Almost all employers will argue that education creates a strong foundation for a workforce — that employees must have some degree of education to survive and thrive in the real world. However, most employers will also look down on employees who look to further their educations after finding employment.
Professional development benefits — that is, programs that encourage employees to better themselves with further schooling — have many advantages to employers, including increased loyalty from a higher skilled workforce. However, the number of companies who offer employees incentives to return to school or participate in continued education initiatives is startlingly low. Both employers and workers, as well as society as a whole, stand to profit from more programs for continued education.
Goals of Continued Education
Programs that encourage employees to return to school are intended to dually benefit workers and their companies in equal amounts. By improving skills and knowledge, employees make themselves more formidable candidates for better positions and pay grades, while companies who support educational efforts engender loyalty in a rapidly refined workforce. Thus, the most important goal of continued education programs is the betterment of all.
Advantages of Continued Education
It is inarguable that continued education will provide workers with updated knowledge and skills, but how these improvements apply to companies is less obvious. The truth is that employees who are better educated tend to be more efficient and productive with their time, which leads directly to better profits for employers. Continued education also cuts back on employee turnover, as studies show more than 61 percent of workers felt a stronger bond with their employers after receiving educational benefits, and employee morale tends to be dramatically higher where education is emphasized.
Plus, continued education tends to keep workers up to date on the latest technological developments. More and more workplaces are eschewing paper and analog devices in favor of becoming almost totally digital; even phones are becoming rare in most offices. Modern education often takes place online and uses complex computer programs that require skill sets of their own. Thus, companies will benefit not only from employees’ newly gained skills related to their field, but from a general improvement in technological savvy, as well.
Better trained employees are a blessing for any business, but industries like education and health care benefit especially from continued education programs. These fields are rapidly changing as society’s font of data grows and changes every day, and it is exceptionally crucial that workers in substantial fields stay abreast of metamorphosing information to provide the absolute best services. For example, by sending employees back to school, health care providers can learn to improve the quality of care at their facilities. Still, workers as disparate as office professionals and tradespeople will certainly find advantages in returning to school.
How to Start an Employee Education Program
As with other benefits programs, like health and life insurance packages, establishing an education program in a workplace can be tricky and time-consuming at the outset. Employers must consider how much they are willing to sponsor — just tuition, or tuition, books, and other supplies? — and what type of classes they are willing to support — vocational, technical, professional, or a combination? After this, employers must decide what rewards will be given to those who complete their continued education — are raises and promotions appropriate? — and whether or not they should scale those rewards depending on employees’ performance in the program — should barely passing employees receive anything at all? There is certainly much to consider after choosing to implement an education program in the workplace.
Even employers who lack the funds to wholly reimburse employees for continued education can show their support in other ways. Being flexible with work schedules to allow employees time for classes and studying is the first step; in the modern digital office, employers can even offer telecommuting as a viable solution. It is also important to appreciate employees’ education efforts by commending completed studies in company-wide emails or newsletters. These announcements can include how the program will benefit the individual and company together.
While continued education programs in the workplace can be costly, it is obvious that their benefits outweigh their detriments. Employers with highly skilled employees find their places of work to be friendlier, more efficient, and — most importantly — higher earning.