How to negotiate employer sponsorship for your MBA

negotiation-mainWorking out how to finance your MBA can be one of the toughest hurdles to starting your degree. While the financial rewards at the end of an MBA are unquestionable, the financial cost can be a burden.

After draining your bank accounts or making a visit to the Bank of Mum and Dad and you still fall short one option may be to have your employer contribute. Ultimately they will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of your newly-acquired skills. However, getting the boss to agree can sometimes be difficult.

The University of NSW’s Business School (AGSM) has developed some handy advice on how to negotiate.

“The majority of the work should take place before you meet with your potential sponsor; solid planning and groundwork are the hallmarks of success.”

They recommend that potential MBAs should begin investigating the organisation’s formal policies, attitudes and commitment to employee development and education. This can include looking into any previous MBA sponsorships within the company or if there has been any other significant investment in employee development.

AGSM believe that knowing your company and its key decision-makers is extremely important, and that recognising what their motivations are will be essential in gaining sponsorship.

“Understanding the organisational ecosystem and building a case to sell the benefits and address the obstacles to sponsorship within the framework in crucial.”

When building your case its important to consider the organisation’s own strategic intent and align it with your own priorities and goals. You must take into consideration:

  • Organisational goals and priorities?
  • How do your team’s priorities fit in?
  • What are your (potential) sponsor’s KPIs?
  • Who is your strongest organisational supporter and how can they influence decision makers?
  • Identify any potential detractors; what is important to them and how can you leverage this?
  • How should you time your approach to achieve successful sponsorship?

Not only considering potential problems of your study, applicants must describe their motivations for an MBA – and importantly why your company should sponsor you. To gain the best possible chance of sponsorship during negotiations AGSM have outlined the five key questions to answer in your case:

  1. Why invest in you?
  2. Why is now the right time to invest?
  3. Why MBA?
  4. What tangible results can be expected? How will return on investment be measured on an ongoing basis?
  5. Your commitment to the organisation (fear that the employee will leave before the ROI is realised as the number one deterrent for potential sponsors.)

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (