Why would an employer pay for your career coaching?
Let’s get this out of the way up front: “Career coaching can be an ambiguous term that many relate to career change or job search,” says Jennifer Fink, Founder of Fink Development. So if your only goal with career coaching is to spruce up your resume and ace interviews with a different company, your employer is less likely to foot the bill. “Different companies will have different policies when it comes to paying for coaching, and some may have a preference towards career development, leadership, communication, or executive coaching,” Fink says. So you’ll face less pushback if you’re looking to be coached in one of these areas.
“Most companies look at paying for coaching as a retention, satisfaction, professional growth play,” Katie Baird, a coach at Fink Development, says. “They know it's a coveted ‘benefit.’They know many see it as an exclusive c-suite only perk, so it ‘looks good’ for companies to democratize access to a valuable resource.”
But career coaching can do so much more for employers than just being another “employment perk.” Some of the benefits of career coaching for an employer are:
Career coaching helps employees increase self awareness.
“The sponsor of the coaching (i.e. the employer) benefits from an employee who is a more self-aware, engaged, and effective leader in the organization,” says Itir Keskiner, a coach at Fink Development. According to Sarah Lennon, another of our coaches and Founder of Story Coach, that outside view can also help employees hone in on “their sense of self and what's important to them which, in turn, can then impact their performance and connection with their organization.” Once an employee is clear on who they are and what matters to them, career coaching also helps them figure out their medium and long-term goals, which will lead to more structured conversations between them and their employer about their career, their leadership goals, and how to incorporate feedback from others.
Career coaching helps employees pinpoint areas for improvement.
Coaches also help employees “see the blind spots that may have been holding them back from the full expression of their strengths, Keskiner says. It allows them to “be fully honest with themselves about what they need to improve in order to be more effective.” Sometimes it’s hard for an individual—or someone who works closely with them—to pinpoint specific issues. Nicole Case, coach at Fink Development and Founder of The Upgraded Leader, adds, “Coaching provides a safe space for an employee to talk out and find solutions to issues and challenges they are facing at work.” A career coach can offer an outside, unbiased view and ultimately help employees be more effective, not just as workers but as team members, managers, and colleagues.
Additionally, the business and career world is constantly evolving. “I'd argue the skill gap is only widening for leaders as those in mid and senior management face increasingly complex business situations,” Baird says. Amidst technology and other developments, any given field “is more volatile and demands an expanded mindset and set of behavior and skills.” As someone outside your organization who’s constantly monitoring how work is changing, a career coach may be able to help you navigate new situations or identify skills that have become more important over time, helping to keep the entire company up-to-date.
Career coaching helps employees make a bigger impact for their employer.
“It’s about making employees feel valued, seen, and invested in,” Fink says. “Every single person I speak with who is interested in career coaching is reaching out because they are craving to make a bigger impact in their organization. As an employer, if you invest in your employees and give them the space to make a bigger impact in your organization, they will, they are dying to!”
Career coaching increases employee retention.
“Employees want to work at organizations that invest in their development,” Case says. In 2022, “After compensation, employees cited the lack of growth and development opportunities as the reason they left their jobs.” By funding career coaching, employers communicate to their employees that they care about their enrichment and want them to grow at their company.
How to get your employer to pay for career coaching.
Here are the steps you should follow if you want your company to cover your career coaching.
Look into your company’s current policies and past actions.
Start by checking out your employee handbook or any other company policies to see if there’s an existing program or framework for employee career coaching. You also want to see if there’s any professional development budget that you have access to. You can reach out to your HR, Talent, or People team to learn about existing resources, Fink says. “It’s also worth noting that some companies have internal coaching programs for certain levels of positions, but you can still make a request to use an outside coach if that’s your preference (as it is for many employees).”
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, “do your research within your company to understand how coaching has been approved and paid for in the past,” Fink says. Again you can reach out to your org’s HR team, or you might talk to coworkers who have worked with coaches. Note what you find out. “This will allow you to demonstrate your research and compare your request to what’s already offered and why it’s different.”
Come up with a specific, legitimate need for coaching.
“First, take some time to consider the 'why now' piece behind why you're considering coaching,” Lennon says. “Are you stuck? Can't see the forest from the trees? Perhaps you know you need support in a certain area—approaching a hard conversation for instance.” Write down any issues or skill sets you’re looking to improve. “Once you know your 'why', it makes it easier to then build a business case behind why your employer should support you on this journey.”
You also want to make sure you “understand clearly what coaching is and what it isn’t,” Case says. Be clear on how it’s different from training, mentoring, or any other development perk your company offers, so that you can speak to why career coaching is the right solution for you.
Focus on your desire for career coaching as it relates to your company. “In my experience, employers are very interested in a blend of leadership and career coaching—coaching that focuses on bringing their employees to the next level,” rather than coaching that focuses on preparing you for an outside role, says Lisa Thomson, a coach at Fink Development. “ When the coaching focuses on advancement within the company or on navigating tough managerial dilemmas, employers see the benefit.”
