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Andrew Lancaster


Education Promotion

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Payoffs from funding university study


Education is fundamental to starting a professional career, and can be vital to building it and taking it in new directions. While the payoff for individuals can obviously be great, companies also benefit from investing in the professional development of employees.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 56 percent of employers offer undergraduate program assistance benefits for university and college degrees. And 52 percent provide graduate-level benefits (2015 Employee Benefits research report).

So why do more than half of these employers offer incentives for employees to participate in advanced education programs, which can take time and energy away from work and even cause staff to pursue external employment opportunities?

Technical skills

The potential for skills obsolescence can easily be underestimated. With the rapid pace of technological change, a relaxed approach to professional development can leave the unwary struggling to advance their career.

An old, unwanted skill set is the result of staying still while new technologies bring a premium to, for example, being adept with the latest reporting software.

If you know someone has just finished, or is in the midst of, a technically-orientated education program (such as a graduate diploma), you can be confident that person is up to date. It’s especially important for employees who need to keep abreast of fast-changing topics such as in IT, marketing and communications.

Aligning with company objectives

Certain forms of training can help a business progress with strategic objectives. If you identify an area where you want the business to grow and expand, providing relevant training can be a cost-effective way to get there. For example, if your customers are moving online, you may need to shift the skill profile of your workforce towards digitally-based communication and information management.

The alternative may be having to hire new staff with rare and expensive skills and qualification sets, or pushing current staff into unfamiliar roles for which they may be poorly equipped.

Leadership training

The culmination of university-level study for a mature professional can be readiness to take on new management and leadership roles. Executive training is the thrust of most online MBA programs, which are one of the most popular advanced degrees.

The case for a company funding an online MBA may not be obvious because few jobs actually require a postgraduate business degree such as an MBA. But you need to take the philosophy that employees know best how to manage their own professional development.

If an employee sees an MBA or other executive course as the best option for their career development, helping them to realise their ambitions can really pay off. You could, for example, convert an employee from someone frustrated at being stuck in low to middle management into a motivated, aspiring future leader.

Co-investment means shared responsibility

Some comfort can be taken where education funding is shared between employer and employee, rather than the business shouldering the bulk of financial responsibility. The co-investment by an individual would naturally help limit training requests to courses with genuine professional development benefits.

Retaining staff

While subsidising training often runs the risk that you upskill employees for external jobs, this can be outweighed by staff retention effects. If the general environment for your workers is good, including career growth opportunities, they may gain a sense of loyalty and commitment out of receiving education assistance benefits.

And training courses have the ability to deliver a productivity-enhancing morale boost.

Happy learners make for happy workers, and keeping the mental health and wellbeing of your employees at the top of your company’s priorities will help them achieve their learning and business goals alike. ~ AlexK

Stay-on conditions

A keenness to stay on after finishing the course can be instilled by supporting education, preferably without requiring continued tenure from the employee as part of a formal agreement.

Employers can always stipulate stay-on conditions when funding a significant training investment, but such an approach can tempt the employee to leave after the mandatory stay-on period has finished.

Additionally, compulsory stay-on conditions may deter employees from studying in the first place. They are forced to risk penalties if they do the education course and something comes up which causes them to leave the organisation earlier than expected.

Author Profile Picture
Andrew Lancaster

Education Promotion

Read more from Andrew Lancaster

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