You already know how critical upskilling is for your organization’s workforce. In fact, Randstad USA identified upskilling as one of the top four trends shaping workforces in 2020. The opportunity for continuous learning is becoming as powerful an incentive as competitive pay and benefits. But, that applies to your HR team and practice, too. The skills used in your HR function are evolving just as rapidly as skills across other industries, if not more quickly. To keep your practice up-to-date, you need to engage in continual professional development.
Obtaining and maintaining certifications and accessing other learning opportunities does require funding. Fortunately, the return on investment for HR professional development is high, and there are powerful arguments to be made for why your company should cover the costs.
Here are some tips for asking your organization to invest in your professional development.
Any proposal to your company leaders should offer concrete details, specifically regarding costs and benefits. Your organization’s financial gatekeepers will want to know a precise dollar amount, as well how your learning outcomes can increase efficiency or productivity down the road. If you’re seeking funding for a conference, calculate the cost of your time off (salary plus benefits), suggests Eddie Turner, principal at Eddie Turner LLC. “Once you have that number, create an estimate of the percentage of increased productivity, knowledge capital or professional contacts your employer may realize as a result of your attendance.”
When you ask for funding makes a difference, too. “Research when the fiscal year begins at your company,” suggests Elizabeth Gouéti, in-house legal counsel at Pearson. “It is important to know when the budget cycle is starting as this can impact the outcome of your conversation.” Not only can timing affect your ability to receive funding, it also demonstrates thoughtfulness and understanding of the organization’s finances. A well-researched and budgeted proposal is more likely to be taken seriously.
Many organizational leaders fear that money spent on professional development will be lost when employees leave, but while that can happen, it also helps improve retention. “Engagement with an organization tends to increase when the organization invests in employees’ professional development,” says Leesa Schipani, partner at KardasLarson. Employees are generally more likely to be invested in an organization that returns the investment. “The costs of professional development are minimal compared to what it would cost to lose that person and their knowledge,” says Schipani.
Professional development is a key motivator, especially for younger employees. When an organization is willing to indulge the desire for learning, engagement goes up. “Demonstrate the value of investing in somebody who has institutional knowledge, is a cultural fit to your organization and has an appetite for learning,” Schipani says. Professional development can improve retention and business outcomes at the same time.
The best requests for paid professional development demonstrate a clear connection between specific learning outcomes and how those outcomes will be put into practice. One way to do this is to look at past professional development opportunities. “Have you attended training in the past? Have you demonstrated a tangible ROI?” Turner asks. “If so, be sure to document it and explain the benefits clearly to your employer.”
Use examples to prove the advantages the organization stands to gain from your professional development. “You really need to understand the business and be able to show how having these skills will advance it,” Schipani says. “If your increased learning can prevent one employee relations issue from going to a situation where the employer might have to settle out of court, then you've paid for the certification threefold.” Demonstrate the clear-cut, financial value of increasing your ability to successfully perform your HR function.