Pitching professional development to your employer: how to build a winning business case

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By Jessica Houston – School of Marketing Ambassador

 

Let's talk about professional development. We know that it is one of the most critical enablers for career progression, helping employees continually improve and learn new skills. So why then can it sometimes feel like an uphill battle when asking for training?

Some organisations have programmes to ensure they offer the most relevant skills and training to their marketers. Still, not all do, and it varies when it comes to the type of training available at each company. Even when there is training available, there could be a course, event or opportunity that speaks to an individual and is more targeted to the areas they are looking to develop. The hurdle is then finding the budget to do the training.

We're here to help you build a compelling business case that your employer won't be able to say no to.

The role of professional development in marketing

Continued professional development (CPD) in marketing ensures that a marketer has the latest skills and knowledge for the industry, as we know how fast it moves. First and foremost, though, it's about empowering people to excel at their jobs. Plenty of research shows that employees who feel valued and invested in are more likely to be motivated to do a great job.

Today we are more conscious than ever of how fast the world of work is changing. Therefore we need to develop an agile approach to learning that supports employees, delivering more significant results for the organisation.

Every marketing team should have some level of access to a career development curriculum or training options to enhance their skills. But this doesn't have to always take shape in the form of a traditional marketing course. We see many options emerge in the marketing industry, including learning and development (L&D) portals with shorter lessons across a variety of content formats or access to content library's.

The brilliant Rob Bristow joined us on The Places We'll Go, Show, and made a poignant point around professional accreditations. He said: "Being career-focused is important, and professional accreditations are great, however always ask yourself what am I going to get from it?"

Being really clear about what a specific opportunity is going to add to your career is crucial and will help form the foundation of your business case, so keep this in mind.

The benefits of professional development

Here is a recap on the benefits of professional development for both the employer and employee.

Benefits to employers: the business case for professional development

●     Upskilling the team will keep employees on the cutting edge of industry trends and knowledge

●     Professional development boosts team morale

●     Having a professional development programme attracts and retains great employees

●     It boosts employer reputation

●     It increases innovation and performance of the whole function, and therefore the business

●     Allows for upward mobility and career progression.

Benefits to employees:

●     Professional development will provide new skills required for the job 

●     It allows employees to add qualifications to their CV

●     Training builds confidence in a marketer's ability to do their job

●     It increases motivation at work, and therefore productivity is greater

●     Employees will feel more inspired by insights outside the organisation and bring new ideas back into the team.

There are clear benefits to both the employer and employee when it comes to providing good training opportunities. However, how this happens varies between companies. For example, some organisations may allocate a training allowance to their employees; they may offer a standardised approach across the function or operate on a business case basis. Therefore, it is essential to understand how professional development works to frame the business case correctly. 

Five strategies for building a winning business case

Understanding the organisation's culture when it comes to professional development should provide the first step in framing your business case. Knowing how to approach your manager and what they are likely to agree to can help set your expectations at the right level and go in with the right ask. Companies are more likely to say yes to employees who show a continued commitment to the organisation and their role, are proactive and are trusted to ‘pay it forward’.

1. Do your homework

The first strategy goes back to the first rule of marketing - research! Have you considered all of the options available to you? Then, make sure to include a summary of this research in your business case with an apparent reason why you have chosen the specific opportunity you have. 

2. Articulate the return on investment

This one is the most important to nail! Businesses survive by making money, and it is likely your leadership team will be looking to understand how the course or opportunity will add value to the work you deliver, and therefore the impact on the business. You won't, of course, be able to include numbers. However, it is essential to articulate the benefits of the course and show that you understand this.

3. Communicate the emotional value

More often than not, there is an emotional value as to why you want to pursue something. Why is it important to you and your development right now? Link it back to your objectives and personal development plan.

4. Use testimonials

Where possible, try to find testimonials from others who have either taken the course or attended the event. Personal recommendations go a long way and provide an added layer of trust if you can. In addition, if you can explain the key benefits others have gained from the investment, this is more likely to impact the decision surrounding your business case positively.

4. Offer to share your learnings.

Last but not least, proactively suggest that you can share what you learn with the team. This demonstrates collaboration and a willingness to 'pay it forward', which will benefit the team and, in return, make the investment more worthwhile, giving the employer no good reason to say no.

With these five key pieces of information, you will frame the conversation with confidence and have an obvious case to present for the investment.

Remember, a good business case is to the point, clear and concise. Good luck.