DIY Education Assistance? Not a Good Idea

DIY Educational Assistance

Not long ago, a friend told me about the day he asked a group of neighbors to help move a giant dresser up a set of stairs.

They spent hours shifting the thing this way and that, beating up the walls and themselves before finally calling in a professional mover to give it one last shot. "These two guys came in and moved that dresser up the stairs like it was a toy," said my friend with a laugh. "It took them five minutes."

Chalk one up for the pros. No matter what the job, there's a lot to be said for letting the experts do what they do best. I hear people say often that they thought running an education assistance program would mean a rubber stamp and a checkbook. Then they tried it out. One client told us their old DIY education assistance program used up one full-time employee's entire time for the single task of processing reimbursements. During peak season, she said, "it was all hands on deck."

Good Reasons to Farm Out Your Education Assistance

Saving employees' time is but one reason for farming out your education assistance program. What are some others?

A Team to Run Your Program

Run your program in-house, and you'll have one person trying to get up to speed on education assistance management all while doing (or trying to do) his or her regular job. Outsource and you get a whole team of people who know all facets of the business, and dedicate all of their time to just that. You'll also get advisors who know things you probably don't - like how to help employees expedite degree programs and make good financing choices. Plus, because an outside provider is negotiating for thousands of students at once, they'll get tuition discounts you'd have a hard time negotiating on your own.

Smooth Participant Experience

Got a DIY education assistance program? Make sure you have people to answer phones. Because employees will be calling every time they have a question. Outsourcers will have customer service just for that, plus the infrastructure to deliver a self-serve website on your portal so people can file and check on applications - without checking in with you every time.

Strategy and Measurement

The same automation that lets employees manage their individual accounts gives you a window into your entire program. By automatically cataloging every transaction, the system will tell you how many employees are participating, how much is being spent, how far along you are on particular talent goals, and (most important) whether or not you need to make program adjustments to get the most ROI. Fringe benefit: it makes for very impressive status updates for leadership.

Resource Allocation

All of the above jobs are things your provider will deliver...so your benefits department doesn't have to. That's important since education assistance is no doubt just one part of your employee development strategy that also includes in-house training, career-coaching, and any number of other initiatives your people need to work on. That means your benefits and learning-and-development staffers will be working on other priorities instead of researching subjects they're not experts on...one at a time.

The above list is only the start. Like those furniture movers, education assistance pros understand the mechanics of their business in a way that people who don't do it every day might not. And the absence of expertise can cost you not only in lost strategies and overspending, but in misused resources.

My friend's furniture odyssey made him a convert.  The amateur attempts at moving left a hole where the dresser tore into the wall.

What did he do?

"Easy," he said. "I called a carpenter."

Written by: Jonathan Corke

About the Author

Jonathan Corke at Bright Horizons

As Senior Director, Product Marketing, Jonathan has spent the last decade working at the intersection of strategic HR and enterprise technology. He has learned a great deal about converting a talent management strategy into an operating plan through direct conversations with HR leaders and numerous industry surveys. These experiences have sparked a fascination with how leading employers create a better environment for their workforce, and how that environment drives consistent business performance. Jonathan holds an MBA from Clark University.