Education benefits are a critical offering to retain top talent

The top reason why employees pursue higher education and training is to keep up with or get ahead of any changes in their specific position, according to a recent survey. Read the following blog post for more on why education benefits are critical when it pertains to retaining top talent.

The American workplace is changing rapidly and so are the expectations workers have of their employers. Under pressure to keep pace with technology’s transformation of the labor market, employers are racing to up- and re-skill their workforce. They know that frontline workers, whose tasks are often most susceptible to automation, need training to remain viable and competitive.

According to this year’s Bright Horizons Working Learning Index, which surveyed more than 30,000 working learners, employees are well aware that their workplace is changing. When asked to select their top three reasons for pursuing more education or training, the most prevalent answer was that they wanted to “keep pace with or get ahead of changes in my position.” This beat out all other reasons, including advancement, opportunities at another organization and even earning more money at work.

Generation Z workers now rank education over all other benefits in importance, excluding healthcare. But they tend to differentiate between education and training, ranking education benefits above training and development.

That’s with good reason: a college degree is still the great lever for economic mobility and career advancement among frontline workers, driving higher lifetime earnings that total more than $2 million, on average. But with college costs rising, Gen Z is looking to employers to fill the gap. About four in ten Gen Z employees believe their tuition reimbursement program is the single best benefit offered by their employer. Twice as many say it is among the top three voluntary benefits.

Among the surveyed workers, three-quarters (76%) say a tuition reimbursement program would make them more likely to remain at their organization, and eight in 10 (81%) say it would make them more likely to recommend working there to a friend. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say such benefits make them “happier at work.”

Indeed, employees of all generations rank education benefits far above those offered for wellness and even above highly coveted benefits like life or disability insurance and paid family leave. In this survey, only retirement savings programs and paid sick or vacation time ranked more highly.

Importantly, nearly half (49%) said they would not have pursued education if their employers did not offer tuition assistance. Slightly more (55%) say the time commitment required for a degree or certification under their employer’s tuition assistance program is the biggest challenge they faced — as a result, many see the value of competency-based and self-paced learning options, often delivered online.

Data like this may change the calculus for employers considering investments in not just upskilling but education. While it may seem counterintuitive, employers must offer their frontline workers broad learning opportunities and educational benefits that can help them move beyond their current positions and pursue the next steps of their careers. Companies must have the foresight to invest in their potential.

SOURCE: Donovan, P. (22 November 2019) "Education benefits are a critical offering to retain top talent" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from

Hotter Economy can Spark Retention Challenges

Although a recent report on U.S. job growth has left many observers disappointed, other economic signs are prompting employers to re-evaluate their benefits and retention strategies to avoid a potential talent exodus.

The Department of Labor reported that the nation added 120,000 jobs in March, down from the previous three months that saw 200,000 or more new jobs. Still, the stock market is up for the year, and U.S. employees appear to be more secure in their jobs. The Randstad employee confidence index -- which measures how confident workers feel about their job security and the economy -- rose in March to the highest level since October 2007, according to Workforce magazine.

An improving economy, however, has a dark side: Talented but unhappy employees will seek better opportunities elsewhere, experts say.

"There is a storm brewing," said Lynne Sarikas, executive director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University, in a recent Human Resource Executive online report. "Many people will be looking to make a change once they perceive improvement and stability in the job market. This will have a significant impact on their employers."

More movement in the job market can spur hotter competition among employers for good talent. In addition to competitive wages, robust employee benefits can help employers keep their best workers happy and productive -- and employers are taking notice. A recent study by MetLife found that 90 percent of companies say they don't plan to cut employee benefits in the near future, according to a report by CCH. A large majority (91 percent) of those polled expressed confidence that benefits work as retention tools.

While health, dental, vision and other stalwarts in the retention toolbox remain central to many companies' overall offerings, employers may want to consider additional choices to sweeten the benefits pot.

For instance, companies that want to pull in younger workers may want to investigate defined benefit (DB) retirement plans, according to new research. A recent study by Towers Watson, reported in PLANSPONSOR, noted that 63 percent of workers younger than 40 said in 2011 that they chose their current employer because it offered a DB plan, compared with only 28 percent in 2009.

Education benefits are paying off for some companies, as well. United Parcel Service is sponsoring a program that pays up to $3,000 per year in tuition reimbursement for part-time employees. Executives say the program has spawned talented leaders who have stuck with the company.

"Enhancing the skills and knowledge base for our employees is a fundamental element of our success, and correlates directly with our policy to promote from within," Susan Rosenberg, UPS public relations manager, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.