Is Your Education Benefit Helping You Recruit and Retain Talent?

Considering all the layoffs in the past year and the pandemic-ravaged economy, you might think that the millions of people who lost their jobs are scrambling to find work.

But you’d be wrong.

The competition for employees is accelerating, which means it’s harder than ever for employers to attract and retain quality talent. And in today’s war for talent, employees have the upper hand. Last year, 69% of companies reported talent shortages — the highest in a decade.

To recruit employees in this hot job market, talent attraction mechanisms are far exceeding bigger paychecks and increased vacation time. McDonalds is offering iPhones. Sign-up bonuses are growing larger. Free appetizers encourage job applicants to complete an application, and one employer gives Dogecoin to those who make it to the interview round of the hiring process. But this isn’t enough. Even if these tactics bring workers through the door, it doesn’t keep them in their seats: The number of people quitting their jobs reached a record high in April, a strong indicator that workers feel like they can find something else. And almost 50% of organizations with a majority blue-collar workforce are finding it difficult to retain workers, an increase of 30% before the pandemic.

Some employers choose a different approach to differentiate themselves from the competition — riding a new wave of innovative talent acquisition and development strategies that go far beyond the sign-up bonuses of the past. Regardless of industry, companies are more willing to train workers, design career pathing, and prioritize upskilling, all of which underscore a renewed focus on economic mobility.

Employees crave these educational opportunities: 

  • Almost half of workers nationally believe they need additional education to advance their careers
  • More than 90% of new jobs are being filled by people with a college degree, underscoring the economic mobility that comes with additional education
  • 97% of employees say education benefits are an important part of an overall employer benefits package
  • 4 out of 5 employees prefer more benefits over a pay raise

Education and upskilling is the key to win in a tight talent market 

A few foundational elements help education and upskilling programs drive both attraction and retention, with a value proposition of economic mobility that is particularly compelling for frontline employees. 

  1. A variety of programming: College degrees continue to prove their value in the labor market. However, credentials, certificates, and apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular as a replacement or supplement to the traditional college pathways. These emerging education models are stackable, less expensive, and require less time to complete. The opportunity to achieve continual education retains employees: Short-form programs map directly to in-demand roles and necessary competencies, increasing the likelihood of mobility, and degrees are longer form, incentivizing employees to stay and graduate. 
  2. Vetted by outcomes: The academic landscape is constantly changing. Education and upskilling programs need to be continually vetted for learner outcomes, like program completion, retention, promotion, and earnings increases. When education programming is designed with outcomes in mind, workers have the opportunity to redefine career paths, take courses that help them gain skills for their current roles, and stack learnings towards a degree. 
  3. Learning marketplace for working adults: Working adults have different needs than the traditional college student, like flexible scheduling, an online focus, and wraparound support services. To attract diverse candidates, include programs focused on serving diverse populations, such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), military-friendly organizations, and Hispanic-serving institutions/
  4. Dedicated success coaching: Coaching is particularly helpful for employees. They provide 1:1 career coaching, assistance with program selection and application, and, perhaps most importantly, offer emotional support and accountability. 

Beyond these fundamentals, some businesses are taking employer-sponsored education a step further and extending educational benefits to families of employees. Waste Management will pay for employees to earn bachelor’s and associate degrees, as well as a wide range of certificates. And beginning this year, Waste Management will also offer these scholarships to spouses and children of workers. 

“We knew we had to do something radically different to make Waste Management attractive when you have other companies looking for the same type of worker,” said Tamla Oates-Forney, chief people officer at Waste Management. “There is such a war for talent that compensation isn’t a differentiator.”

When employers enable education and training that aligns with their business, the results speak for themselves: 

  • 86% of employees are more likely to refer someone to work at their employer because of their education benefits.
  • Walmart saw a 15% increase in applicants citing the retailer’s education benefit as the reason for applying 
  • Employers partnering with Guild have seen an 80%+ job retention rate of Guild students 

Today’s labor market favors employee choice. The question is: Amid labor scarcity, can employers create an environment and conditions not only attractive enough to bring top talent into the labor force, but make them stay?

Written by Guild Education

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