Convincing Your Boss to Pay for Certification

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You want to increase your knowledge and improve efficiency in your current IT job, and you know that training and certification will make this possible. So what can you do to fuel the likelihood of your employer funding this endeavor? Have you have sensed negative vibes about this from your boss? Why do many managers inside corporations shy away from an investment in certification?

The overwhelming theme we hear from managers is that they fear that certifying employees will result in them leaving the company or wanting more money. Yet none of the research shows that is the case. In fact, most research studies in the area of certification indicate that employees actually stay longer, or for the same amount of time, when the employer invests in their certification. In the Certification Magazine Salary Survey (December 2002), for instance, 84 percent of respondents were still with their employers one year after achieving their primary certification. (Among those respondents, by the way, 59 percent of those certification costs were paid for completely or in part by the employers.)

However, perception is reality. And the perception is strong among employers that these newly minted certifications will be used as a passport to leave the organization. The best advice I can give is to acknowledge that the fear exists in the mind of your manager and use the following strategies to convince him otherwise:

Strategy 1: Gather Research
Use the variety of research available to prove that certification can benefit not only you, but also the company. Various organizations conduct and publish studies on an annual basis, and you can use this information to build your case. For example, the “2001 Training & Certification Study” is compiled by Gartner and issued by CompTIA and Prometric. According to their findings, only 10 percent of certified professionals sought training to find another job. Additionally, six out of 10 managers indicated that when developing budgets, funding for certification is always included. There is a lot of data out there to support your training and certification pursuits, so see what you can dig up to use to your advantage.

Strategy 2: Offer Repayment If You Leave
Suggest to your employer that in return for their investment, if you leave voluntarily within 12 months, you agree to repay that investment on a prorated basis. If you plan to stay with the organization, this will not be an issue for you, and it can provide the company with the assurance they need.

Strategy 3: Be Flexible
Offer to be as flexible as you can in how you acquire learning, and minimize the amount of time you will be away from the workplace. Make yourself available to e-learning, self-study and night and weekend classes. This really demonstrates to an employer that you are willing to invest your own time and resources—in addition to the company’s—if they are willing to invest in training and certification for you.

Strategy 4: Share Your Knowledge
Offer to act as a coach or mentor to other technology staff to improve overall productivity as you go through the program. Volunteering to share your knowledge with others on the team will help them see the larger benefit of providing the training.

Strategy 5: Explain the Certification Program
Educate your manager about the learning that will be undertaken through this certification program. Explain the advantages in terms of what it will provide to the organization. For example, through a particular certification you may gain exposure to technologies that would allow your company to save money, improve productivity, increase customer satisfaction or reduce downtime.

The Strategy Overall: Open, Honest Dialogue
There is really no substitute for open, honest dialogue with your employer about their hesitation to invest in your education and certification. Take the time to talk through those concerns and meet them halfway where appropriate. Mitigate their apprehension by providing assurance that you are not looking to get educated and leave the organization, but quite the opposite. Be flexible in the hours and ways you want to get the learning to achieve the certification. I have found this to be the best approach for encouraging your employer to invest with you in achieving an IT certification.

Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.


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