3 Key Elements of Talent Development Programs that Motivate & Engage Employees

Today’s workers are not just looking for a job – they want career growth opportunities: 48% of American workers would switch to a new job if offered skills training.

But many early models of employee education fail to meet the needs of all workers. For example, tuition reimbursement can’t create opportunity if your frontline workforce can’t afford to pay upfront or go into debt to access it.

Some organizations are catching on to the limitations of these early models and finding new and more equitable ways to foster employee growth. These employers are creating cultures of opportunity by investing in education, skills, and career mobility for all workers, and aligning those programs to company goals.

So how can organizations ensure that an education program doesn’t just enable career growth, but also contributes to building a culture of opportunity? 

We’ve identified three elements of an education program that help motivate and engage employees, ultimately instilling a culture of opportunity in your workforce.

1. Speed up credentials through “credit for experience,” boosting confidence for workers.

Many employees have a wealth of learning and experience — whether that’s from the many hours of job training they receive or from their work history generally. Those experiences just haven’t been translated into academic credit. 

As the popularity of education benefits programs increases, learning providers are becoming more open to new innovations that help meet the needs of these new learners — such as the idea of recognizing corporate training or work experience as credit toward a degree or stackable credential. Credit for experience has become a way for companies and universities to work together to validate on-the-job learning and experience while accelerating skills acquisition.

By categorizing and counting this learning toward an employees’ degree, you help employees start closer to the finish line, saving valuable time on completion for learners while saving valuable cost for education for the company by avoiding redundant coursework.

Learners are more likely to complete their education with credit for experience

This kind of thoughtful, intentional approach to learning helps foster a culture of opportunity. 

For workers that may have had a negative or limited experience with higher education, it provides a key boost of confidence to know that they’ve already completed some of the work required for a degree. Trimming 12 to 15 hours off a credentialed program through “credit for experience” can save a learner one to two semesters of classes.

And this boost provides momentum as well. When learners enter college with existing credits, they are more likely to complete their education. 

This is especially true for underrepresented populations. For example, Guild research has found that credit for experience is proven to boost Hispanic adults’ degree completion by 24% and Black adults by 14%.

2. Mark meaningful milestones on the opportunity journey through stackability.

Stackable learning refers to the practice of offering education options that build on each other over time, enabling value in the short term while “stacking” to the economic value of a full degree in the long term. For example, taking a data analysis bootcamp or certificate could count as credit toward a bachelor’s degree at another institution. 

There are also “College Start” programs that help learners transition into higher education, laying the academic foundation for success while providing credits that count toward a degree.

As with credit for experience programs, this practice can boost learner confidence and support a culture of opportunity through a focus on lifelong learning. Imagine how powerful it can be for a learner to start a degree program and walk through the door with the equivalent of one to two semesters of experience already complete. 

Consider short-form options to mobilize employees faster

While there’s still economic value to a full college degree, there are alternative ways to build skills and enable valuable learning experiences. Short-form learning is becoming more common in the workplace. 

In addition to foundational learning and degrees, businesses should consider skills-based, short-form learning, such as certificates, career diplomas, bootcamps, and beyond. 

These formats can help workers upskill or reskill in the short term, while helping them build even more skills over time. 

3. Ensure access to opportunity through coaching.

Going back to school as a working adult can be challenging.

Most employees have been out of school for many years, and many frontline workers either carry previous student loan debt, are navigating college as a first-generation student, or both. 

Offering opportunity through education won’t be enough for some employees — they need additional support. 

As individuals juggle work, family life, and school, they face a number of logistical and psychological challenges. This is why dedicated employee coaching can be so impactful to creating and maintaining a sense of opportunity. 

Coaches can provide a full spectrum of support

In the initial stages, a coach’s job might involve helping employees compare and contrast career paths, identify the right learning program, and build a personalized pathway to get there. 

Once employees are enrolled in a program, a coach can help them stay motivated and overcome any obstacles they might encounter while balancing work and school. They can also provide support as workers transition to a new job. 

Intentional education design is key to a culture of opportunity

The three elements we’ve covered here – credit for experience, stackability, and coaching – will ensure your education programs meet your employees where they are today and help you create a culture of opportunity for tomorrow. And there’s no better way to show your people that you’re investing in their future.  

Want to learn more about creating a culture of opportunity at your organization? Get all the details in our guide

Career Mobility E-book



Written by Madi Shove



Director of Product Marketing

Madi works alongside Guild's Solutions and Product teams to build and launch solutions that meet the needs of our stakeholders. Her team is responsible for customer and market intelligence, turning valuable insights into actionable plans to enhance our product roadmap and ultimately better serve our employers and our rapidly growing learner population.

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