Getting Your Employer to Pay for Your Training — in 8 Steps6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
Lifelong learning is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. For anyone aiming to advance their career and excel in a VUCA world (that is, a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), personal and professional development is paramount.
When you develop yourself as a professional, you aren’t the only one who experiences the vast benefits. In fact, your employer also receives the extra boost in knowledge, leadership skills and expertise. That’s why employers are often willing and able to pay for their employees’ higher education.
In this post, we discuss 8 steps for how to negotiate with your employer to cover the cost of your education. Before we get to the tips, let’s cover some basics on tuition reimbursement.
What Is Tuition Reimbursement?
Simply put, tuition reimbursement is an agreement between you and your employer in which they agree to pay for part, or all, of your tuition.
It might sound too good to be true, but it’s actually a common practice in today’s workforce. There’s little doubt as to why: Employees that are better educated are more beneficial to companies. For many, it’s a win-win situation. Although an increasing number of executive education students pay for themselves, Coursalytics.com research shows that 60-70% of program takers are at least partially sponsored by their employer.
Tuition reimbursement agreements can have various stipulations. For example, an employer might require that you work for the company for a certain amount of time after your education program is completed. This is to ensure they receive a return on investment for your education.
How Does Tuition Reimbursement Work?
As an employee, you are an investment for those who pay your salary. It makes sense, then, that your employer would be willing to help you with your tuition. Your higher education increases both your value as an employee and the value of the business itself. If you receive tuition reimbursement, it usually means that you’ll need to tailor your program choice according to your role in the company. No business, after all, wants to invest in something that they can’t use.
Some employers might only pay for a certain percentage of tuition, or tuition for certain courses. Others might be willing to pay for everything. There’s also the question of when you will get reimbursed. Some companies are willing to cut a check as soon as the paperwork is signed, while others will only reimburse you after the education has been successfully completed. It’s possible that your company already has a policy on tuition reimbursement available, such as in an employee handbook. If that’s the case for you, reading it would help you estimate how much assistance you’re likely to get.
How Do You Ask For Tuition Reimbursement — 8 Steps?
1. Educate yourself on company policies.
Make it a point to read any policies that your business has about tuition reimbursement. It’s also a good idea to talk to any coworkers who have benefited from this setup in the past. Always go into the conversation with an idea of how things work – especially if your company already has policies in place. This makes you look motivated and prepared for the collaboration ahead.
2. Find the Decision Maker
Decision-making in large organizations is usually a multi-step process. Therefore, it’s important to understand who’s in charge of the final decisions (tip: usually several people are involved). Your direct supervisor is likely to be one of the key decision makers. The HR team is also likely to be a part of the process. In smaller organizations (or in higher level decision-making), a CEO or business owner may also become involved. Make sure you understand all the right players and how to get them to support your learning intent.
3. Choose Your Program
Before speaking with your supervisor or manager, you’ll want to have program options in mind. Be sure that they are useful to both you and the business. They should be relevant to the field that you’re in, and offer something that your current education doesn’t. This can be a challenging step, especially if you’re not quite sure of the direction you want to take. It helps to have a small selection of programs prepared to discuss with your employer, as well as the pros, cons, pricing and timing of each.
4. Make Yourself Valuable
Companies want to be sure about the people that they’re investing in. Make it a no-brainer decision for them by demonstrating the value you bring to the team, each and every day. Put in extra effort at work or take on additional tasks – especially during the time leading up to your conversation with a decision maker. This shows that you’re dedicated to your job, and are willing to work hard to make it successful.
5. Practice Good Timing
If you’ve ever asked for something important from a boss or friend, you know that timing is everything. Approach someone while they’re neck-deep in a crisis and you’re not likely to get very far. Consider chatting with your decision maker when they’re at a calm point, or just after they’ve accomplished something important. The same goes for you; if you’re currently in running for Employee of the Month or are finishing up a major project, wait until after these milestones are completed to ask for your tuition reimbursement.
6. Schedule an appointment.
Even in the most relaxed of offices, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to talk with your superiors. Simply walking in won’t give anyone time to prepare – and that’s not an ideal way to enter negotiations. Schedule your appointment at a convenient time (e.g. not on someone’s lunch break or late in the day). Better yet, ask your boss about a good time for them and try to make it work for you.
7. Plan your pitch.
You might pride yourself on winging situations as they come, but this isn’t the time to test those skills. When you go in to speak to your boss about reimbursement, you should already have a solid idea of how the discussion should go. Think about different directions that the conversation could take, and prepare for questions. Take some time to do the research so you can drive your key argument.
8. Ask questions.
Have you managed to convince your company to invest in you? Nice work! While the hardest part may be done, you still need to remember that you’re entering into a contract. Ask all the necessary questions before any papers are signed. You should leave negotiations knowing what, exactly, is expected of you. How much of the tuition are they willing to reimburse? How long will you need to remain with the company after training? Will they pay up front, or will you have to pay out of pocket, to be paid back later? Be sure to leave with solid answers to these questions.
Tuition reimbursement is a great tool for both businesses and for employees. Employees get help paying for their education, allowing them to learn new skills and expand on what they already know. Businesses get highly educated and knowledgeable employees for maximum success. It takes careful planning on both parts, but in the end, it’s an investment well worth the effort. Start browsing programs now.