The workplace is constantly evolving, and so is the job market. With unemployment at a near record low, job seekers have tons of options. Recruiting new talent is a challenge, so employers are focused on keeping their current employees happy. Having your company staffed with the best people is a full-time job by itself, not to mention all your other responsibilities.
In all this chaos, HR pros like yourself most likely aren’t thinking about encouraging employees to advance their education – you’re just trying to keep things running smoothly! And between employees’ busy work and home lives, they probably aren’t thinking about it much, either.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2022 only about 18% of jobs will require a master’s degree. This means there are plenty of options for those with a bachelor’s degree or high school diploma.
So why should anyone bother? There are actually a great deal of benefits for both the employer and employee when it comes to higher education.
Increases retention, performance
If your company doesn’t require a master’s degree, it might seem counter-intuitive to encourage your employees to obtain one. But, according to Jenny Burrows of Training magazine, it’s a terrific investment for employers that can help spur company growth.
The first major benefit you’ll see? Increased retention, Burrows says. A lot of employers worry if they assist workers in their quest for higher education, the employee will take that new knowledge to a different company. But studies show that isn’t true.
Employees will feel valued by their employer, and in turn, are more likely to stay loyal to the company. Believing in your staff and helping them achieve their goal of an advanced degree will have a positive impact on retention – something that’s priceless in the current competitive labor market.
Not only will your people stick around, but their performance will improve with higher education, Burrows says. When employees go back to school after being out of the classroom for a decade plus, they’ll learn all about new advancements in their industry. After completing their program, these employees will come into work ready to share their new knowledge, giving your company a competitive edge. This can also help you close any skills gaps. Instead of finding and hiring new talent, train and educate your current employees.
Helping your people see the value
So, you’re on board with encouraging your employees to advance their education. Now, how do you convince them it’s the right move?
Going back to school, whether online or in the classroom, is a big undertaking. It takes money, time and effort, and the average American worker is already stretched thin.
Here are six ways you can convince your employees higher education will help them thrive in their careers, courtesy of Northeastern University.
- You’ll gain specialized knowledge. Going back to school will help employees learn all the latest advancements in their fields. In a constantly changing workforce, a higher degree proves you know your stuff, and gives you added credibility. It’s also a great opportunity for employees to explore something specific within their field, or learn about a new area entirely. Continued education will help workers gain new skills and build on ones they already have.
- It’ll help you advance in your career. Got a bunch of ambitious employees looking to work their way up the ladder? Higher education can make that so much easier. Many employers like to see advanced degrees for management and leadership positions – especially in certain industries, like education and healthcare. Graduate degrees can help pave the way to big promotions. You can even emphasize how this will help employees if they ever decide to leave your company and go elsewhere – show them it’s in their best interest, not just yours.
- It’ll increase your earning potential. If employees are worried about putting money into their degree, ease those fears with the following numbers. The average person with a bachelor’s degree earns about $60,000 a year. The average person with a master’s earns $80,000.
- You’ll gain lifelong skills. It’s not just about the technical knowledge employees will learn. Higher education will help workers sharpen their researching, writing and analyzing skills. These soft skills will not only help in the workplace, but in everyday life, too.
- You’ll expand your professional network. Going back to school means meeting all kinds of different people. Fellow classmates will come from many different backgrounds, and it’ll give people the opportunity to connect with so many professionals and industry leaders.
- You’re never too old or too busy. A lot of employees think they’ve been out of school for so long that it’s too late to go back. But older students are pursuing higher education more than ever before. The average age of those seeking an advanced degrees has increased drastically in the past, and programs are adjusting to accommodate that. The rise of online programs has made it convenient for anyone to get back into the classroom. Many schools also offer night classes for working adults and online/in-person hybrid options. If anyone is worried about their computer and tech skills, a lot of universities have tutorials and help lines designed to assist students of all ages.
Taking the next steps
Once you’ve decided to focus on getting your employees to advance their education, there are a few things you can do to get the ball rolling.
Gauge everyone’s interest in the idea, and see what kind of courses employees are interested in. What learning option works best for their busy schedules? What kind of costs can they handle? When you have this information, you can do research and present your people with programs tailored to their needs.
Another thing to explore – is your company willing to assist with the cost of participating in these programs? If your staff can get a discounted or free ride to school, they’re much more likely to complete the program.
In the meantime, focus on fostering a company culture that places an emphasis on learning and development. See what kind of training you can do right now, in-house. Once a few learning options are open to your employees, they’ll be hungry for more.