Want to retain and empower employees? Rethink tuition reimbursement programs
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(BPT) - Talent wars. Great resignation. Quiet quitting. Hiring, retaining and inspiring employees to be their best is no small feat these days. Leadership at companies big and small are looking for ways to improve their workforce and professional development is a hot topic.

The high cost of turnover

Hiring good people and keeping them is a challenge. Stakes are high and the cost of employee turnover is significant. Companies can lose time, money and resources, not to mention it can be a blow to workplace morale and brand reputation.

According to the Society of Human Resources Management, direct employee replacement costs can reach as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary. That means if an employee makes $50,000 it can cost up to $30,000 directly and $200,000 total.

A people-first workplace

Looking closely at benefits and company culture can provide important insights into employee relations. To help attract and retain talent, many organizations are taking a people-first approach. Putting employees first means prioritizing things like work-life integration, career pathing and professional development.

“Tuition benefits programs are sought after by employees and can be a great way for companies to invest in their future while encouraging skills development," said Dave Barnett, DeVry University’s chief human resources and university relations officer. "Whether it’s training to learn a specific skill, earning a certification or completing an entire degree, tuition benefits programs show employees you’re willing to invest in them so they are invested in you."

Employer tuition benefits

Employees are eagerly seeking out organizations that offer tuition benefits. According to an EdAssist survey, 84% of respondents cited these programs as an important factor in their decision to join their organizations. In fact, 71% rated tuition assistance among the best benefits offered by their employers after health care.

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However, a DeVryWorks Talent Outlook Study found leaders ranked tuition benefits as the least frequently offered form of professional development at their organizations with just 69% indicating it’s available to employees. According to the study, here are some top reasons organizations offer tuition benefits:

  • 62% helping individuals grow professionally
  • 53% retaining individuals at the organization by offering development opportunities
  • 51% improving quality and execution of work

The good news is the Wall Street Journal reported that 90% of large and midsized companies offer some kind of tuition reimbursement. The bad is less than 10% of workers use the tuition reimbursement.

Filling the skills gap

“Aligning impactful development opportunities with future career pathways is becoming an expectation for employees as early as the first interview,” said Clark Barber, vice president of DeVryWorks, the workforce solutions team at DeVry University. “While training and developing frontline workers is a top priority for HR leaders, few are leveraging a typically passive benefit like tuition reimbursement as a proactive tool to attract, retain and grow talent.”

Barber said the key for business leaders is to ensure their tuition programs are equitable and accessible for employees. Organizations should consider how their policy is structured and measured to ensure inclusivity.

But where are leaders seeing the biggest skills gaps? The DeVryWorks Talent Study asked business leaders about the most in-demand skills and opportunities for employee improvement. The results: leadership, data-driven decision-making and digital fluency are the three critical skill gaps leaders are looking to address.

These skills and more can be learned through programs supported by a company's tuition benefits program. For example, nontraditional learners — like part-time adult students — benefit from an educational option like DeVry University. The school strives to close society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change.

“As critical skills continue to emerge, expand and expire, there’s an ongoing need for professional development,” added Barnett. “Establishing and promoting tuition benefits programs is critical to the vitality of the organization and the professional journey of employees. It’s an untapped resource with endless potential.”