Aside from company perks and monetary compensation, today’s top talent looks for employers that enable them to learn and grow professionally. A recent LinkedIn report noted that 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if they had more access to learning opportunities.
Although the importance of employee learning and education is not a new concept, the way that businesses are approaching it is starting to shift. From conferences to training courses, there are countless tactics that companies typically leverage to develop talent. But a growing number of leading enterprises have realized that providing a few learning opportunities here and there isn’t always enough to move the needle on business goals.
If your objectives are to drive business growth, enable professional development and equip your employees with the skills they need to succeed in the future, it’s critical to consider education as more than just a benefit that checks the box.
Let’s take a deeper look at the key benefits of employee education and how organizations can leverage education as a strategic investment that drives business and social impact.
The benefits of employee education
Employee education opens doors. These opportunities provide tangible benefits which extend from the personal to the organizational and into the societal level. On the organizational level, employee education grows the number of talented people in a company. The result — the more skilled and educated your people are, the better your business performs in terms of revenue and profitability.
Here are more benefits and advantages of employee education that can make a business and social impact for your company.
Advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace
Data shows that only 67 percent of Latinx students and 85 percent of Black students graduate high school, due largely to historic systemic barriers that limit access to essential resources. In the workforce, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are passed over for career advancement opportunities due to lack of education or qualifications, resulting in overwhelmingly white leadership in corporate businesses.
Employee education levels the playing field for underserved demographics by providing these groups with access to learning opportunities that may have otherwise been unattainable. At the organizational level, this means cultivating a diverse talent pipeline for future leadership roles and creating a more inclusive workplace for your team members.
Aside from the positive impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals, there are additional social and economic benefits of employee education. These include higher earnings, increased social mobility and stronger health outcomes for staff members. And these benefits reverberate beyond just the employee, making a meaningful and positive impact that extends to their children, friends, peers and community as well.
Attract and retain talent
The competition for highly qualified talent in today’s labor market continues to increase, and top talent craves growth. As mentioned earlier, the opportunity for growth is one of the most important things to the modern job seeker when evaluating a prospective employer – this is also true for existing employees.
By providing your staff with access to continued education and growth opportunities, you get less turnover from your best people. At the same time, it raises the bar overall for your organization’s employer brand by making it known to prospective employees that you support their ongoing learning and advancement.
Another important cornerstone of a talent acquisition and retention strategy is aligning your company brand values with action and purpose-driven efforts. People expect more from their employers than just financial compensation — they want to know that the company they work for values their efforts and supports social causes that they care about.
For example, a company that promotes a robust learning culture as part of its recruitment efforts needs to back that up with tangible learning opportunities and an employee education program that supports this.
Elevate business agility
Change is inevitable and often, out of your control. However, what your company can control is how to help prepare your people and business in an ever-changing environment. An important part of that business agility equation is employee education.
For example, in the wake of digital transformation, many companies have had to pivot in order to be ready for what’s next. When you invest in employee education, you equip your people with the in-demand, new skills that keep your business relevant and competitive.
Another way to elevate business agility is by creating more employee education paths in your organization. Career pathing guides talent on how to advance from their current position within a company to a new position, along with the tools, information and education required. This results in better-trained people, stronger succession planning and leadership development across all levels — creating the sustainable competitive advantage every business needs.
The difference between employee education and training
It’s important to note that although employee education and training are related, the two are not synonymous. Education is a broader initiative designed to upskill and advance employee expertise, while training is just one tool that falls under the educational umbrella.
Employee education is the concept of providing your workforce with access to learning opportunities that develop skills, grow their knowledge and advance their careers. It benefits the personal growth of the individuals while supporting greater organizational goals. Education can include both long and short-term learning initiatives, such as completing a certification or earning a degree.
Training, on the other hand, is typically a short-term initiative that’s focused on developing a specific skill or set of skills. For example, an employee taking a one-time online course to learn how to use a new software tool.
Types of employee education initiatives
Depending on the needs of your employees and the resources available to your organization, you may choose to engage with a variety of different types of employee education.
The most common kinds of educational initiatives include:
- In a mentorship program, junior employees pursuing a specific career path are paired with an upper-level team member to receive specific guidance and advice that help them advance their career at the company. This one-on-one type of employee education offers the benefits of developing soft skills, instilling cultural values and allows the individual to form meaningful professional relationships with their colleagues.
- Certification programs. Performed within your workplace or at another organization, workplace-supported certification programs allow your employees to stay up-to-date on industry changes and help them gain skills relevant to their field. Certification programs are especially important for workers in fields that require continuous education, such as nursing or IT.
- Training is a broad concept that can take many different forms. From onboarding to diversity, equity and inclusion training, there are countless options you can offer employees to quickly get them up-to-speed on a particular topic or process related to their position at your company. For certain fields, this can also refer to on-the-job training that exposes employees to real-world situations and prepares them for how to handle them.
- Tuition reimbursement programs. In an employee tuition reimbursement program, the employer refunds all or part of a worker’s educational expenses. Workers are usually given a set of stipulations that specify a timeframe and different types of eligible academic programs. This allows employees to earn advanced degrees, credentials or certification while working full-time.
It’s likely that your organization already leverages one or multiple of these methods. And while it’s true that all of the programs mentioned above are adequate education options, they’re not always going to be effective at making a significant business impact.
Employee education as a strategic business initiative
Many education programs are seen as “check-the-box” perks that sit somewhere inside a benefits booklet, are underused by employees and rarely deliver a return-on-investment (ROI). Data shows that although corporations spend over $180 billion dollars on education programs annually, less than 2 percent of employees actually take advantage of them.
To avoid this, the most successful enterprise organizations view employee education as a strategic investment that’s measurable and delivers a return — not a costly perk or benefit. An effective workforce education program is one that’s strategically aligned with the short and long-term goals of the business and designed to meet the learning needs of your workforce.
While the effects of employee education can be monumental, the actions involved don’t have to be. Ready to learn how you can develop a workforce education program that’s unique to your business? Connect with one of InStride’s education experts today.