At a lot of organizations, the answer is that it's an employee perk; you offer tuition assistance, make employees happy, give people a chance to pursue a degree on the company's dime, and maybe, as the employer, fill a skills gap or attract some people who are interested in advancing their education.
The answer isn't wrong. But it sells the concept of a modern education program short. A really effective tuition assistance program shouldn't merely satisfy a few talent goals as a side effect, said EdAssist's Mark Ward recently. It should have those talent goals built into the program's design.
Mark and EdAssist Director of Organizational Development Jessica Kaplan talked at length about the subject at the recent webinar, Get Smart: Perfect Your Tuition Assistance Strategy. Among the insights: rethinking tuition assistance into a great strategy starts with four best practices:
Align tuition assistance with your talent strategy
An effective program starts with knowing exactly what your challenges are; and that requires talking to stakeholders including leadership and managers. Jessica recalled one chief information officer who provided very specific thoughts about IT gaps that became an educational map for how to fill them.
Centralizing refers to administration. Money can come from different departmental budgets, but a single platform means everyone's playing by the same rules and using the same approved educational resources. Mark described one company with two departments, each unaware the other was paying to design their own track for project management. By designing a single track for all, the company trimmed costs while netting the same end result. Centralizing also provides an easy way to track progress.
Celebrate Employee Achievement
Don't underestimate the value of recognition. It's inspiring. Some companies have begun offering bonuses for top grades; others recognize graduates with something like a letter from the CEO.
Look ahead to new trends
New developments in education can often save you money, but you have to be looking for them. As little as half a decade ago, degree programs may have been the only option for developing skills; today, a one-day boot camp can bestow some of the same skills but for a fraction of the time and cost. That's not always the case, of course; but you'll never know if you don't ask.All of that's just a start. As Mark pointed out, you'll also need a tuition management partner that can ensure compliance and efficiently distribute payment. Equally important, you'll want to provide employees with advisors to ensure the choices they're making are good for them - and for you.
Reimagined as an investment in people versus an operating expense will give your program lots of upside. "When managed well," said Mark, "tuition assistance is an important tool for addressing today's most serious business challenges."
Want more guidance on designing an effective tuition assistance program? Download 10 best practices for maximizing a key talent investment.