How to ask for training – Like a Pro

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Employers love employees who are trained, certificated and competent to do their jobs. Employers hate paying for training.

In my experience, employee training attracts more penny-pinching than anything else. Even more than the budget for toilet paper. No matter the size of the organization, or how deep its pockets are.

This makes the task of asking for training – and receiving it – a difficult one.

How to ask for training – Like a Pro

There are two main categories why may be asking for training:

  1. Defensive: you require training because your level of competence (knowledge, skills and experience, and your ability apply them) are not adequate for you to perform the duties of your job
  2. Opportunistic: you require training to enable an increase in workload, a wider set of responsibilities and/or work to a higher quality or output – above what you are duty-bound to perform already

Category 1 training is, perhaps, easier to justify. Without the training, the risk of making mistakes and the cost of rectification is high. You and your employer are in a vulnerable position. Perhaps there have already been incidents of where your lack of competence has resulted in failure and a true cost of putting it right. In some cases, your employer’s business insurance mandates that you must be certified to conduct duties. Like driving an 18-wheeler, or operating industrial machinery.

To put your case forward for this training, then the risk needs to be quantified. Described in terms of Probability, Impact and Mitigating Actions. Probability is the likelihood that the risk will happen. Once a week? Once a month? The Impact is the cost to your employer if the risk happens (or materializes.) How much would it cost to fix? The Mitigating Actions can be described as a cost – the cost of preventing the risk from happening. These might be extra quality checks, for example. This approach may result in a financial number that significantly outweighs the cost of your training. Bingo. If it doesn’t, then you have no case. You could enlist the support of someone to pull together a credible risk statement – perhaps your manager, a finance person or someone in your risk department (if you have one.)

Category 2 training is often less straightforward to justify. It is an investment and that investment must pay off for your employer. The benefits of the training must be realized. Or else why pay for it? This is why employers often put clauses in employment contract that claw back the cost of training if an employee leaves within a set period (although in my experience, I have never seen this enforced. Have you?)

To put your case forward for this training, you will need to quantify the benefit of the opportunity in financial terms: increased sales; quicker processing; reduced expenditure on external consultants. If you can’t, your case it weakened. Also state over what time the benefit will be realized. This may be over 1 year, or 5 years, for example. Like in category 1, you could enlist the support of a manager or a finance person to help you build a credible case. But if the numbers don’t stack up, then you don’t stand a chance.

Not many people do this…

… and those that don’t are often disappointed when they ask for training. Your employer may already use an internal model for calculating the cost vs benefit of training, but why not take the initiative and present a case yourself? It will prove your commercial acumen and understanding of why your training is important and valuable; it removes any perception of ‘self-interest’; and it’s a sound way of facilitating a great business decision.

Have you been knocked back when you asked for training?

Please share your story by leaving a comment below, or why not start a discussion in one of my forums?

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About the author /

Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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