With the explosive growth of generative AI and other technological advancements, many of the jobs and skills thought of as future-proof just a few years ago are now experiencing unexpected instability.
Even with a softening economy, 77% of businesses report difficulty finding skilled talent — a 17-year high. And 44% of all workers need to be upskilled to perform their jobs effectively.
Employees are also feeling the weight of digital transformation. An average of 46% of Millennials and Gen Z workers are concerned that their skill sets will grow outdated. These fears are driving many job-seekers to look for employers that offer ample opportunities for skills development.
In response, many businesses are turning to employer-sponsored education as a solution. These are not the education models of the past that were inaccessible, difficult to measure and rarely drove business outcomes. Today’s forward-thinking organizations are taking a new approach.
Let’s dive into the trends that are shaping modern employer-sponsored education.
4 employer-sponsored education trends and changes to know
An effective employee-sponsored education program is one that’s flexible and able to evolve with the ever-changing skills needs of your business and workforce. Here’s a look at what’s trending and changing in the world of employee education:
Trend #1: Hire for skills, advance with degrees
A growing number of organizations are removing degree requirements from job descriptions to expand their candidate pools and source qualified talent. By focusing on skills over degrees, skills-based hiring opens doors of opportunity for diverse individuals who traditionally face barriers to higher education.
But removing degree requirements is just the beginning. Even highly skilled individuals require continuous education to enable growth and career advancement — that’s where education comes in. For organizations moving towards a skills-based hiring model, it’s important to ensure that you have the right education opportunities in place to enable mobility and fuel the long-term success of your people.
Trend #2: Equity and accessibility take center stage
A recent study found that 80% of employees welcome opportunities for learning through employer-sponsored education, but only 2% take advantage of these programs. Where is the disconnect?
Traditional programs, such as tuition reimbursement, are inaccessible for many employees. Most require workers to pay for tuition upfront and get reimbursed weeks or even months later. By design, this employer-sponsored education model excludes individuals who don’t have the financial means to make the upfront payment.
To make education more accessible to employees, many people leaders are turning to programs that offer direct billing. This payment model eliminates the financial burden by paying tuition directly to the school on employees’ behalf. It’s a comparatively low lift for companies and it yields much higher participation rates.
Trend #3: Meeting learners where they are
People leaders are looking at education comprehensively and providing employees with a mix of learning opportunities that span everything from one-time training courses to high school diplomas, professional certification, bachelor’s and graduate degree programs. This ensures that employees from various educational backgrounds can pick up where they left off and follow a highly tailored learning path for upskilling or reskilling them for the next phase of their careers.
This kind of individualized approach matters for your end game. Even employees with similar job functions may need entirely different learning and education to take them to the next level of their careers. Offering just short-form training courses or just a tuition reimbursement program may not address their needs or serve your business goals efficiently.
Even so, comprehensive L&D doesn’t mean you need to offer every single learning option that’s available. But you’ll want a program that addresses the skills needs of your unique workforce and the current and future roles you need filled.
Trend #4: Online learning is here to stay
Online learning was already on the rise pre-COVID, and the pandemic vastly accelerated the transition from in person to remote. This trend shows no signs of slowing, in part because of its flexibility and effectiveness. For an adult learner balancing full-time work with education, the sheer logistics of attending in-person classes stops many before they start. Being able to log in when/where they want is a game-changer for engagement, with 70% preferring online learning over traditional classrooms.
Stay ahead of the curve with employee-sponsored education
Faced with continued skills gaps and labor shortages, today’s people leaders simply can’t depend on the tactics of the past to solve the problem. You need modern workforce education solutions that deliver more.
At InStride, we’re championing a modern approach to employer-sponsored education that supports both business objectives and employee needs through accessible, career-building education.
To learn more about how you can empower your business and people with education, book a discovery call today.