Business ResourcesHow to Ask Your Boss for a Learning Budget


Linnea Schulenburg
writes on May 9, 2016

You like learning new things. You’re interested. You don’t want to be put in a box. You’re a firm believer in T-shaped skillsets. You have a few superpowers up your sleeve.

Now, you’ve decided you want training in a new skill that you can see immediate applications for in your job. Or, perhaps you want to round out your repertoire in order to move into a different position in the near future.

Maybe, you’re thinking, my job could cover the cost of the training…?

Good thinking! Now is the time to explore what sort of learning options your job offers and get the professional development ball rolling.

Inquire about existing resources

Get in touch with HR and ask whether there are already learning budgets in place. If they say yes, get details on what it will or won’t cover, or if the company has an account with the provider you want to learn through. It’s common for one department to use a learning service without other departments knowing.

If there’s no formal learning allowance or the topic you want to study isn’t currently budgeted for, don’t worry! There are a few more steps to take before discussing with your boss, but just think of it as paving the way for new opportunities for you and your coworkers. Continued learning, so long as the topic is related to the company you work for, has benefits for both you and your employer.

Time it right

If your company doesn’t have a learning program set up already, there’s some good and bad news.

The bad news: Getting a new expense in the budget is easiest to do in the fall, as managers put together their budgets for the coming year. That may mean you’ll have to wait a few months to get the expense approved.

The good news: With a little research, you can make the case for an annual learning budget, which means you won’t face the same wait times and paperwork for learning opportunities in the future. So many things to learn, so little time!

Do your homework

Research the topic you want to study, compare providers and put together a short outline of the top players. It doesn’t need to be too fancy, just make sure it includes major details like cost, time requirements, and topics covered. This step ensures that you know the who, what, when and where details for the training budget you’re going to request. You’ll be able to offer alternative programs and details if your boss needs more information, and they will respect how thoroughly you’ve prepared.

Focus your request

You need to have a clear vision of your learning goals. Actively learning new skills shows initiative, but your manager will want to know more. Hone your request to a simple sentence.

Just fill in the green:

“I would like a  $______ learning budget to pay for skill training from provider which will allow me to do XY and Z in amount of time.”

The X, Y and Z  are the actual outcomes and applications that the training will have for your job and the company, and should illustrate what a huge impact your leadership training, digital skill building, or mobile development courses can make on your day-to-day performance. Providing a clear structure of the costs and benefits of what you’re asking for makes it easy for your boss to clearly describe the expense in their budgets.

Don’t feel bad

This is for everyone out there who’s stalling because you aren’t sure you ‘deserve’ a learning budget. You do. And, in all honesty, it’s not just about you. Fostering a learning culture and encouraging employees to constantly improve their skills should be part of your company’s goals. You may feel like you’re getting something for nothing, but organizations with strong learning cultures are shown to be more productive, with happier workers that stay on at the same company for longer.

How’s that for ROI?

Discuss with your boss

The perfect time to discuss professional development goals is during a weekly 1×1 with your manager. If you don’t have a regular sit-down with your boss, take a look at their calendar and find a time that’s at least 30 minutes, and let them know you’d like to talk about professional development. You don’t want them to be distracted, so try to not pick a time right before a large meeting.

Once you’re in the meeting, stay calm. Give them some of the background on why you think it’d be awesome to have this new skill, and give them some examples of how you’d apply your new skills using your focused request ‘madlib’.

Agree on what success looks like

This one is simple. You’ve done the research and you know what you want to learn and why. You’ve laid out the possibilities. Whether this is the first learning budget they are approving or just the first budget request for this type of skills training, the last thing you and your manager should agree on is how to measure whether the program was successful. The simplest way to do this is to pre-schedule a few check-in meetings during and after your training. Not only will this give your boss insight into how quickly you’re learning and the ways you’re using your new skills on the job, it’ll give you regular goal posts and help you stay motivated to integrate that training into your work. Accountability helps everyone.

Though requesting a budget on an intangible expense can seem intimidating, it all boils down to making sure everyone is on the same page, understands what there is to gain from professional development opportunities, and how to make sure the budget is used effectively. Make sure you go into your meeting prepared and focused, and you’ll be on the way to leveling up your skills in no time.

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