Lifelong learning is no longer an option. It’s a necessity for anyone trying to cope with the constantly changing VUCA world, not to mention advance their career. Developing yourself as a professional is tough as it requires 100% attention, as well as some significant time and money investment. Wouldn't it only be fair if your employer shared the price since they share the benefit? Here is how you can negotiate with your employer to cover the cost of our education in 8 easy steps.
Simply put, tuition reimbursement is an agreement between you and your employer where your employer agrees to pay for either part or all of your tuition. It might sound too good to be true, but it's something that is becoming more prevalent in today's workforce. And 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.
There are many different stipulations that an agreement like this would have. For example, an employer might stipulate that you work for the company for a certain amount of time after your education program is completed. This is to make sure that they themselves are reimbursed for your education!
So, why would your employer be willing to help you with your tuition? The answer is fairly simple, even if it might seem a bit too good to be true: You're an investment. Paying for your education, either partially or wholly, increases both your value as an employee and the value of the business itself. This does mean that you will have to tailor your choices to fit your 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. Some companies might have 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.
1. Prepare Before Asking
Before you even consider asking, you need to prepare. You can do this by reading any policies that your business has about tuition reimbursement, as well as talk to any coworkers that have benefited from this in the past. Going in with no idea of what your company might offer, especially if they make it clear in the employee handbook or website, makes it look like you're not taking it seriously or putting in effort.
2. Find the Decision Maker
Decision making in large organizations is usually a process, not a one-time thing. It’s important to understand who will be making the decision (tip: several people are likely to be involved). Your direct supervisor is likely to be one of the key decision makers. HR team is also likely to be a part of the process. In smaller organizations (or in high level decision making) CEO or business owner may also become involved. Make sure you understand all the right players and have all of them supporting your learning intent.
3. Choose Your Program
You'll want to choose the right program before speaking with your supervisor or manager. When doing this, you'll want to make sure that it's something that will be useful to both yourself 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. If you're not sure which program to pursue, have a small selection prepared and discuss which would be best with your employer. It’s always a good idea to demonstrate that you did your homework and compared several programs understanding their pros and cons, not just chose the most expensive one from a top brand provider.
4. Make Yourself Valuable
Companies want to be sure about the people that they're investing in. To get tuition reimbursement, you need to make it clear that you're a valuable member of the team, and that you can help them benefit from your education. Put in extra effort at work, or take on additional tasks. If allowed, put in some overtime. This will show that you're dedicated to your job, and are willing to work hard to make it successful.
5. Practice Good Timing
Timing is key. Like when you ask for anything, you want to make sure that the timing is perfect. After all, if you ask when everyone is currently drowning in some crisis, you're unlikely to get anything but annoyed looks. Good times for bringing up this topic is when things have calmed down, or directly after doing something important and noteworthy. So, if you're currently in running for Employee of the Month or are currently finishing up some big project, wait until everything has been successfully completed before bringing it up.
6. Make an Appointment
Even in the most relaxed of offices, it's a good idea to make an appointment to talk about this. Simply walking in won't give your manager time to prepare, which is not a good way to enter negotiations. Make sure that your appointment is during a convenient time. Taking up someone's lunch break won't make them very happy with you, and neither will keeping them at work after everyone else has left. Ask your boss when is a good time for them, and try to make it work for you.
7. Plan Ahead
This isn't something you should wing. 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 go, and prepare for questions. These questions might be tough, and they'll likely be thorough, so take the time to do it right.
8. Ask Questions Yourself
You might think once your boss seems to be on board, your job is done. That's not true! You need to remember to ask the important questions before any papers are signed. You should leave knowing what, exactly, will be expected of you. Will you have to remain with the company for a set amount of years? How many years? How much of the tuition are they willing to reimburse? Will they pay up front, or will you have to pay out of pocket, to be paid back later? Are they covering all of the tuition, or only part of it? You need to leave with solid answers to these questions, and any other you find important.
Tuition reimbursement is a great tool for both businesses and for employees. Employees get help paying for their education, letting them learn new skills and expand on what they already know. Businesses get highly-educated and knowledgeable employees that will help them succeed. It takes careful planning on both parts, but it's an investment everyone will be happy with in the end.