Many companies offer “tuition reimbursement” as a benefit to their employees.  Under this approach, an employee interested in furthering his/her own education would pay for an educational program (e.g., college degree, professional certification, etc.) out of his/her pocket and the employer would reimburse the employee once the program is complete.

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I know that some holders of the SPSM Certification have had their certification pursuits funded in this manner.  But, unbeknownst to some of them, it wasn’t the only option.

The vast majority of SPSM’s have had their certification pursuits funded out of their procurement departments’ training budgets.  To me, this makes more sense.  The Senior Professional in Supply Management Program is designed to help procurement employees quickly improve their performance in the workplace for measurable results.  It benefits the employer’s bottom line while also giving the employee a valuable, personal credential.

The average procurement department has thousands of dollars per employee set aside for job-related training as part of its training budget.  A procurement certification – and the training that is required to earn the SPSM Certification, in particular – is the type of activity that training budgets typically include.

Because of their status as an “employee benefit,” tuition reimbursement programs seem to be perceived as something that solely benefits the employee, not the employer.  Forbes magazine had an interesting article that included the humorous example of a pharmaceutical company funding an employee’s master’s degree in stage management – something totally unrelated to what the employee does for the employer.  That seems to be what makes tuition reimbursement a “benefit” – it’s something of value that the employee can take advantage of that an employer cannot say “no” to, even if it doesn’t have a reciprocal benefit to the employer.

As this practice has evolved, employers often impose conditions on tuition reimbursements, such as:

  • The employee has to pay the entire cost before being reimbursed;
  • The employee must complete the entire educational program before being reimbursed;
  • The employee must maintain a certain grade point average;
  • And so on

Tuition reimbursement programs are great.  But, in my gut, I feel that before an employee assumes that’s how his/her procurement certification pursuits will be funded, they should first see if the procurement department has a training budget available for certification purposes.

If an employee has the option of avoiding having to front the cash potentially months before reimbursement, I would guess that they’d be more likely to pursue their procurement certification and, thus, be more capable of positively contributing to their employer’s success.  And isn’t better workplace performance something that most employers want to incent?

What’s been your experience with the employer funding of procurement certifications?  Funded through tuition reimbursement or the procurement department training budget?

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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