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Ways to lobby your boss for training (building the best case)

With predictions that the workplace will replace universities as training grounds, how can you get your boss allowing you to upskill or pivot?

With predictions that the workplace will replace universities as training grounds, how can you put forward the best case for your boss allowing you to upskill or pivot.

In the traditional working model of the 20th century, the career path was school, higher education, work - where work was typically in the same or similar role, and often in the same organisation until retirement.

Study gave you the knowledge and skills to do your job – you improved them as you went, but there was no significant need to retrain, reskill or upskill, because you were building on what you already knew, and progressing along a well-worn career path.

Come the 21st century and that model has changed dramatically.

For a start, the job itself. Many of the jobs that new members of the workforce will be doing over the next 20-50 years, are not even yet conceived. A report published in 2017 by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and a panel of technology, business and academic experts, estimates that a massive 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't even been invented yet.

Which means that unless you are retiring from the workforce in the next 11 years, you could have some big changes ahead.

Combine this with the fact that not only the jobs themselves, but the very nature of work is changing. In its article, ‘Five ways work will change in the future’ The Guardian newspaper refers to moving from the traditional ‘ladder’ model to the ‘lattice’ model.  The ‘lattice’ model, an idea developed by Cathy Benko, vice-chairman of Deloitte in San Francisco and co-author of The Corporate Lattice, is the notion that rather than a career taking a linear path upwards, employees now move diagonally from role to role and gain a far wider range of experiences  

What this means is that one set of skills doesn’t last for life.

Career progression under lattice model requires development, evolution and a portfolio of transferrable skills.  Higher education may help get your career started, but it is no longer the ‘be all and end all’, or all the training you’ll ever need.

In this context, it is clear why workplace training and ongoing learning is so valuable.  But what if your boss doesn’t see it that way? What if you work for an organisation that is still stuck with the 20th century vision of the workplace and doesn’t see the value in providing ongoing training and skill development.

With the right approach, you can build a strong case for training, and develop the skills you need for a 21st century career. So here’s some tips on how to get your boss over the line on training:

The case for enhancing company assets

It’s a cliché, but true, that people are the most valuable asset in any organisation. People are what make the difference and it makes sense to have people with the best possible skills.

Some organisations fear that employees will take the training and leave. If your boss takes this approach, you could do worse than to use the logic Henry Ford, who may have been ahead of his time when he said: “The only thing worse than training your people and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.”

Pick your topic

If you are putting forward the argument that training will enhance your value to the company, pick training that is relevant to your job. If you’re a design engineer, it’s hard to justify the company paying for a course in remedial massage. That’s an extreme example, but the point is valid. You have to show how this training will make you more valuable to the company – it doesn’t mean that it can’t be a transferrable skill that you can take with you if and when you go, but in the short term it has to benefit the organisation that is paying for it.

Practical details

No boss likes to be given a problem without a solution. So before you knock on the office door and say ‘I’d like to do some training’, do your research. Find out who offers your chosen training, where and when it takes place and what it costs. A reputable and well-respected training organisation will strengthen your case, and if you can, find testimonials   about how others have benefitted.

Facts and figures 

The case for training has to be a business case, with sound figures behind it. Build a financial case around increased productivity, showing how the training will help you drive more revenue or save on costs – the two things that are sure to get your boss’ attention.

Keep it cool

When putting a business case forward, keep it business-like. Whilst its fine to show that you have a passion for training and improving your skills, keep your cool, especially if your first attempt is not successful. If you are turned down, ask (calmly) for feedback, and what your case was missing.

Continual skills development will be the greatest asset to a 21st century career, so use the tips above and make that case.

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