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Convincing Your Boss to Pay for Your Education

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Continuing your education and increasing your skills is very important, but can you convince your boss to pay for it? This might help them reconsider!

Continuing your education will not only increase the likelihood of you being promoted, but it will also help you work inter-departmentally. This is especially true if the technical knowledge of each department is disparate.

No matter what your argument, it ultimately comes down to money. Efficiency maximises the profit margin, and your boss is on an inexhaustible crusade to achieve higher and higher profit margins. This might seem like a cynical worldview, but don’t worry it is just the first point in a long list of arguments that will hopefully convince your boss that it is a great idea to pay for your education.

Interdepartmental

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A frequent phenomenon plaguing the workplace is the communication between highly creative departments and highly technical departments that inadvertently must work together. A great example is product designers and the engineers that must ready products for production and sale.

These types of teams will frequently clash over the axiom “form over function” or “function over form”. Someone that has knowledge that bridges the gap between these two very different types of professionals or departments can have an extremely positive effect on both communication and on efficiency, which has, in turn, an immediate effect on profit.

That is if you are choosing a field of study that has interdepartmental applicability. A degree that further develops your knowledge within your field might be equally beneficial, though. Frequently bottlenecks in communication are a result of gaps in knowledge. Knowing a process better might even reveal how it is interconnected to other industries or departments.

Administration

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It is much more cost effective to promote internally, according to this Wall Street Journal article which looks at a study that analyses the cost of hiring external opposed to hiring from within. According to research done by Matthew Bidwell which is an academic at the prestigious Wharton Business School, external hires are frequently paid up to 20% more than people that are promoted from within and are less effective in their position for the first two years in performance reviews. They are also significantly less loyal to the organisation or firm since the research also showed that they are 21% more likely to leave the job of their own volition and 61% to be terminated or laid off.

You might say that this information is a result of a small sample size, but Bidwell’s team analysed six years’ worth of employment data across 5,300 companies. The article also says a lot about the fact that even though external hires will generally have more experience and education, they lack company-specific skills and are less comfortable with new company culture.

Find The Pain

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Many companies have certain inefficiencies that cost them large sums of money annually. If what you are interested in studying overlaps with the cause of a costly inefficiency, then you can bring attention to it and offer to help amend it. Of course, you need to keep in mind that this strategy is a dangerous one, especially if the problem is a massive financial wound spewing dollars and cents daily, which will force administrators to hire someone to fix immediately. If it happens to be a slow “leak”, though, or the inefficiency is a sensitive matter that they would prefer to treat from within, then your chances of getting your education paid for greatly increases.

Again this might be the most dangerous of all tactics when asking your boss to pay for your continuing education because it might be misconstrued as extortion. So you need to consider the relationship you have with your boss, the type of “Pain” the company is suffering and your approach when making your demand. Beyond that, if the inefficiency is due to illegal or unethical activity, instead of asking them to pay for your education, you might want to ask them for a reference letter when looking for a new job.

Pros And Cons

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Before approaching your boss with a request that the company pay for your continuing education, choose what you’d like to study and think of ways your plan of study will benefit your employer. To augment this list, think of how the knowledge you acquire will make you a better employee. You can even be incredibly bold and do some maths to calculate your current value to the company compared to your projected value. If you are good with figures, prove to your boss how long it would take for the company to make a return on their investment.

Of course, your boss is going to have some justifiable objections to funding your academic endeavours. If you present enough benefits, though, this will counterbalances any doubts management may have. This is the safest course of action but as with anything that treads on the safer side of things, the possibility of success are much lower. A higher risk gamble like “finding the pain” might be dangerous, but has more chance of success.

Some of the objections, beyond the obvious cost factor (which in some cases might even be tax deductible for the business, contact the appropriate authorities to discern this), is time away from work and lost productivity due to cognitive fatigue. But, even traditional educational institutions such as universities offer alternative tracks for non-traditional students. Night classes and remote learning modules are offered by almost all organisations, which allows people that work full time to continuing to work while studying. Although the fatigue question might be harder to answer, you can say that your newly acquired knowledge will counterbalance any loss of productivity in the long term.

Finally, it is much more cost effective to pay for an employ’s further development than to train an entirely new employee. For a middle tier employee (manager, supervisor, Senior Employee), it can cost a company up to £30,000 plus the cost of diminished productivity until their replacement reaches the level of their predecessor's productivity and knowledge. At the executive level, it can cost as much as two times their annual salary.

Ask For A Contract

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If your employer feels that you might use your newly acquired knowledge to find a better job, then ask if they would feel more comfortable signing a so-called “Education Contract”. It is a list of mutually agreed upon requirements and some of the more mundane practical details (such as will the tuition be paid to the institution or to you personally). This will most probably include how long you must stay with the company once they pay for your education. Much like any contract, review it carefully, make sure there aren’t any sneak clauses such as an obligation to reimburse tuition paid to you if you are terminated.

It's always a good idea to ask for a contract even if you boss, supervisor or company doesn’t demand it. A contract leaves much less room for interpretation and misrepresentation than an oral agreement does. If in the case of your termination shortly after concluding your studies, you will at least be standing on solid legal grounds with a contract.

Negotiate

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Remember, you are asking for something that is not only personally valuable, but that has the potential to be beneficial to your company. If you are initially rejected, try proposing it next quarter or next time you have a performance evaluation and you pass with flying colours. If you get reject again, try again.

Speak with your HR department; look at the company literature regarding tuition reimbursement policies in your workplace. If management is adamant about refusing, try finding a compromise that is not only feasible but will benefit and leave all parties involved satisfied. Although it might become frustrating especially if you are continuously rejected, stay professional and persistent.  

Have you ever convinced your boss to pay for your continued education or training? Let us know in the comment section below.

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