Your Career Q&A: Convincing Your Employer to Support Ongoing HR Education

By Martin Yate May 31, 2016
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Your professional development as an HR practitioner is vital to your career success—and could save your employer thousands of dollars. Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I feel strongly that attending the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition and other industry conferences would make me a better HR professional, but my company won’t pay for registration or travel costs. I realize that the biggest benefit may be the networking I do with other HR attendees, which could lead to a better job. But I really hate having to take vacation time off and pay my own way when the company should be funding my professional development. I work very long hours and if I stuck to a 40-hour work week, I’d either have lots of overtime or a lot more free time. Any thoughts on how I can convince my boss to support me?

Marie,
Montclair, N.J.

Employers willingly spend money on conferences for sales and marketing staff because their ongoing professional education is seen to support the company’s profitability with sales. Yet all too often employers entirely fail to see how HR also contributes to profitability.

Yes, companies make money by bringing in sales, and they also make money by saving money. Here’s an example that demonstrates how HR contributes meaningfully to company profitability by reducing a company’s exposure to liability:

  1. Keeping current and compliant with the newly released overtime regulations. Courts have consistently stated that any worker who prevails in a Fair Labor Standards Act action will receive "full wages plus penalty without incurring any expense for legal fees or costs." So a worker who brings a $5,000 FLSA action could accrue as much as $160,000+ in legal fees in winning the action.
  2. Avoiding wrongful dismissal claims. The cost of a single wrongful dismissal case (which can result from untrained or untrainable managers) can be anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 and upwards in legal fees and settlements. Add legal fees plus back pay, plus penalties, plus a negatively focused workforce, and your employer should see that not being up to speed on HR issues can cost real money that deals a huge blow to the bottom line.

More than most professions, HR is impacted every day by changes in the law, changes that happen at an almost unmanageable pace. These developments can have costly legal ramifications for companies that don’t stay current with how these changes can negatively impact profitability—costs that can be avoided with the knowledge emanating from an informed HR department.

All these costs, disruptions and their associated headaches are avoidable for the employer that recognizes saving money has the same end benefit for the company as making sales. When it comes to HR issues, a conference attendance fee isn’t the same as a penny earned, it’s more like $10,000 saved. And this doesn’t even include the cost of lost productivity and the bad press associated with such employee actions.

Plan your arguments for attending conferences based on your company’s needs. What are the organization’s greatest HR challenges right now: Engagement? Talent acquisition and retention? Use those challenges as your guide to select the sessions you plan to attend.

Review the company’s biggest challenges with your boss, then hand over a copy of the agenda with those high-value sessions highlighted as tools that will help the company succeed with these challenges.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We’ll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

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