Walmart, which launched its Live Better U education benefit in 2018, recently expanded the program to include 14 technology degrees and certificates.
Achieving educational goals is something employees are serious about. According to a national study by Instructure conducted by The Harris Poll of 310 employers and 1,433 employees from April 26–May 3, 2019, "70 percent of employees surveyed said they're at least somewhat likely to leave their current company for a company known for investing in employee learning and development."
That means that if you aren't offering employee education assistance already, you might want to consider doing so.
"Today's employees are increasingly seeking more and more from their employers and jumping ship for the competition more than willing to meet those needs," says Jessica Mazzeo, co-founder and chief operating officer of Griesing Law, LLC, a full-service business law firm.
"Offering opportunities for professional and educational development are critical to meeting employee expectations," says Mazzeo. Such benefits also attract new employees.
Benefits of Offering Employee Education Assistance
"Employees, regardless of their generation, tend to be more engaged and have higher retention rates when they believe their employer supports their personal advancement, such as through an educational reimbursement program," says Mazzeo. Her company offers employees up to $5,000 per calendar year towards tuition reimbursement.
Mike Sheety, owner of custom t-shirt company ThatShirt, agrees.
"Providing educational assistance to employees makes them feel valued and wanted," he says. (ThatShirt reimburses the cost of tuition, books and supplies.)
"Providing employee educational assistance also benefits your company by encouraging worker retention," says Sheety.
Educational assistance benefits help employers and employees, adds Michele McDermott, senior vice president of human resources at Assurance, an independent insurance brokerage.
"The benefits of offering education assistance include the ability to attract top talent, increase retention and improve skill sets and overall engagement levels," says McDermott. Her company reimburses up to 10 percent of an employee's gross annual income per year for undergraduate and graduate-level classes, among other benefits.
"Providing employee education assistance also offers some tax benefits to employers," says Bijan Abdi, founder and CEO of Freedom National Insurance, which provides auto insurance.
Tips for Providing Employees with Education Assistance
Your company may not be able to provide a full educational ride to employees, but there are various ways to offer welcome education assistance to your employees.
Consider these tips for running an effective employee education assistance program.
1. Start small.
If you don't have a large budget, begin with something affordable, such as reimbursing for books and supplies or paying for some online courses.
"Buy a limited number of licenses for online learning and give them out on a first-come, first-serve basis," says Jagoda Wieczorek, HR manager at Resumelab, which offers resume assistance and career advice.
Offer online, self-paced learning options and in-person education opportunities. This caters to different schedules and work-life balance.
—Michele McDermott, senior vice president of human resources, Assurance
2. Provide clearly defined, written criteria.
Make the rules of the employee education assistance program clear and in writing.
"Outline criteria, including eligibility, regarding receiving the benefit," says Mazzeo. "Some examples include maintaining a certain grade point average, enrolling in courses directly related to your business's field and industry, or both."
3. Define a loyalty period.
"Include in your educational benefit's policy a certain length of time that employees are required to continue working for your company after the educational courses have ended," says McDermott.
"If an employee chooses to leave prior to the designated time, require the person to repay the company for the cost of the training," she says.
4. Give incentives for completion.
McDermott's company gives out bonuses for each class an employee passes on the way to earning a designation, saving them until completion.
"Once the designation is completed, the employee receives the award," she says. "This is a nice way to encourage employees who might be on the fence about continuing education."
5. Offer continuing education opportunities.
"Incorporate continuing education into employee development plans," says McDermott. "This shows that you care about your employees' well-being and are thinking of out-of-the-box ways to support their career development."
6. Provide options.
"Offer online, self-paced learning options and in-person education opportunities," says McDermott. "This caters to different schedules and work-life balance. Also, be open to reimbursing for a wide variety of classes. You want to cater to employees of various levels and interests."
7. Make reimbursement simple.
"Avoid having a difficult reimbursement process," says McDermott. If it's complicated to get their money reimbursed, employees will become turned off to the employee education assistance offered by the company.
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