3 Insights Every Learning Provider Should Have About Employer-Funded Learning

1. A company’s reasons for providing funded learning opportunities can have a major impact on learner outcomes.


We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the war for talent, and the Great Resignation that helped inflame it.  At first blush, understanding the core philosophies that underpin why the companies that employ your students are providing education benefits may seem like niche knowledge. 

It isn’t. 

Offering employer-funded learning on its own doesn’t necessarily mean that a company is thinking beyond talent attraction and retention. And that matters a great deal to learning providers, because it directly impacts the working adult learners they aspire to serve. If a company provides education benefits solely to meet employee demand for them (see section 2)[1], accessibility becomes a concern [2], as well as an increased risk of treating the benefit as a cost center when times are tough, which can be disruptive and costly for students.

Employers do look to education benefits to support attraction and retention strategies. Those that also look to support upskilling and create career mobility pathways within the company are better-aligned with the working adult learner outcomes that programs are under intensifying pressure to deliver. [3]

At Guild, we see this difference every day with employer partners that look to our career opportunity platform as a solution to their values-aligned strategies.  Guild learners enrolled in programs within our certified network are two times more likely to experience an annual role change compared with non-learners at the same companies. [4]

Companies that provide employer-funded learning benefits as part of a broader strategy to create opportunity and broaden access to in-demand, future-aligned roles are powerful partners in an opportunity ecosystem like Guild’s. 


2. Prospective working adult learners don’t just want to see better career opportunities — they want to see meaningful investments in their individual growth.


As Guild has pointed out, again, and again (and again), working adult learners are not a monolith — not as students, and not as employees. However, it is important to understand, at the macro level, what perspectives are resonant across prospective working adult learner populations. This can help learning programs ensure program design and communication align well with learner needs — and the employee expectations companies must rise to.

Recent data show that employees are more willing to quit when their employers fail to provide the right structures and support to help them grow. This includes compensation, but for today’s workforce, that remains more of a “yes, and.” The below data from McKinsey & Company show the most common reasons employees have given for quitting their current job. [5]

However, most of the individuals who want to move into a new role don’t want to have to leave their current employer in order to access that opportunity. A recent Guild Research  survey of close to 2,000 American workers shows that most workers want to move into a new role, and the majority of them hope it will be with their current employer. [6]

Irrespective of role change plans, 74% of all workers we surveyed indicated they would be “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to leave their current employer if they were offered a similar role at another employer — but  with additional education and career opportunities. [7]

Innovative employers are aware that education benefits must be tied to a bigger strategy in order to drive real mobility.  When the right supports are in place, working adult learners are able to access the programs they need to help them achieve their goals. 

Student Story: Learning for a Changing Landscape

Dhanesh knew the value education could bring him in developing himself further as leader, and differentiating himself for future roles aligned with his professional growth goals. Hear how he leveraged Guild’s career opportunity platform to broaden his horizons.


3. For equity-minded employers, there’s way more to the strategy than attraction and retention.


Attraction and retention are critical to every employer — finding and retaining talented individuals to help businesses do well is of course foundational to their success. Providing funded learning opportunities have been shown to support better talent attraction and retention. [8]

But between the interlinked goals of improved talent attraction and improved talent retention is an enormous responsibility many employers are grappling with right now: how best to deliver on employee expectations of career opportunity.  And this is where connecting students with the right learning providers becomes mission-critical. 

Innovative employers are already doing this work, and recognize employer-funded learning as part of a bigger, values-driven strategy that goes well beyond talent attraction and retention. But they need more than 1:1 skills matching. They need learning providers that can help their employees realize their goals of gaining the skills they need for their next role and the future.

Guild’s career mobility platform is trusted by leading employers who partner with us to:

  • Help employees access pathways into in-demand, future-aligned roles
  • Build and grow a culture of opportunity in which career pathways, conversations, and wraparound supports make it easier for all employees to explore where their career and education can take them 
  • Give employees access to coaching and guidance in their growth and education goals, as individuals
  • Access a marketplace of learning partners vetted for quality and a catalog of programs curated to their strategic, mission-aligned needs

Understanding the tailwinds that propel the philosophies and demand for career mobility can help position learning providers to maximize their contribution to impact on working adult learners, and their value to employers. 

Talk to our team to learn more about Learning Partnership opportunities with Guild.

[1] HR Dive, “Education benefits could be key to attracting and retaining talent,” 2022. [2] Georgetown University, “How much do employer-funded education benefits really boost access?,” 2021. [3] United States Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, “Gainful Employment,” 2022. The Biden Administration is planning to propose an amendment to the Higher Education Act in April, 2023 to provide protections to students from programs that purport to be career-aligned but underserved students when it comes to outcomes. A draft of this proposal suggests a requirement for graduates of certificate programs at public and nonprofit colleges and nearly every program at for-profits meet a debt-to-earnings threshold in order to be eligible for federal aid. [4] Guild’s internal data over the last 12 months as of 07.01.2022 from employers who have provided the required data for at least 13 months post launch. [5] McKinsey & Company, “The great attrition is making hiring harder. Are you searching the right talent pools?,” 2022 [6] Guild, “The New ‘Up Or Out,’ Guild’s American Worker Survey Report,” 2022.Guild Research conducted a public online survey of 1,867 workers aged 18-60 (oversampling for those in healthcare, retail, and financial services) across the United States in August 2022. Sixty-four percent indicated they want to be in a new role in the next 2-5 years. Thirty-four percent say they want to grow into a new role with their current employer, versus 31 percent who hope to be with a different employer in any role. [7] Ibid. [8]The Josh Bersin Company, “Career Pathways: Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Today,” 2022.

Written by Alex Cannon

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Alex Cannon has been an advocate for innovative education for over a decade, with experience in higher ed, cross-functional learning partnerships in workforce, government, philanthropy, and postsecondary education, as well as informal learning. She writes and researches from the intersection of the future of learning, work, and opportunity.

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