How to ask your business for training
- 01 September 2020
Marketers will always need the insight that learning brings but asking management for training in a world changing fast will need empathy and perspective, rather than ambition, especially as budgets will still need time to recover as we ease our way out of lockdown.
In a department that has spent the last decade reaching out over every aspect of business - from legal to sales - marketing training is an increasingly important option for professionals looking to get a 360-degree view of any organisation’s activities. It can also provide you with the tools to gain insight into the wider market, competitors and, increasingly, the thoughts and feelings of the customer.
However, asking for budget at the best of times is a tricky subject, but is especially hard in light of the current economic circumstances. Still, businesses increasingly need the extra insight that training, and qualifications, bring, and that means asking for financial support is still a worthwhile conversation to engage in.
Here we offer some important tips for breaking the taboo around asking for financial help with your development, and some advice for those who may need to self-fund. So, when you are thinking about your options for investing in upskilling, start with these five tips.
1. Start a dialogue, not a monologue
Marketers are being increasingly asked to engage in a two-way dialogue with customers, it’s also important to do so with training. All training will have to be approved from above, and that means budgets and man hours will need to be accounted for.
Start a conversation about upskilling early, before you need to, by stating what they can do to make your job better and how that benefits the company as a whole. Once that dialogue is open, it’s easier to make the request.
2. Think about profit
CIM defines marketing as, “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”, and a key word there is “profitably.” When you make your justification, remember to link it back to how you can secure the company more profit.
This means a two-way communication with the finance department. Naturally, finance departments don’t like to see waste so provide projections on how your chosen training course can lead to maximising future opportunities for the company. If this leads nicely on to how they can potentially see profits rising as a result of all this, then you’ve made the best case possible.
On a basic level, if marketing is defined by creating avenues to take more profitable routes, then the financial aspect should be an easy, though vital, add on to any training proposal.
3. Be a problem solver
As we navigate a world with relaxed restrictions but with the hangover of past lockdowns remaining, it’s likely that budgets will continue to be stretched. During this time, making the case for more training will be a difficult proposition. More so than ever, any application for training must take in to account this wider economic situation that we are all, in some way, influenced by.
Does your training address some of the problems your company has in the real world? Marketing training, which spans across the entire business, should address the problems businesses face rather than your own personal career goals. You cannot solve most of the issues created in the wake of a pandemic, but an extra layer to your application is to think about the problems your training might create for the business, and then show that you have proactively found solutions for them.
For example, if doing a CIM training course costs the business money, can you identify savings elsewhere? If taking part in a training sessions means management are worried about time spent out of the business, point out that the option for virtual learning means it's easier to work around and schedule priorities as you won't be too far away from your desk. Bring those solutions to the table and those making the final decision will have fewer problems to navigate and you'll likely get a clearer idea of the reasons behind their answer - whether it's yes or no.
4. Give them a choice to make
It’s essential that you provide options for your business and for yourself, because the world changes quickly and priorities change with it, and you need to show that flexibility in any application.
Start by costing up three different options - perhaps an in-depth qualification, a medium length module and a one-day training course. For example, if you wanted to improve your digital marketing knowledge you could put down options for:
- CIM’s Level 6 Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing - a three module qualification where you’ll learn to enhance an organisation’s effectiveness in the digital age. This will be a year-long commitment or longer.
- One module of the CIM digital qualification – take a bitesize approach to learning by choosing just one specific module of the qualification and gaining an Award as a result, with the option to complete the full qualification at a later date. Maybe you need to learn the digital techniques but not the management of them, well, this is a great chance to do it.
- A one day digital training course - this is where you can pick a one to three-day training course on a very specific digital subject. It’s perfect if you cannot afford that long-term commitment right now but still want to take the opportunity to upskill.
Analysing the benefits of each will also help you make the decision around which type of studying suits you and your company most, as well as showing to your business that there are numerous ways to provide the training required. Remember, you can always put extra detail in to the one you really want to do in your application, subtly leading them to appreciate your chosen option more than the other two. If you would prefer to do a training course, point out the comparative cost and time benefit to funding this option, rather than the long-term learning required for modules and qualifications.
5. Report back
After every module and course undertaken by someone from CIM’s marketing team, they report back to their colleagues and managers what they learnt during it. This does two important things; it provides other employees with an opportunity to see if they would benefit from the same training, and it shows management that the time taken was worth it.
The chain of communication to management does not end if they give you approval; it should not end at all. The decision they have made to invest will need to be justified, and proactively reporting back how your training is benefiting the company as a whole, as well as yourself as an individual, will make it easier to get more approved and serve as a helpful exercise itself in putting your training in to action. To do that, not only feed back to management what you learnt but also make clear, whenever possible, when you have put those learnings in to completing the tasks and plans that are part of your job. If you can show them that training has made your job better, or you better at your job, then it's a worthwhile first step in to wider acceptance for more funding.
It’s important to remember that businesses are always vulnerable to the conditions of the wider market and, sometimes, there will be no avenue for training. Employees are entitled to ask if ‘no’ means ‘no’ or ‘not right now’, but they should always remember that a top line perspective of business can differ from the views of the individual worker. Considering those other perspectives, and anticipating the problems that may emerge from them, will help you provide a clearer case for training and allow you to zone in on the course of action that is right for you.
If the answer is 'no', and you cannot wait for a time where it might be a 'yes', then you have to think about what is affordable and practical for you. In this case, it would probably be a training course aimed at your specific need - such as digital - that will be a better option than a long-term qualification.
Whether you have funding from your employer or want to go it alone, it's never been more important to upskill. Explore CIM’s virtual training courses, covering a wide range of topics including digital marketing, copywriting and content.
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