How to Convince Your Boss to Send You for Training

Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE

What is the most common complaint from BMETs and managers across the country? Chances are that it revolves around technical training, or the lack thereof.

Access to training has never been much of a problem for me, or the technicians I supervise . . . so I started looking at the techniques I use. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you.

Your job in submitting a justification for training or travel is to identify many times the benefit for the hospital (or employer) than it is costing for you to attend. For example, if a class costs $1000, you’re not likely to get an approval if you can identify only $500 in benefits. The benefit must be several times the cost, and the benefit must be achieved within a year. This is classic ROI (Return On Investment). That is exactly what you are asking for – for your employer to INVEST a certain amount of money in something that they cannot put an asset tag on, lock up, or see or touch. They are investing in your intellectual knowledge. Whether they agree to do that depends upon whether they trust you to be around long enough for them to achieve the ROI, and whether they think you have the drive, energy, and mental capacity to implement the knowledge you gain, at their expense.

Let’s define the various types of things you might request money for – service schools, local trade show, a national conference, a site visit to a manufacturer or another hospital.

These activities look very different from an employer’s eyes, so convincing an employer to fund travel requires different approaches.

First of all, be aware that there are risks to your attending any event or activity outside of the hospital – even a local biomedical association. Whenever you venture forth into the midst of other biomeds and managers, there is a chance that you’ll hear of another job, or even solicit another job. This makes employers very nervous, so you must be careful all throughout the year to make your employer comfortable and at ease with your job satisfaction. Many employers have instituted a policy requiring that you must pay back any educational funds spent on your behalf if you voluntarily leave their employment within a year or two. This is perfectly legal, and is a voluntary agreement on your part. You may choose to sign it or not, just as your employer may choose to pay for your education or not.

Let’s look in detail at the various activities, and examine strategies for getting them approved.

The easiest trip to justify is a site visit to another hospital or a manufacturer’s site for a tour. This is easy because it is usually paid for by the company who is trying to sell you something. Also, doctors and administrators are used to making these types of trips, so there isn’t as much unknown.

The next most difficult is a manufacturer’s service school. This sort of training is the most straight forward – it enables you to work on certain equipment most effectively (and cheaper) than using an outside source. It is pretty easy to justify your costs, because you should be able to recoup your expenses in 6 to 8 months, as opposed to a service agreement. If your administrator isn’t allowing this fundamental training, it is almost always because they are not convinced that you’ll be in their employ for long enough to deliver the return on their investment, or that you are not technically proficient enough to be successful in the repair of that type of equipment. In either scenario, you need to bring the subject up and have a very direct and frank discussion.

Finally, a trip to a national trade show or general conference is the most difficult to gain funding for. This is for several reasons. First – these large conferences (never call them conventions) are held on large cities which can accommodate the air traffic and has the hotel capacity for the large numbers of attendees. By the very nature of their size, the hotel costs are high, and there is a perception on the part of administration that everyone just goes there to party, and the conference is just an excuse to see the big city and get into a little trouble. Fighting this perception is an uphill battle, but it can be won. Here’s how:

Emphasize the three main areas where you can gain the most from a national conference - the Educational Sessions, the Exhibit Hall and the Networking.

The Educational Sessions are, after all, the only activity which makes any claim as to content or usability of the presentation. Print off all of the documents, flyers, and on-line descriptions of the conference. Highlight the events / sessions or training that you plan on attending. Ask your boss if there are other things which he (she) would like you to attend. If possible, write out a short description of how these sessions could directly be applied for the benefit of your employer. It is here that the most direct and persuasive outcomes are going to occur. Focus most of your sales presentation to your boss regarding the Educational Sessions.

The Exhibit Hall is a place to see more vendors and equipment in one spot than anywhere else. Print out a list of the exhibitors for your boss. Make a list of things that you want to discuss with each of them. The topics can be anything from resolving some ongoing problems to looking at equipment so for an upcoming project. Make this discussion point a part of your justification package to your boss.

The Networking is far less tangible, but sometimes more important. Acquaintances are made, card exchanged, and future resources are identified. It is difficult to explain this benefit to your boss, because who you will meet cannot be predicted beforehand. There are always some unexpected encounters which prove mutually beneficial. One possible tactic here is to identify beneficial contacts which have been made at past meetings you have attended.

If you present this justification and you are told that there isn’t money for the expenditure, then you haven’t made your case good enough. If you’ve made a good, solid, believable case that your attending the conference will reap benefits greater than the cost, then it’s a no-brainer – any money spent will be returned to the bottom line in multiples. Something else causing your boss not to approve a trip which has such great benefits for the company. You’d better check the unspoken messages, because it isn’t about the money any more – you’ve handled that part of it.

Reprinted with permission of the author from Medical Dealer Magazine, The Toolbox – August 2006