9 Steps to Justify Training Opportunities to Your Boss

Gretchen Elliott Follow Gretchen

Training helps both you and your organization improve. Remember, if you're not improving, your competition is. Here's how to get the funds you need to stay ahead.

Employee training brings a number of benefits to your organization. With the right training, you will develop valuable skills that supercharge your job performance. Training can also educate you on significant regulations or ongoing developments within your field or industry. Furthermore, it can improve your soft skills such as management and leadership that help bolster the innovation and strategic thinking at your company.

The bottom line: training helps your organization improve. If you're not improving, your competition is. 

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Some managers can be hesitant to improve employee training. It's possible they may not see the benefits.  Learn how to make the case to your supervisor, manager, or executive about the value of a particular training program for you or your organization. It will help you frame training as a strategic investment in your company's future. 

Step 1: Do Your Research

eyeglasses and paperFirst, identify the training you want to attend. Whether it takes place in another city, involves bringing an onsite seminar to your office, requires attending an online event, or something else, there are many options available today. As you look for training opportunities that would be a good programmatic fit for you, consider the following questions:

  • Where do you excel?
  • What are your roles and responsibilities? 
  • Where do you need improvement?
  • What aspects of your job are you most interested in?
  • In what areas do you need to grow? 
  • What is something related to your company that you should be well-versed in but currently are not? 
  • What kind of professionals do you want to connect with? For example, if you need to improve your digital marketing and social media engagement, are you looking to connect with content creators or reporting experts? (Here are some marketing conferences to consider.) If you run a medium-sized business that needs sales assistance, should you seek out other business owners within your industry to share best practices or target marketing and sales enablement firms? 

Look for opportunities that align with your professional responsibilities, goals, and interests. Be prepared to make the case to your boss for how it will help you do your job better and grow your skill set, and in turn help the business. (More on making the case later.)

Step 2: Consider the Timing

stop watchIf possible, look for training opportunities that fall outside your company's busy season. Training may take time away from your daily responsibilities, so you'll want to optimize the chances your supervisor says yes by picking the right time. This is especially true if it's your first conference or training. Avoiding busy season will allow you to focus fully on the program, familiarize yourself with the conference and/or training process in general, and concentrate on retaining as much information as possible. 

If the training opportunity is too good to miss, you may have to take it while your company is busy. If that's the case, prepare a contingency plan for your absence. Identify a team member (or members) who can back you up. Make sure that no operations suffer while you are out and calm any anxiety your boss may have about your absence.

Your goal is to make sure the time you are out of the office makes sense for both your role and the company's bottom line. Preparing ahead of time to make sure your company can handle it increases the chance of the training being approved. (And that future opportunities are, too.)

Step 3: Research Existing Company Policy

policy report papersCheck any company handbooks or policies regarding professional development or educational programs. Find out what your company covers and if your professional development costs may fit within any existing programs or branches of the company. This could help defray costs from your department's budget. 

Step 4: Create a Budget

budget targetOnce you've identified the training opportunity – whether it is a conference, seminar, workshop, or online class – figure out exactly how much it will cost and put together a defined training budget. (Here's a template.) You can use any type of spreadsheet software (i.e. MS Excel) to compile this information in an itemized, line by line summary of your comprehensive budget. Of course, these will differ considerably if you're traveling out of town than if you're attending an online course.

Your budget should include: 

  • Cost of the training itself
  • Travel costs - including airfare, rental car, parking and/or taxis 
  • Company per diem rate or, if your company does not have this, meal cost for each day
  • Lodging 
  • Any other miscellaneous funds associated with travel

Be sure to think through all aspects of your trip or training program. If you're traveling to a conference, research if taxis to/from the airport, hotel, and training is cheaper than the cost of renting a car and parking each day. Is the city more expensive than where you live currently? If so, budget appropriately for meals so you don't go hungry. On the other hand, if you're bringing a workshop to your office, consider everything you need. Do you have appropriate training space or do you need to consider renting an offsite location? Should you order in lunch so employees can focus on taking a break during the workshop versus running out to grab a bite? These items might seem like afterthoughts, but accounting for them ahead of time will lead to a smoother travel experience or onsite event.

Taking the time to prepare a comprehensive budget will help set realistic financial expectations for your supervisor and demonstrate that you're serious about this training opportunity.

[Download our sample budget worksheet here.]

Step 5: Start Planning as Early as Possible

Magnifying glassThe earlier you start planning, the better chance you have of receiving approval to attend the training. This is true for a few reasons: 

  • Gives you adequate time to research opportunities.
  • It helps your company allocate budget for training costs. 
  • Many training courses offer "early bird" pricing, saving your company money.
  • If you plan early enough you can include the specific training as part of your annual performance development plan. This means that when you complete the training, you can count it as a "win" at your next review with your boss. 

Step 6: Create an Action Plan

pencilDevise a brief action plan for yourself prior to the conference, seminar, or workshop. This should include any research you plan to do to prepare, what you're looking to gain out of the conference, and how you plan to incorporate what you've learned into you or your team's work. Do your research on the organization holding the training so you'll have as much context heading into it as possible.

[Not sure how to create an action plan? Customize this template.] 

As part of your post-conference activities, let your boss know you are willing to present any key takeaways to your boss and/or your team. There may be an opportunity to share the value and skills you've gained with others within your organization. 

Step 7: Schedule a Meeting with Your Boss

MeetingOnce you have your action plan and budget, set a meeting with your supervisor to review the training opportunity. 

Communicate your value proposition during this meeting. Use your action plan to show why your attendance at this particular training will be advantageous for your company. Present the budget to give an accurate representation of the cost. Overall, highlight your key points and show the benefits. 

Set a deadline for a decision to be made so you can determine whether this training will work for you or if you need to identify other opportunities for growth or improvement. 

Step 8: Follow Up

alert bellAfter the meeting with your supervisor, email them your action plan and budget with a reminder of your deadline. Note any conference sign-up or travel deadlines that could impact the budget you've presented them with. This is where early preparation (see step five) comes in. Allow time for your boss to review the opportunity, but don't be shy about checking in after a reasonable amount of time has passed. 

Step 9: Follow Through

trophyOnce your supervisor approves the training, follow your action plan. Attend the training and get as much information out of it as possible. Stick to your budget. Make sure your job responsibilities are taken care of while you're away. Develop your key takeaway presentation immediately following the conference while everything is fresh. Present to your supervisor or fellow team members within two weeks of returning.

Implement the new skill set you've built into your daily job responsibilities as soon as you can following the training. This will build trust with your supervisor and lead to more professional development opportunities. 

Conclusion

In order to attend a professional training opportunity, you'll need to showcase to your supervisor how it can make you better at your job and, in turn, benefit the company. The stronger a case you build - and the farther in advance you build that case - the more likely you'll be able to attend the training and grow professionally. 

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Topics: Training