ve done your research and are serious about the opportunity. Looking into financial assistance also shows you have the company’s interests in mind.
In the event that your company can’t cover the full cost of your program, think about how much you’re comfortable paying on your own. Knowing this will help you guide the conversation.
What will you learn from this course?
This may seem like a simple question, until you can’t articulate a clear answer on the spot. Nail down the top three takeaways or skills you hope to learn from your professional development course. Why are you excited to learn these skills? How do they relate to your personal and professional goals?
Being able to answer these questions will show that you’ve done your research and thoroughly examined the value of the program — versus choosing the first program that appeared in your Google search for “employee professional development.”
How will it directly benefit the company?
If your company is going to pay for your professional development, your manager wants to know, What’s in it for us? This is one of the most important questions to prepare for because it’s your chance to explain how your training won’t just help you; it will also help your company.
After this question, prepare to discuss how you’ll apply what you learned to your job. Relate program benefits to specific company business goals. Additionally, what immediate benefit can your company expect? If you want to pursue an online leadership certificate, for example, tell your manager how it will improve your ability to motivate employees, manage performance, and optimize resource outsourcing, among other benefits.
How will you maintain job performance?
This is an important question for managers to ask. Before they agree to pay for your professional development, they want to ensure you’ll remain as productive and available as you were before you took on a new commitment.
Knowing the time commitment of your program can help you answer this question. Explain the time commitment and how you plan to manage it. Sharing these details will assure your boss that you’re able to handle the extra commitment without letting it affect your work performance.
How can I measure the return on this investment?
Managers have to be concerned about the bottom line. If they’re investing in your professional development, it must be financially worth it. Dig up any ROI information associated with the professional development program you’re pursuing. If there isn’t hard data associated with it, can you find stats about the general topic of the program?
Another way to justify the ROI of your program is to explain how it will help you improve team efficiencies. For example, will the program help you improve the quality or turnaround of team deliverables? Or will it help you uncover cost-saving strategies?
Is the program available for groups?
You can certainly share what you’ve learned with your team, but maybe they can take advantage of the opportunity as well. If your boss is intrigued by the program, find out if it’s feasible for part or all of the team to participate. Many programs offer a discount for group enrollment.
3. Initiate the Conversation
Now that you’ve done your research and prepared for potential questions, you’re ready to initiate the conversation and ask your employer to pay for professional development. You’ll eventually want to meet in person, but sending an email is a great way to start the conversation. Plus, it gives you a chance to review and edit your initial ask before hitting “send.”
Here’s a customizable email template we’ve developed for one of our Wharton Online programs:
|Hi [Name of Boss],
I hope your day’s going well. Since we’ve discussed ways I can strengthen my managerial skills and continue growing professionally, I’ve been researching professional development programs. I wanted to let you know I recently came across an intriguing program that aligns with many of my goals and interests: [Wharton Online]’s [Leadership and Management Certificate Program].
This program stood out to me because of [explain why the program interests you]. I believe it would help me [explain one or more specific benefits for your company and/or team]. I’d also enjoy learning more about [reference program specifics] and think this would be a great way to do so.
Does [Name of Company] provide funding for professional development opportunities like this? I wasn’t sure but wanted to ask before I move forward. If it’s possible to be reimbursed for the program, I’d love to discuss.
Here are some of the program specifics:
Are you available to discuss more sometime in the next week? Let me know what works for you. Thank you!
Before sending your email, make sure you provide specific information about how the program can benefit your company. Then, proofread for grammar and tone; it should be clear, positive, and gracious. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to press “send” with confidence.
Congratulations — you’re one step closer to advancing your career through professional development.
Explore our Leadership and Management Certificate Program
Many companies are having a difficult time finding competent leaders. In fact, 77% of organizations say they’re experiencing a leadership gap. If you want to improve your leadership skills to help your organization and further your career, explore Wharton Online’s Leadership and Management Certificate Program.