How Programmers Can Convince Their Boss To Invest In Their Education
The world of programming is competitive, as it is constantly growing. Having just one basic skill doesn’t cut it anymore. Upskilling for developers is not merely nice-to-have; it has become a necessity.
In order to stay relevant, programmers need to constantly invest time and money in adding more skills to their profiles. However, time is a luxury that most full-time programmers cannot afford. Similarly, monetary investment is also a known barrier that prevents employees across industries from investing in developing new skills.
However, what many don’t realize is that finding great programmers is also a challenge for employers. The average cost of hiring a new employee is upwards of $4,000. This cost only increases when it comes to hiring an employee with a specific set of programming skills.
Perhaps that is why Amazon was ready to spend (before the pandemic happened) $700 million to retrain 100,000 employees and pay for the training of non-technical talent to learn the skills required for programming and software engineering roles.
In the era of digital transformation and automation, the need for great programming skills is on the rise. However, you can’t wait for your boss to have an epiphany about upskilling their existing resources. Sometimes, you have to take the initiative.
With the current work-from-home scenario, it might just be the perfect time to ask your boss to invest in your skills. With e-learning products like learning management systems (LMS) becoming increasingly popular and accessible, getting online training is also cheaper and easier than ever.
However, if not backed by facts and an offer they can’t refuse, getting a positive response can turn out to be a difficult task. So let’s take a look at how you can prepare before having this important talk with your boss.
Do Your Homework
Before you begin devising a plan to pitch your boss the idea of helping you gain new skills, you must do your homework to find out how your employer’s policies align with your ideas.
To begin with, check out the company policies and rules on the matter. This information might be available on the company’s website or in your appointment letter.
Next, try contacting someone in the human resources (HR) department of your company to inquire about the norms (if any) regarding the learning and development of employees. Most companies that invest in this matter have at least one dedicated HR resource for learning and development who might be able to help you.
You can also talk to your peers to find out whether any of them have ever tried to pitch a similar idea to the boss.
By taking all these steps you will be able to set the right expectations from the conversation you are about to have with your boss.
Strike Up a Conversation at the Right Time
While occasions such as being quarantined at home may be ideal for learning a new skill, they may not be the best time for your employer to pay for the same.
A lot of businesses have been severely affected by the 2020 pandemic, and if your workplace is in a similarly difficult situation, it is best to wait for a better time to have this conversation. Although waiting for better days means you won’t be able to utilize this time to train yourself, not waiting for the right time to have this conversation may mean you won’t get to do it at all.
However, if you see your bosses trying to keep the team engaged, having this conversation during one such interaction might be a good idea. Since they are already looking for ways to keep their teams engaged, training might just turn out to be the idea they are looking for.
Just make sure you are talking to them about this on a private platform and not in front of the rest of your colleagues. This way, you will not be putting your boss in a difficult position if they want to say no. If they have to say no in such a situation, it can be embarrassing for you and can also create problems for your boss with other employees who may start feeling the boss doesn’t care about them.
On the other hand, if your organization is among those that operate online and have clients that also operate online, this might just be the best time to have a conversation with your boss about investing in your skills.
However, this shouldn’t be your only consideration regarding the time to have this conversation. You must also make sure that you have this conversation with your boss at an appropriate time. For instance, it is not a good idea to bring this up during a team meeting.
On the other hand, a performance review meeting is one of the most appropriate times to bring this up. If a performance review isn’t around the corner, you can also set up an appointment with them to have this conversation.
The point is, choosing a bad time to have this conversation with your boss can prompt them to deny your request even before properly hearing you out. Understand that this is a delicate matter, and tackle it accordingly.
Talk About Mutual Benefits
As I mentioned earlier, if your employer decides to invest in your skills, it will be beneficial for both you and them. Present this fact to them in a manner that highlights the advantages involved for them.
This also means conducting research into the current and future technological needs of your organization and choosing a new skill that aligns with these needs. This way, you will be able to show them how hiring a new resource to address said needs can be an unwise decision.
If possible, make the calculations on your part and provide them with a possible cost breakdown and return on investment (ROI) such an arrangement can drive. Even if you are wrong, your boss might see your point and may be inclined to make the calculations themselves.
Keep in mind that at this moment, you are walking on very thin ice. The wrong choice of words can make your boss feel like you are telling them you understand the company’s needs better than they do.
To avoid such a situation, make sure any mention of the future needs of the organization is backed by a well-known fact. For instance, if you tell them training you in Swift will be better than hiring a new Swift programmer, make sure you precede this information with an instance where the company may have had to find a workaround for a client’s Swift programming needs.
This way, you can shape the conversation in a form that shows that you are trying to help them avoid such a situation again while also helping yourself grow in your career.
In fact, if you have an example of a situation where your company had to find a workaround or let a client go in the past due to lack of the right resources, you can utilize the example as a case study and present it in the form of a presentation.
Talk about the company’s existing situation, desired situation, and the barriers that are preventing the company from reaching its desired situation. Then, talk about how training you can be a step forward toward the company’s desired situation.
Accept That You Will Have To Sign a Contract
In order to drive a positive ROI from their investment, your employer(s) will need to be sure you won’t disappear as soon as your training is complete. Moreover, your employer may also need to be sure you will bring your best foot forward during the training in order to be convinced your newly developed skills are good enough for their organization.
Hence, if your employer agrees to invest in you, there should be a contract involved. This contract will outline:
- How the tuition fee will be paid back. This may not mean that the company will deduct some of your salary to recover their investment (like a loan), but it may mean that you may need to continue working at your current salary for some time to justify the cost of your education to your employer.
- What kind of performance you will be expected to show during the course (during assessments).
- How long you will have to stay with the organization after the completion of training.
Signing a contract may seem daunting to some. However, it is important to understand that your sponsors need to protect their interests.
If even despite doing everything right, your employer doesn’t reply with a positive response, don’t get disheartened. Try to understand that there might be a genuine deterrent preventing them from providing you with the opportunity to upskill.
If the situation allows, it is a great idea to ask them why they didn’t agree to your proposal.
Who knows, maybe whatever is holding them back is a temporary factor, and trying again in a few months might prove to be fruitful.
Preparation Is Crucial
With enough preparation, convincing your boss or employer to sponsor your continuing education is not an impossible task. Remember, training you in a new skill is a mutually beneficial undertaking for you and your employer.
If you do your homework, pick the right time to have the conversation, and can show quantifiable benefits for the company, your employer will be left with little reason to deny your proposition.
Even if they do, having this conversation is well worth the effort, and there is virtually no risk involved. If anything, your employer will likely appreciate your initiative, and a negative reply now might mean a positive reply later.