Management is often a position of mentorship in addition to leadership. One important aspect of mentorship is education, and consequently, many companies are willing to sponsor some form of education or professional development for their employees. After all, better employees equate to better profitability and efficiency.
However, it often comes as an unpleasant surprise that the professional development budgets are often frequently underutilized, or even worse, unused. What makes it even worse is that some of your direct reports don’t even know what they have access to. In a survey by Guardian in 2017, only 49% of employees could accurately recite what benefits they selected. Thus, you might ask, “How can we get our direct reports to make use of the corporate education advantages?” The answer is far easier than you might think.
What is Corporate Education Sponsorship?
Corporate Education Sponsorships are a phenomenon in which a Direct Report chooses to participate in further education or certification at the company’s expense. According to Statista, 47% of companies offer this in some aspect, and an additional 8% offer student loan repayment.
Most companies actually prefer this over formal training and talent development programs, due to many inherent benefits of sponsorship.
Why should you offer Corporate Sponsorships to your Direct Reports?
These sponsorships allow you as a manager to set up the best possible employee workforce that you could ever ask for. Sponsorship works as a development program, an engagement system, and even a recruiting incentive.
Think about it from your employees’ perspectives, and you can easily see how this would be an amazing recruiting opportunity. Not only would an employee have the potential to get a degree, thus expanding their skills, but would also be able to move up in the company ladder, and consequently get more pay.
From a managerial perspective, you receive just as many benefits. First of all, at the end of the day, you will have better educated and more skilled employees. This alone balances out the cost of the programs. According to Human Capital Theory by Dr. Arnaud Chevalier and Gary Becker, higher education increases productivity.
Also, you will have loyalty from your direct reports. If a company were to pay for your education, and their only condition is for you to stay and work for them for a certain amount of time, you’d definitely buy into the company culture a little more than before.
An even better perk for your company is that you can often claim tax breaks, credits, or deductions. The IRS has been pushing for companies to fund employee education, and if a company meets certain guidelines regarding education, they have some options available to them regarding taxes.
On a more personal note, I was able to benefit from Company Education Sponsorships, and it completely changed my life as I serve as a paramedic.
A Paramedic, or even an EMT Certification costs thousands of dollars, and as an individual barely out of high school, I had no way of easily affording this. However, a local rescue squad offered to fund this in exchange for me working with them for at least 6 months. I was able to pursue my certification, which I had originally planned to defer for a couple years, and consequently, was able to make my dream come true much earlier than anticipated. I went on hundreds of calls, some of which included lifesaving measures, along with medical evacuation, and was often the only Paramedic on duty at times. I was able to give back to the squad that paid for me to receive this advantage, while still benefitting.
How should you offer these Company Advantages?
There are generally two different ways that Corporate Education Advantages operate. The first method is through reimbursement. This means that your direct reports will undergo their certification or education, and then upon completion, your company then compensates them for the cost of their education.
Alternatively, your company could sponsor a direct report’s education, paying for it from the point of enrollment. This is often paired with a contractual requirement for the direct report to finish their coursework or risk having to pay back the cost of the degree or certification.
Regardless of the method, most companies also require a minimum amount of time served at the company after receiving a sponsorship or reimbursement.
What Advantages should you sponsor?
Typically, companies can sponsor a variety of degrees, certifications, or programs. The main consideration is that it is a relevant field to that of your industry. Here are some of the most common sponsorship targets:
· GED- Some employees may have had extenuating circumstances while they were in high school and were forced to drop out. A GED can completely change their life.
· Bachelor’s Degree- Undergraduate education can often have a fiscal barrier, which some individuals might not be in the best financial status to pursue.
· Master’s Degree- Postgraduate degrees are often pursued only after experience in the workforce. Sponsoring this and combining it with a work agreement can result in an extremely valuable employee
· CPA- This one is only common within the accounting field but is frequently sponsored.
· PhD- Sponsoring these is much rarer, and it is only really common to have a PhD program sponsored within the clinical or scientific fields.
· People Leader Certifications - This type of certification is a much newer innovation and provides quality education and experience for a fraction of the price of an MBA. While these certifications are often offered by educational institutions, companies such as Ambition In Motion have pioneered their own versions of this, such as the AIM Insights People Leader Certification.
Advertising Your Company Incentives
Getting your direct reports to be aware of what exactly they have access to begins with the job posting. According to Gallop, 64% of workers cited significant increases in income or benefits as “very important.” So, wouldn’t it make sense to advertise using these incentives? Recruiting fairs, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Handshake, among others, should not only list financial benefits, but also some incentives, such as Corporate Sponsorships, insurance, time off, and any other associated perks.
In addition to this, any new employee orientation or in-service should always reiterate the opportunities available to direct reports. The more times that this is brought up, the more likely an employee is to look into this.
Have your benefit companies come advertise with you as well. For example, if you have an MBA sponsorship, have a professor or dean come and speak about the merits of getting an MBA. Using these advertisements helps your credibility.
Also, create partnerships with local schools and certifying boards! See if they can reduce prices with you in exchange for exclusivity deals and similar concessions. Cut costs and see what you can do.
An education can completely change an individual’s life and improve your own business as a result. It feels like a no-brainer. So don’t be afraid to push your company incentives.