As the cost of college tuition rises, a growing number of people are choosing to shift their plans away from a traditional path to higher education. A survey from EAB showed that 1 in 3 Americans have either changed their higher education trajectory, for financial reasons and otherwise, or have dropped out of school altogether. When combined with the effects of digital transformation, this statistic demonstrates a problematic trend that leaves a significant gap in both skills and educational requirements that many organizations are now struggling to fill.
To combat this, many industry-leading companies such as adidas, Carvana and Labcorp have started providing access to education as part of their benefits packages. This approach to workplace learning enables employees to pursue education, as well as other methods of continuous learning, to develop in-demand skills and grow within the organization.
For employers, the advantages are equally as compelling. Ongoing education can help retain talent, boost employee engagement and help you to build a qualified talent pipeline for leadership positions. Plus, education benefits are a sought-after offering for many job-seekers.
But even beyond that, a workforce education program can be much more than just a line item in a benefits package — it can provide life-changing access to education for marginalized individuals and deliver a clear return on investment (ROI). All that’s needed is the right approach — one that’s strategically aligned with your business goals and goes beyond traditional education benefits.
Let’s take a closer look at what education as a benefit means and how the right program can drive a positive impact for your organization and team members.
What does education as a benefit mean?
Education as a benefit is the concept of providing access to learning and education to employees — similar to the way that you may offer a retirement fund or paid vacation days.
Traditional education benefit programs can take on many forms, from short-form certification courses to employee tuition assistance or reimbursement programs that allow employees to earn degrees or credentials at reduced or no cost.
Historically, workforce education programs have been popular among employers because they can help retain and engage employees. However, many of these traditional programs have become ineffective at meeting the needs of the modern adult learner. As a result, these benefits are rarely taken advantage of by employees and are generally ineffective at driving business outcomes. More on this next.
Examples of traditional education as a benefit programs
Below, we’ve outlined the most common types of education as a benefit programs that exist:
- Tuition assistance or reimbursement programs
Tuition assistance programs (TAPs) are one of the most common forms of education as a benefit. With a TAP program, the employer covers part of the tuition cost associated with completing a degree or other form of credential from an academic institution. While this can be hugely beneficial for employees, these programs are frequently underutilized. Many TAPs come with specific policies or conditions that are restrictive and make it difficult for employees to take advantage of them.
- Short-form digital certification courses
There are countless online publishers and content providers that offer digital certification courses for a variety of industry-specific skills and job functions. These courses are typically short-form, meaning they last only a number of weeks or a few months. This type of option is effective at meeting short-term training needs, but lacks the long-term skills development component that’s often necessary to fuel meaningful career advancement.
- Student loan repayment plans
The burden of student debt is felt across all industries and job functions — it can even lead to less productive employees. That’s why some organizations offer a student loan repayment plan as a benefit — this type of program allows employers to make contributions directly to a staff member’s student loan provider.
While this education benefit can be effective at attracting and retaining employees, it does little to encourage continuous development or career advancement.
Why businesses need to think beyond education as a benefit
Many of the traditional approaches to education benefits are outdated and lack the ability to drive business value at the enterprise level. As a result, many of the world’s leading companies are revisiting their educational offerings and looking for ways to modernize their approach to employee education.
At InStride, we’re transforming the traditional “education as a benefit” model through our strategic, comprehensive approach to workforce education. Our solution stands out as the leading choice for forward-thinking business leaders because of these key differentiators:
- Strategic design: Develop a workforce education program that’s specifically designed around your long-term business objectives and the unique learning and skill-building needs of your workforce.
- Flexible platform: InStride’s flexible technology platform makes managing your education program simple for administrators. You can monitor enrollment, streamline billing, and track program performance with real-time reporting.
- Academic network: Partner with high-quality academic institutions that are flexible, scalable and provide access to online learning options that fit the needs of working adult learners.
With this modern approach to employee education, you can leave behind outdated, ineffective education benefits programs and implement a solution that drives lasting impact for your business and employees. Let’s dive into some of the advantages of this in the next section.
Business advantages of rethinking education as a benefit
As with any people strategy, education benefits require an investment from the employer. And if you already have an education program in place, it will likely require additional resources to revamp it. When there’s investment and resources involved, there has to be a rock-solid business case for your initiative.
- Business agility: Equip your employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to take on the jobs of tomorrow.
- Attract and retain talent: Keep employees engaged by providing them with continuous learning and development opportunities. Meanwhile, attract top talent by promoting your program and commitment to employee growth.
- Advance diversity, equity and inclusion: Education promotes equity in the workplace and breaks down barriers. Enable underrepresented employees to reach their full potential by providing access to education that may have previously been out of reach.
- Enhance your employer brand: Make employee development and social impact a core brand value
- Drive revenue and profitability: A more skilled and educated workforce directly impacts your bottom line
- Display corporate citizenship: Providing people with access to education has benefits that extend beyond the workplace. This impact is felt by their friends, family and the greater community.
Education is more than just a benefit, it’s a business strategy that extends beyond a traditional employee incentive. With the right workforce education program partner, you have the power to reshape the future of your workforce and arm your business with the competitive edge it needs to thrive.