How to Ask for (and Get) the Professional Development You Need

April 15, 2019

Even with all the advantages of offering professional development programs to workers — adding skills to employees’ tool kits, staying ahead of the competition, and easier hiring and retention, to name a few — not all finance departments feel it’s worth the time and effort. Or maybe they feel like the challenge of getting such programs up and running is too daunting.

When your boss feels that way, it’s easy to fall in line with their way of thinking and not pursue any kind of continuing education. Besides, you’re already busy enough and don’t have time for it either, right?


Why you should embrace professional development

The world of finance and accounting is seeing an unprecedented evolution in technology. With the rise of process automation, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency/blockchain in this field, upskilling is vital if you’re to keep up. Anyone who tries to keep it old school could find themselves unable to get ahead in this rapidly changing environment.

Another aspect of your job that’s in continual flux is regulatory compliance — not only on state and federal levels, but also in places around the world where your company does business or has employees or contractors. Professional development is the only way to remain compliant with ever-changing laws regarding taxation, data privacy, anti-money laundering and counterterrorism.

The bonus of career development

Sure, it’s important to be knowledgeable about changes and trends in your field, but another advantage of live training sessions is the opportunity to grow your professional network. When you build and deepen relationships with other accountants, you pick up valuable tips on job leads, potential clients, emerging technologies and best practices. So attend professional events with a mindset of mingling as well as learning.

What businesses get out of skills development

Well-informed finance professionals are more productive and efficient than those whose functional accounting skills need shoring up. There’s also the matter of grooming the company’s future executives.

That’s why forward-thinking employers invest time and resources into developing their staff’s soft skills and leadership qualities, as well as the more technical aspects of the job. In doing so, they’re not only giving top performers what they want, but also creating a steady pipeline of leaders who can keep the company competitive in a constantly evolving industry.

How to ask your employer for more training

If your company is resistant to providing professional development opportunities, here’s some advice for persuading your boss to help you get the additional training that’ll help you — and them — succeed.

  • Identify a need. Where are the skill gaps in the department? Maybe your company was recently fined for a mistake on a compliance report, or perhaps nobody on your team understands the advanced features of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Frame your argument in terms of how the company will benefit.

  • Research your options. Which conferences or seminars would fill those skill gaps? What classes are available, and how much will they impact your team’s budget? If money is likely to be an issue, brainstorm some low-cost or free options, such as in-house mentoring, job shadowing or online courses. Anticipate the obstacles and come up with solutions in advance.
  • Make a formal pitch. After preparing your arguments in favor of professional development, request a meeting and lay out your case. Bring any relevant documentation you have about courses and events. Don’t forget to list the benefits for your team, such as how you could help colleagues get the most out of the new financial software or cloud platform.
  • Demonstrate your loyalty. Some managers are reluctant to upskill employees because they fear losing top performers once they’ve gained new proficiencies. Talk about how much you enjoy your work, your colleagues and being part of the team. Although you’re not bound to one employer for life, you should do all you can to assure them you’re enthusiastic about using your newly acquired skills to benefit the company.
  • Follow up. After the meeting, send your supervisor an email summarizing the conversation and agreed-upon next steps. If they need time to find room in the budget for professional development, set a specific timeframe with them for continuing the conversation.

Even if you’re happy to stay in your current role for the rest of your career, you still need continuing education to keep up with the rapid technological advances and regulatory changes around you. So think about what professional development you need to remain relevant and effective, then ask for it in a way that makes it hard for the company to refuse.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. For career and management advice, follow our blog at