Promoting and educating employees on the benefits of using tuition programs can result in long-term competitive advantage for organizations.
Although employees view tuition benefits as a way to advance their career and personal goals, organizations can use this employee self-interest to their strategic advantage, says Caroline Molina-Ray, executive director of research and publications for the Apollo Research Institute, which conducts research to demonstrate the value of education.
"Unlike other benefits such as dental coverage, tuition benefits can directly increase worker skills, knowledge, and promotability," says Molina-Ray. "As employers struggle to find qualified job applicants amid a national skills shortage, investing in worker education is one of the smartest strategic choices companies can make."
Researchers surveyed 6,726 current and past tuition benefit program participants from three Fortune 1000 companies. Bundled Value: Working Learners' Perceptions of Tuition Benefit Programs reveals that participants agreed most strongly with values related to personal and career development. The following values were rated with the highest percentage of "strongly agree" statements:
- promotes my personal development (66.5 percent)
- makes me marketable as I pursue my career goals (65 percent)
- better prepares me for advancement within the organization (56.5 percent)
- increases the knowledge and skills required to do my job (49.7 percent).
According to the study, "The benefit of earning an academic degree was mentioned more than any other perceived value. More than 60 percent of participants mentioned both the educational value and a financial value of the tuition benefit program." As for how tuition benefit programs affect employees' perceptions of the organization, the following employer-related values were rated with the highest percentage of "strongly agree" statements:
- makes organization a more competitive employer than other organizations in the job market (48.5 percent)
- increases my loyalty to the organization (40.8 percent)
- makes me more engaged in my job (40.2 percent).
Less than half of working adults agree or strongly agree that tuition benefits played a major role in their joining the company or staying with the company. Even fewer workers (29 percent) agreed that tuition benefits were the primary reason they stayed with the organization. Conversely, 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed that tuition benefits made their employer competitive in the job market.
There are two possible explanations for these conflicting data: employees may not have known about the benefit before they started working there; and new hires didn't appreciate the benefit until they took advantage of it. Because a small percentage of employees take advantage of tuition benefits, employers may benefit by being more aggressive in publicizing its tuition program, according to the report.
Molina-Ray believes that tuition benefits can be used as a strategic tool by not only helping workers align their formal learning with specific career outcomes, but by helping "employers improve the chances that their educational investment will pay off in increased productivity,
competitiveness, and innovation."