What’s the single best perk you can negotiate for next year?  A 2% raise?  Maybe.  A better 401(k) or pension contribution?  That’s always nice.  But if you really want to crank up your skills for next year, ask for a learning budget. 

What’s a learning budget? 

A learning budget is simply an amount of money set aside by your employer to pay for your skills to be improved.  When I was in private practice, they called it a “book budget,” but it could also be spent on electronic books, magazines, or trade publications that would enhance my ability to do my job effectively.

How much should I ask for?

I’ve seen learning budgets range from $50 – $1500.  The average is about $250.  It may be easier to get budget if you ask for a specific resource(s) – say, $400 to attend four SCCE webinars or $300 to attend the updated Wildly STRATEGIC Compliance Officer Academy online course.  You might also consider asking for services with a monthly cost, like a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, which will be a small monthly fee but will give you great new content every day.

If your learning budget is big enough, you may be able to use it to take you to conferences like the fabulous SCCE European Compliance and Ethics Institute (March in Frankfurt!) or other compliance-related events.   Books, magazines, trade publications, webinars, conferences – the choices are endless.

What should I spend it on?

Whichever medium you choose, you should use your learning budget strategically, to increase your skills and marketability to further your career.  You should choose one of three areas:

(1) New and emerging risk or new trends in compliance. This will keep you up-to-date and in demand.

(2) New-to-you areas of regulation that you aren’t familiar with.   (such as privacy, anti-money laundering, modern slavery etc.).

(3) Areas of law / risk you already handle but you could use more in-depth knowledge.

By strategically spending your budget, you can put yourself in a great place for a promotion or better opportunity in the new year. 

How do I convince my employer to give me a learning budget?

Sell your employer on the idea that you’re going to use your learning budget to become more valuable to the company.  Employers need the most value they can get for the money they pay you so, if you become a more skilled individual, it’s a big win for them. 

When you ask for your budget, tell your employer what you want to spend it on and how the expense will help you to be more effective in your role. 

Another way to obtain budget is to tie one of your annual goals to the materials you’ll be buying with your learning budget, so your employer can see what you’ll be accomplishing at work with the additional resources.

One of my favorite quotes is, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.”  (Charlie Jones) By getting and using a learning budget, the person you’ll be in five years will be a smarter, more accomplished version of yourself.