Building Career Ladders that Go Somewhere

Bright Horizons Education benefits

When it comes to succession planning, organizations tend to be very leadership focused. We fully support high-potential employees by providing them with a clear professional trajectory, including a path and ROI for any type of education they pursue.

But the rest of the workforce doesn't get near as much attention. We let the majority of our employee population use education assistance dollars with very little guidance and conversation about what the results will be once the employee completes the program.

At EdAssist, we know many organizations see education assistance as an employee benefit separate from their overall talent management strategy. But when employees invest their time (and even with tuition assistance, often some of their own money), they expect some sort of return, usually in the form of career mobility, whether their current organization provides it to them or they have to go somewhere else to find it.

If employees view their education as a way to advance on the "career ladder," then organizations should have a strong interest in ensuring the ladder they are choosing to climb leads to where the organization wants them to go.

Understanding the Urgency

Equally important, leadership positions aren't going to be the only spots we need to fill in the near future. As a result, the importance of thinking strategically about educational assistance to help narrow skills gaps is becoming increasingly pressing.

As an example, let's look at the healthcare industry. Last month, EdAssist's Senior Executive Director, Healthcare Georgio Bantos (also my fellow presenter at our upcoming Solutions at Work LIVE Conference) participated in the Talent Management Alliance's Annual "People in Health Care" Summit alongside some of the nation's most senior talent management professionals.

Here are a few highlights from AMN Healthcare research that was discussed at the event:

  • 62% of RNs over age 54 are thinking about retirement and most say they plan to retire within the next two years.
  • Another 21% of nurses over age 54 say they will switch to part-time.
  • 49% of all nurses, and 77% of nurses younger than 40 say they will pursue a bachelor's, master's or doctoral Degree in the next 1-3 years
  • 44% of prospective retirees are nurse educators.

Education Assistance as Part of the Solution

Under today's current healthcare delivery model, the part-time data alone has major implications for how our hospitals will be able to deliver quality outcomes. And the idea that nurse educators are on average older and closer to retirement is a very scary thought.

Equally important is that Millennials are demanding career mobility and value professional development more than pay raises. So how do we address both Boomers' retirement and Millennials' career ambitions, while ensuring that employees get the education assistance they're demanding and organizations get the skills that they need?

Here are three general tips to start the conversation about how education assistance can be a talent management tool rather than simply a benefit.

Integrate into your Talent Management Programs

Two programs together can be greater than the sum of their parts. For example, pair employees who are using education assistance with mentors to help them see how those lessons apply to on-the-job situations. Do the same with job shadowing. And, extend education assistance to help employees pay for student loans.

Align Programs to your Organizational Goals

Make sure your education assistance policy not only delivers for employees, but drives toward the organization's goals. For example: pay more for programs that will lead to needed skills (or less for programs that aren't as essential). Also, be creative by considering non-degrees under your tuition umbrella. These short-term learning and individual courses often provide employees with the skills they need in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Communicate with Employees

Offer guidance to help employees choose programs that will result in the skills you need. Make sure to keep track to ensure you know which employees are using tuition assistance, for which programs, and what they're expectations are for pursuing these programs.  By doing so, you will be able to tap into this group of people to fill open positions and ensure expectations are aligned to avoid attrition.

Getting to the Bottom Line

When I talk with our own employees, it always hits me. From the employee's perspective, education is education whether it's internal or external. Let's ensure that the programs they choose and the skills they build are those the organization needs so that employees want to stay, and the ladder they climb leads in the direction the organization is going.  

Written by: Jessica Kaplan

About the Author

Jessica Kaplan at Bright Horizons

As Director, Talent Management, Jessica is responsible for connecting employees and management to the most effective learning and development opportunities offered by Bright Horizons. She also helps facilitate internal collaboration for organizational success. Jessica brings nearly 20 years of experience in professional development and higher education administration to her role. Prior to this role she held key roles in the Client Relations and Academic Partnerships teams. Jessica holds a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Tufts University, a Master’s degree in International Communication from American University and has completed PhD coursework in International Higher Education Policy at the University of Maryland.