Continuing Education: Perks and Pitfalls

Employee compensation talks usually center around a dollar figure. However, perks like continuing education can be an integral part of the benefits package offered to your employees. It can also increase employee loyalty and productivity. Still, this benefit has the potential to backfire on your company if not effectively managed. Here are some tips for creating an effective continuing education benefit for your company—or some ideas for freshening up your current policy.

First off, why provide continuing education benefits? While perks like tuition reimbursement obviously benefit employees, development work like this can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Not only do employees who participate in continuing education bring more current, innovative ideas to the table at work, but they also tend to be more engaged and loyal to their employers. You have the indirect and long-term profitability of cultivating a more talented workforce (not to discount the possibility of one lucrative bright idea!), plus the direct cost savings of a low turnover rate. There’s no downside! Well, except the thousands of dollars in tuition reimbursement… let’s talk about that next.

Tuition reimbursement is only one type of continuing education benefit. Other development perks might be flex scheduling to attend classes, paid fees for seminars/conferences, or hiring an instructor to teach a course for select staff. Instead of paying for your entire design department to take a college course, consider paying someone to teach a workshop a few times a year.

Tuition reimbursement does remain the most common form of continuing education perk, especially as part of a compensation package. However, many companies take steps to keep this employee development work from backfiring on them. First, many tuition reimbursement benefits are tied to how well an employee does in a course. An “A” might earn full reimbursement, a “B” 80% and so on, with the possibility of no reimbursement for a failing grade.

Employers should also consider incentives to keep an employee with the company after they have received their education compensation. A well-educated employee is more valuable on the marketplace, and you might be obliged to pay them more—or risk them leaving. Develop your compensation plan to reward specific behavior. For example, consider offering the tuition reimbursement as part of an employee development plan leading to a promotion. Upon completion of their education, a promotion makes an employee less likely to depart. Many companies also limit tuition reimbursement perks to employees who have been with the company for a few years.

How do you implement continuing education at your company? Is it part of a compensation package, or an overall employee development plan? Share tips and questions below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by shiladsen