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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 14°C
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Careers expert Eoghan McDermott gives you a checklist of preparation before asking your company to support further study.

IT CAN BE an incredibly costly investment for a company to support its staff in further education – the cost of tuition fees, not to mention the time spent away at lectures and on projects. It’s a big decision for them. HR managers always ask ‘what’s the return on investment?’

Maybe I’m cynical, but most companies don’t invest in staff benefits just for the craic. It’s a calculated investment with the objective of directly, or indirectly, improving the company’s bottom line. Therefore if you want your employer to invest in your education you need to be able to demonstrate, up front, how it will benefit their end-of-year figures.

Why should a company pay several thousand euro for a member of staff to go and get a further qualification? To keep them happy? Maybe. But there are less expensive ways to engage staff – training courses, flexi time, away-days. Or couldn’t they just buy you a foosball table (available online for €80) like some organisations do?

shutterstock_370014020 Shutterstock Sometimes, a foosball table in work just won't cut it. Shutterstock

If you can prove the value to them, it does makes sense for your company to support you.

The global professional services firm Accenture conducted research with a health insurance company in the US and found that there was an 129% return on investment from supporting staff to pursue additional qualifications. This was achieved through improved productivity – staff were better at getting work done; and loyalty – staff were more likely to stay, therefore cutting down on an expensive recruitment process and training of new staff.

In my experience the big questions a company will have are:

  • What’s the point of it? How is it of use to us?
  • What does it cover? What’s new about it?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How much of your time will it take?

But no more than any request to get your company to spend money, your case needs to be compelling.

A further qualification can be very useful to you. It can up-skill you, fill a gap in your knowledge, improve your earning potential, help you make the ‘next step’ in your career. It can also cost you a fair chunk of change. And time. So there is value in getting the job to pay for it.

Like asking for an increase in salary, are you worth it? And will they get the return on the investment? It can’t be all about you.

The same rules apply when asking for them to shell out for a qualification. You need to have done the groundwork.

You need to have researched the courses that you would like to pursue and have a logic for why it would be of value to the organisation. For example, if you’re an accountant and you want to do a masters in botany, it’s unlikely your company will invest. Unless of course there’s a huge emerging market in the flower business.

Make sure you are into the course you choose

You also have to make sure it’s the right course for you. Yes, have the reasons why it’s of value to the company but for you to really commit to it you should know what would be of interest and value to you. You should have a detailed understanding of what the curriculum contains. A lot of organisations are now specifying the grades that their staff must obtain in their supported studies. So if you’re not really into, it may not be worth hassle.

shutterstock_304853942 Shutterstock / Evgeny Atamanenko Are you SURE you want to get into Advanced Accounting? Shutterstock / Evgeny Atamanenko / Evgeny Atamanenko

Also, and certainly up there on the importance list, you need to know how much time it’s going to take out of the office. And how you’re going to deal with your workload.

These are all considerations that you have to worked through before going to your boss asking for an investment in you.

It’s also worth noting that your company may ask you to sign an education contract. It essentially will aim to lock you in for a set period of time (typically two years) after you complete your studies to make sure you don’t skedaddle with your freshly-pressed parchment a week after getting it. And if you do head off into the sunset, you will have to pay them back the tuition fees.

Like any negotiation, don’t just think about you; think about the other side.

Eoghan McDermott is a Director of The Communications Clinic and is Head of Training and Careers there. 

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