Improve Your Tuition Management System — And Your Bottom Line
By Carissa Chang Cress
The U.S. job market is bright, according to various news sources that recently reported on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Situation Summary. This past month, employers added 223,000 jobs across the country, and the unemployment rate declined to 5.3 percent. That’s good news for employees, who have better chances for keeping their jobs – and for employers, who want to retain those skilled workers.
As the job market continues to improve, that employee retention may become more difficult for companies. With an economy coming out of recession, it’s no surprise that CareerBuilder found that more than half (52 percent) of workers “feel like they just have a job, not a career. While younger workers ages 18 to 24 are the most likely to report this at 65 percent, more seasoned workers ages 35 to 44 (48 percent), ages 45 to 54 (57 percent) and ages 55+ (54 percent) also share this sentiment.” And, as HR professionals know, employees who feel like they have “just a job” are much more likely to leave than those who consider their work part of a meaningful career.
This potential turnover makes employer-provided benefits, like tuition assistance and education assistance programs, all the more attractive. These programs come in many forms: scholarships for employees, tuition reimbursement, children-of-employee scholarship programs and community scholarship programs, to name a few. It’s increasingly clear that employees are looking for these educational opportunities, especially as younger generations join the workforce.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2015 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, “Generation X employees were more likely to report paid training as a contributor to their job satisfaction compared with Baby Boomers.” SHRM also notes that employers who require their workers “to have advanced degrees or value higher education in their culture may want to emphasize this benefit in order to attract talent.”
It is vital to offer educational benefits at your organization. It’s equally important to have systems in place that make those programs successful. To build a strong foundation for your tuition management system, it’s crucial to:
- Keep your employees in mind. As you start or improve your tuition management system, it’s important to think about just who your employees are. What are their needs? How old (or young) are they? Where could you most effectively build talent? What kind of educational support would they or their dependents need for you to remain competitive as an employer?
- Communicate about your program. Oftentimes, tuition benefits are advertised to prospective employees, but they may fall off an employee’s radar once they’re deep into their work. Our Scholarship Management Services blog provides timely tips on how to ensure that your employees know about your tuition or education assistance program when they need it most. Check out the post here.
- Understand your budget. This goes hand-in-hand with setting up your program criteria, such as how many employees can qualify for tuition assistance in a year, and when (or if) to cap your organization’s contribution. For example, “[m]ost employers reimburse employees only after they complete their courses,” writes Tom Cherry for SHRM’s HR Magazine. “[G]rades come out, a statement is generated by the school, and the company reimburses the employee. Increasingly, companies seem to be requiring that employees get authorization before they embark on a program (that is, employees must work with their manager and/or HR to select an appropriate degree program or individual courses and must set up a budget presuming continued eligibility, satisfactory grades and other requirements).”
Knowing what works best for your company will pay off in big ways. You’ll see happier employees, who are more motivated and capable in their work. Your organization will have a bigger talent pool of workers, which can attract more potential employees. And, by recognizing your employees’ value to the organization, you’ll help keep that staff engaged for your cause.