The key for this step is to “put yourself in your employer’s shoes and do some reflection about what they most care about in terms of your value as an employee,” Fink says.
Try asking yourself some of these questions:
- Do you have any weak spots that you’ve received feedback on?
- Does your employer want you to be more effective, more efficient, or both?
- Is your employer trying to develop existing employers into managers and leaders?
- Are there skill gaps within the organization that you’d like to fill?
- Are you trying to determine your next move within the company and prepare yourself with the skills to succeed there?
Then connect your answers to how your improvement would help the company overall. Fink says, “Understand their priorities and present your proposal in alignment with them, versus presenting a proposal in alignment with your needs and priorities.”
Do your research.
“Research the coaching landscape,” Fink says. “Understand the benefits, the costs, and various options for coaching.” When you go to your employer, you want to make it crystal clear “you’ve done your research and what you’re requesting is inline with your role, your needs, and what’s offered in the market.”
Specifically, you’ll want to “research a few different coaches to understand what is available, the structure of the programs, the outcomes, and a ballpark investment amount,” Case says. You might also consider contacting your top choice or choices to get specific insight on how they can help your situation and more exact pricing.
Be ready to go to your employer with a specific and individual business case both for the specific coach and career coaching overall, Baird says. “I'd argue the $5k for 1-on-1 coaching has far higher ROI to the individual and company than spending $5k to go to a two day conference on X broad strokes topic where most people leave with very little actionable, personalized insight.”
Don’t forget to do your research on how coaches handle payment as well! “Most coaches require payment upfront, but your organization may require the coaching to be completed before payment is submitted,” Fink says. “If this happens to you, you can discuss with your coach whether or not they are flexible on payment terms. Some coaches may be able to work with you to invoice your coaching upon completion others may not.”
Generally, it’s best practice for you to pay the coach ahead of time and request reimbursement from your company afterward if your company won’t pay upfront. “Remember that many coaches are self-employed and solo practitioners and may not have the capacity to post-date coaching packages,” Fink says.
Make the ask.
You can consider career coaching as part of your professional development, Thomson says. So you should approach your employer about it the same way. Maybe the time to present your plan is during a regularly scheduled performance review or one-on-one with your manager, or maybe you want to set up a dedicated meeting. Case says, “The best time to ask is during the typical performance review or career development cycle at your company. It will be easier to tie this investment in your professional development to the success of the business.”
Regardless of when you ask, Thomson always recommends a “‘live’ ask because, just like any type of negotiation, it's often easier to say no if it's a written request,” Thomson says.
When you make a request via email, it becomes a yes-or-no situation, Fink says, versus a discussion where both participants are “trying to understand interests and create value on both sides.” However, Case suggests, “ letting them know via email that you want to talk about your professional development plan/budget to give them a heads up.”
Ahead of your meeting, look over all your notes and use them to put your request together. Then, put your notes in a place you can easily access during the conversation in case you need to refer back to any specifics. Plan out what you’re going to say, and practice saying it out loud a few times before you’re actually in the room (Zoom or physical). This will make it easier to vocalize on the day.
Clearly state that you’re asking for the company to cover career coaching.
Talk about what issues or pressure points (for the company) career coaching will address.
Discuss how coaching will help the company and/or your team.
Go over how your request fits into any existing company practices or professional development programs (if applicable).
Quickly sum up your research on different coaching options and present your chosen option, along with the price and the timeline for your coaching sessions.
Be prepared to have a discussion.
You should “anticipate any questions or concerns your employer may have and attempt to have an answer ready” beforehand, Case says. This not only shows you did your homework, but allows this first meeting to be more productive.
During your conversation, “steer clear of discussing using coaching for clarity building or job searching,” Fink says. “An employer’s biggest concern (right or wrong) with paying for an employee’s coaching is that they are funding them to make a pivot out of the company, try to alleviate their fear by demonstrating that you’re trying to gain skills to make a bigger impact at the company.”
So now you want to know what exactly to say to my employer, we've got you covered. Here’s an example of how you might ask your employer to pay for career coaching.
“I’ve been thinking about how I can build my skills in a way that can help our team, and I’d like to ask for the company to cover a few sessions with a career coach. Specifically, as our team is being tapped more and more to give presentations to clients, I’d love to work with a coach to strengthen my communication and presentation skills so that I can contribute to these more. Ideally, I’d eventually work up to giving some presentations solo so that we can present to more than one client in a day and help sign more deals. The company has funded similar coaching for sales employees in the past, and I talked to a few of them about how much the company covered.
“I researched a few different coaching practices and ended up having a quick, free consultation call with Coaches Inc. They’ll be able to give me eight sessions of presentation and public speaking coaching for $3500, and they have availability next month for me to get started. I took a look at some of their testimonials and spoke with them about their approach and I think it’ll be a great fit for me. I also have notes on a few other options. What do you think?”
Now that you know how to ask your employer to fit the bill, why not check our career coaching services to see if we’re a good match for you? We offer 1:1 coaching to mid-career professional, leaders, and founders and we'd love to see how we can help you.