Gaining new skills is good for both you and your employer. For you, it means you can tackle a wider range of tasks, solve problems more easily, and have a greater opportunity to climb the career ladder. For your employer, it means a workforce that can handle a variety of challenges without needing to hire more people. Moreover, when workers keep learning and developing their skills, it can encourage fresh perspectives, new ideas and improved ways of doing things, helping create a more dynamic and successful organisation.
But no resource in business is quite as scarce as time. Combining full-time work with study isn’t always practical, especially if classes take place during the day. And it can feel nerve-wracking to ask your boss if you can take time out of your regular schedule to do a course or gain a qualification. In fact, one survey by HR professionals found that nearly 80% of us are uncomfortable discussing employment terms, from time off to salaries, with our managers.
We all know, however, that if you never ask, you never get. And being prepared can make the process easier. So here are our tips for making your bid for the time to brush up your skills.
Know your rights
The law is on your side: regulations which came into force in April 2010 mean that employees at larger companies have a legal right to ask for time to develop their skills. So, you can be confident that your boss won’t be too surprised by your request.
To qualify for the right, the law says that you need to be classified as an employee, have 26 weeks’ service and be working at a company with at least 250 members of staff. And think about it carefully: you only have a right to one request a year.
Research your company’s rules
Many companies have their own policies about how to go about making a request, and you may have forms to fill out. If there’s no specific process, you can write to your manager detailing the training you want to pursue, and mentioning that you’re making a request “under Section 63D of the Employment Rights Act 1996”.
Regardless of their own rules, the law says that your employer can only turn down the request for specific reasons, such as the training wouldn’t benefit the business, or they can’t reorganise your work among other staff.
Prepare your pitch
Making a successful request is all about demonstrating the business benefit. “You have to connect what you’ll gain to the business’ goals,” says Rachael O’Meara, author of Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break.
So, you should aim to outline how these new or improved skills will help your job performance and the company’s bottom line. Try to head off objections by suggesting a plan to cover your hours when you study, whether it’s through flexible working or identifying a colleague who is willing to fill in.
Your employer has 28 days to accept your proposal or to hold a meeting to discuss it. After the meeting, they’ve got another two weeks to decide.
If your employer does turn down your request, they should set out their reasons, and you can appeal within 14 days. Otherwise, it’s time to get on with improving your skills for the next stage of your career.