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Tuition and Education Support Improves Employee Retention and Business Growth

The EvoLLLution | Tuition and Education Support Improves Employee Retention and Business Growth
Contrary to popular fear that employees will take advantage of a discounted education and leave, supporting employee education, development and growth improves employee retention and supports business growth.

Developing talent within organizations is essential to maintain a competitive knowledge supply-chain advantage. For some organizations, the validation standard for professional development programs involves whether or not alignment to organizational objectives exists. While companies know the benefits of funding professional development opportunities, many struggle to identify the right approach.

According to the 2014 Employee Benefits Report published by SHRM, 54 percent of companies offer undergraduate tuition reimbursement and 50 percent offer graduate educational assistance programs with an average maximum of $4500 tuition expense.

Based on these numbers, there is perceived value in development programs. As global organizations continue to grow, leaders will be faced with identifying learning programs to address skill gaps and keeping up with changing technology to remain competitive.

The Question

Organizations likely contemplate the question of funding development programs with apprehension of employee movement for a variety of reasons.  Will the employee leave upon completion of formal education programs? If an employee engages in company-provided professional development, how long will the person remain in the current role? In what timeframe will the organization realize a return on the investment?

Each question prompts the need for leaders and talent engagement teams to integrate methods that uncover employee interests and goals associated with development activities.

Challenges Ahead

Companies might struggle to find balance, ensuring programs will yield practical and tangible results while retaining employees who take advantage of development. While funding development opportunities for employees is critical for long-term performance success, organizations grapple with possibility of employee departure following completion of human capital development programs. Such programming includes tuition-based learning and company-provided professional development activity.

In my experience, employees have enrolled in costly development programs, failed to successfully complete the full program and moved into other roles. Though this depicts worst case scenario, the reality of the L&D landscape for any employer points to serving a workforce inclusive of four distinct generations with a number of learning and career interests that evolve over time. Despite this example and many others that allude to progressive employees taking advantage of development programs then leaving their organizations, a Bersin & Associates study shows that 92 percent of tuition recipients remain with the employer.

A Better Outcome

 Training programs target a blend of personal and professional learning objectives with a primary purpose of developing skills for both current and future roles. When companies provide educational opportunities, this win-win benefits the organization long-term. Research has shown that a highly skilled workforce provides an organizational competitive advantage including improved culture and client interactions. Skill alignment between development activities and organizational objectives also creates greater employee-focused investment outcomes. Since learning is multi-dimensional and ought to provide an extension of practice, carry informative discussion and skill application, the primary focus for organizations should be employee preparation. This level of skill is required for not only the current role but also future roles, whether within the company or elsewhere.

Connect with Employees

 It is essential for organizations to develop employee skill sets to address business needs. Equally important are processes for organizations to identify learning programs that result in efficient and measureable returns. Employees look for companies that provide tuition funding among other developmental prospects. Job hunters and existing employees know that a company that shows interest in education is a great place to begin and continue a career journey.

For this reason, it is important for organizations to connect with employees throughout both formal and informal learning experiences. Managers play an important role in this communication and can learn whether the employee is seeking education to build a robust portfolio of supplemental experience for the current role or due to interest in taking on a new role. Having this information will determine employee v. organizational goal alignment. Additional benefits of increased engagement include identifying ways that team members need to be intellectually challenged. So challenge them already!


In a fast-tracked global economy, the likelihood of employees moving into new roles is a topic that creates a dilemma for many organization leaders. Striking a balance between the possibility of staff moving into new roles after taking advantage of development opportunities and stimulating employees to yield immediate business results will play a pivotal role in the future of learning consumption. The sensible approach: help improve the skills of employees within the company and connect with team members in a way that translates to “we care about your growth and would like for you to stay!”  The motivating factor for offering employee development should not emphasize whether the employee stays. Rather the focus should align with the level of preparation offered to meet rapidly changing business demands.

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Bersin & Associates. ADP Case Study. (2012). Retrieved from

EdAssist. (2012). Review of Employer Tuition Assistance Programs. Retrieved from

Society of Human Resource Management. (2014). Employee Benefits. An Overview of Employee Benefits. Retrieved from