Matched learning, employee development, sponsored qualifications – whatever you may call it, offering an employee learning scheme brings the double advantage of upskilling the workforce while serving as an effective retention tool.
Most workers highly value the opportunity to learn – even more so if work is offering to pay for said qualification.
At potentially thousands of pounds per employee, however, not to mention the man hours which are lost to classroom time or assignments, it’s not surprising if some businesses put up a little resistance when that request for learning is received.
Yet educating staff benefits the economy and increases personal self-worth – plus it enhances your reputation as a Great Place to Work. Should you invest in educating your employees? If so, to what extent?
The case for workplace learning
A report by the Higher Education Policy Institute claims that fewer people in England and Wales possess technical and professional qualifications than in other advanced economies. We know there’s a skills shortage and for most businesses to survive, training to fill those skills gaps has got to take place.
We’re not just talking about STEM disciplines here; in some organisations, even the most basic digital skills are lacking – meaning that companies can't take advantage of clever technological innovations which could help them grow and save money.
As you'll know, learning can lead to more efficient and effective employees, which can boost the bottom line. Though the cost per employee might seem high in some cases, it’s probably far lower than the recruitment expense required for replacing a bored member of staff.
Long-distance/part-time courses at formal educational establishments can cost the business upwards of £1,000 per module (or between £6,000 and £9,000 per year, full-time).
Given that many professional disciplines are predicted to soon become ‘in-demand’ (including finance, human resources and marketing), employers may find it’s even more important that employees gain recognised, postgraduate qualifications. Hence the number of employers sending staff to college for a day a week might start to increase dramatically.
In order to provide a well-rounded and inclusive employee learning scheme, it’s important to incorporate in-house learning. Remember, not all of your staff will want/be able to go back to college, but all should have the chance to develop. Therefore running your own schemes is vital – and potentially cheaper than sending everyone to an external institution.
In-house options range from job shadowing and mentoring (at very little cost), to day-long company-wide training (factor in man hours and trainer’s costs).
The provision naturally depends on the businesses’ resources: trainers, meeting rooms, course material, equipment, etc., but could be a more cost-effective way to allow everyone access to learning.
Another popular option is virtual learning, where employees can access a range of subjects online at their desks, meaning they can learn at their own pace and direct their own development. The cost for elearning varies – it may be priced per unit or by the number of licences bought, but ultimately it allows more people to learn.
Getting the most out of your investment
Professional qualifications, training courses and elearning doesn’t come cheap, we know that. With training budgets under seemingly constant scrutiny, it’s vital that you can prove the business is getting value for money from these educational initiatives.
Before the course is approved, you would naturally need to establish whether the course is a) relevant and b) necessary – that goes without saying. Applicants should demonstrate how and where their learning will enhance their job before that request is signed off, rather than letting them gain the qualification merely for the sake of it.
Unless, of course, your main aim is to show competitors that your workforce is qualified – i.e. that your entire HR department has their CIPD.
One of the biggest worries is that individuals will leave shortly after completing their course. To prevent this – or at least delay it – the learning agreement should stipulate a repayment penalty; where the individual is liable to cover costs for the course should they leave within X amount of time.
Everyone knows that educating your workforce does pay off. As experienced Baby Boomers retire, taking their knowledge with them, it’s vital that the next generations are educated accordingly.
It’s not just about keeping businesses operating and the economy in the black, though; it’s about keeping hold of those valuable employees who could make a difference in the months or years to come. How far should you invest in employee learning? As far as you can.