This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.
How to get your boss to sponsor a course for you
Some people are lucky. The boss asks them to pursue a particular course, sponsors it and that’s it.
Others have to work hard to get that privilege. You need to plan, then ask in a way that you get a yes. There is quite a bit of work involved here.
At LawSikho.com, more than one third of the learners that we get for our premium courses, are sponsored by their organizations. I have spoken to many of these candidates and I think I should share what I have learned with you.
Here is a guide to how you can get your boss/organization to sponsor a course for you.
Who is the right person to ask?
This is perhaps the most critical question. If you get this wrong, you may not get the opportunity.
Formally, maybe you are supposed to ask the HR manager or the Learning and Development Officer. But don’t. Unless you are an HR manager yourself. Usually that is not how it works.
You need to win over the person who you report to. If your reporting manager believes that you should do a course and the company would benefit for the same, your chance of getting that is much higher.
The HR manager or L&D officer will definitely ask your boss whether the course is likely to benefit the company. If your boss is not in your corner, then forget it.
On the other hand, if your boss recommends you a course and puts in a word with the L&D or HR team, you can definitely expect a very positive outcome.
Ask for inputs
Make sure you ask your reporting manager and other mentors in the organization for inputs. Tell them you have some free time while commuting and you are just wasting that time watching netflix, and you would like to learn something useful in that time instead. Do they have any inputs about what you can learn? What courses? From which platform or university? Asking around helps a lot to create a positive support system in favour of you, plus you will often get amazing inputs.
Do not forget to share with others what courses you are considering.
Remember that this asking around for inputs is no way supposed to demotivate or dissuade you, from doing a course altogether, as some colleagues may do. Also, take all advice and input with a smile but a pinch of salt.
Many people have many opinions and not all are relevant.
Who has the authority to make the final decision?
Once you have your boss on board, next question is, how are you going to reach the decision maker. Usually, your boss will not be the final decision maker. Often, the problem with such a matter is that, there is nobody clearly empowered to make the decision, so everyone may pass the buck.
Go upwards till you find the person who has the required authority, and then pitch. How would the organization benefit from you doing this course? Make it clear that you have the endorsement of your manager.
If you don’t talk to the right person, you may never get an answer. Don’t wait for it. Go to the person and get an answer.
This part requires some passionate hustling.
How expensive is the course you are looking at?
There used to be a time when organizations will sponsor an MBA or a MCA for an employee. Those days are gone.
Employers think that MBA and such other masters programs take too long to do, costs too much, may not generate enough value for the organization to justify paying for such courses while such programs also keep you away from your actual job.
Hardly any organization pays their employees to do an MBA these days.
However, online courses, workshops, short term training programs that do not take you away from your work, are now hot favourites of employers for sponsoring. So select wisely.
Look for a course that is neither too cheap (then what is the use of sponsoring? Don’t ask your company to sponsor you for a course worth INR 5000), nor too expensive (should not be more than 5% of your annual salary).
This is a key factor. Think it through before you actually make a pitch.
Does your organization have an L&D budget?
If there is a budget, things are much easier. If there is not, it’s a little more tricky but not impossible at all.
Do your research. Ask colleagues who have been around for longer. Go through the HR manager. Ask your HR if any employees got sponsored to workshops, training programs or courses in the past.
Find out whether those investments worked out well for the employer or not, because they are going to think about those cases while they decide on your request.
If there is no precedence, as may happen in smaller and new organizations, then it’s all about the maths. If there is a real financial payoff that is possible for the organization to invest in your education then you have a very good chance. Then comes the part about who has your back in the matter of getting better at your work.
Who is trying to grow the business and your lack of skills is an impediment?
Who will benefit the most if you did better due diligences?
Who will make more money if you drafted better contracts and negotiated like a boss?
Who needs you to handle sexual harassment cases because there is a lot of pressure from management to not falter?
Who wants you ensure that you make no mistake while doing legal compliance?
All those people are interested in you learning more and developing yourself to be better at your job.
All you need to do is that show them that you have a course that will help you to do exactly that. If there is a budget, then you will get an approval. If there is no budget, your boss has to still make an exception for you and support you so that you can do a better job in the coming months.
Just make sure you show them what is it in it for the organization.
What is in it for your organization?
This requires some smart thinking, and good presentation.
What are the biggest obsessions of your company? What are the focus areas? What are they always worried about?
Is there a course you can do that will make them feel more confident? Will it bring them closer to the victory they seek? Will it increase the odds of them defeating the monster they are battling?
Don’t propose random irrelevant courses that catch your fancy. Go by what is in interest of your organization.
What does your boss need more? Is he expecting a lot of new and complicated contracts to be drafted in next 6 months? Is there need for a company law expert in the team? Is the company suddenly going through a lot of IP litigation or high value arbitrations?
Depending on what is important to the company, select a course that you can use to enhance yourself, and be of greater service to your organization.
You must write down the entire logic as to why the company should spend on you and buy a course. Think it from the perspective of the CEO. Would he think investing in your education is a great investment? Why so?
Only when you can convince yourself in writing, make a pitch. You will know what to say.
How to make the actual pitch
People often make the mistake of talking in abstracts when they approach this issue with their superiors. That just doesn’t cut ice.
If I tell you, do my course then you will be more effective as a lawyer, how much will you believe me, trust me or take action on my comment? It is a superficial, vague thing to say.
To get what you want, you have to be much more specific.
Think of the biggest, hairiest problem in your company. How could you specifically contribute in that? Maybe the problem is that the legal team is taking too long to vet contracts sent across by the legal team, which caused a few potential clients to go away as competitors won them over while the delay was happening.
Or that your boss, a junior partner in a law firm, lost two big clients due to silly and avoidable errors made by juniors in his team.
You’ve got to bring up those issues in the conversation.
Remember that time when ABC Bank managed to pull a fast one on us because I could not turn in the loan agreement fast enough? I want to avoid those kind of situations from happening again. If I do this course, I know I will not have to spend so much time trying to understand things on my own. The whole process will be faster. I will have to work fewer hours as I will be efficient, and I will definitely make far less errors.
This kind of specific and concrete examples will help your boss to easily agree in your favour. At the end of the day, he has to feel: yes, this is totally worth the money we are spending.
Should you do a course even if your employer doesn’t sponsor?
Absolutely yes. But keep your bosses informed and updated. You do not want to do something sneakily. If your boss and colleagues know that you are learning something, then you are more likely to get new opportunities in that area, and benefit from enhanced skills. It’s win-win.
Also people respect those who are constantly learning and improving themselves.
Never be afraid to hear a no
One more thing: Don’t be scared to get a no. A no is the first step to negotiation. If you get a no, wait for 3 months and then approach again with a better proposal. In any case, if you have done all the homework suggested here and then go and propose that your employer should sponsor a course, they are going to be only too glad to support, because it is in their interest only!
It’s hard to turn down great proposals when they are being made repeatedly and consistently over a long period of time.
Sometimes even if you do all things right you may get a no. Maybe the company is going through financial turmoils and they don’t have enough funds to invest in your development. Or maybe it’s a business with such razor thin margin that it does not have scope for such extravaganza. Perhaps, it may also happen that your employer doesn’t care about your professional growth, which is unfortunately the case quite often.
It is more important for you to do those courses that will open up new opportunities in that case, even with your own money. If your employer will not invest in your growth, then you must.
Here are some legal courses that we highly recommend for this purpose:
- Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws
- Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
- Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)
- Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts
- Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws
- Diploma in Industrial and Labour Laws
- Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations
All the best!