Big on Education, but Low on Budget? Get Started Fostering a Culture of Learning with These 8 Ideas

You don’t need a lot of money to create an education assistance program at your small business. Here are 8 ideas to help you get started, no matter your budget.
Big on Education, but Low on Budget? Get Started Fostering a Culture of Learning with These 8 Ideas
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It’s been months since we first heard rumblings of The Great Reshuffling. By now, we all know a colleague or two who’s changed jobs; maybe you personally experienced work-induced burnout and took a career break

With no end in sight for this job exodus phenomenon, companies are getting creative with their employee retention strategies. Some companies are focusing on rewards and recognition, supporting employee well-being, or offering flexible schedules. Still others are implementing or expanding tuition assistance programs to retain their top talent.

Of course, as a small business HR professional, you might have already considered a tuition assistance program as a retention tool, but were told ‘no’ because it was too costly. We feel you. 

That’s why we’ve rounded up eight ideas for assisting employees with furthering their education—from traditional tuition assistance to low-cost mentorship programs—and what it will cost to get started.

Let’s find an education assistance program that works for your budget. 

8 Ways to Support Education Assistance for Employees

Want to offer your employees education assistance but not sure what’s available—or what your company can afford? Here are eight education assistance ideas with price tags ranging from large to small. 

1. Traditional tuition assistance program

A tuition assistance program (TAP), also commonly referred to as a tuition reimbursement program, is a company benefit offered to employees to aid them with the cost of tuition. 

Companies will sometimes require employees to submit their tuition costs and intended courses for pre-approval to ensure that the degree program and/or coursework aligns with their job or will benefit the company.

Tuition assistance programs are a great recruitment and retention tool. Offering tuition assistance helps employees feel that the company sees their potential—and will be motivated to prove them right. As we all know, engaged and satisfied employees mean better retention and lower turnover.

Those who understand retention know that turnover is costly. Contrary to old school business, modern employees only stay with a company for an average of 2-5 years. It’s imperative that companies create initiatives to lengthen retention and develop their workforce to meet future needs."

However, TAPs can also be costly, especially if you’re a large organization that offers generous reimbursement.

How much does it cost? 
Large companies like Home Depot and Walmart offer tuition assistance as an employer benefit. Home Depot offers up to $5,000 in tuition assistance for full-time, salaried employees who’ve been with the company for at least 90 days. Walmart, on the other hand, pays 100% of employees’ tuition when they study business management, supply chain management, or cyber security.

2. In-house learning and development

Want to approach education from the inside out? Having a trainer on staff can help achieve your goal of offering employees learning and development opportunities, while also administering industry- or company-specific training that targets the skills needed to be successful in your market. 

How much does it cost? 
Employing an in-house learning and development specialist means your costs are relatively fixed—i.e., the employee’s salary plus the tools and resources they need to train employees.

3. Industry certifications

Paying for industry-specific certifications demonstrates to employees that you support them in becoming an expert in their field. It fulfills employees’ intrinsic need to continue growing and developing, and can also boost your marketing and or business development efforts when employees share their accreditations in a public forum, such as on LinkedIn. 

In some industries, certifications are held in higher regard than a four-year degree due to the specific knowledge needed to earn the certificate.

How much does it cost? 
It depends on the certification and industry. For example, an IT professional might seek out an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Developer credential that costs $150. Meanwhile, your head of marketing might want the Harvard Marketing Management Certification which costs almost $9,000 for four courses.

4. Coursera for Teams

Coursera is an online learning platform offering more than 4,000 virtual classes developed by universities and companies. Coursera for Teams is specifically created for small businesses wanting to upskill their workforce.  

How much does it cost? 
Coursera for Teams costs $399 per person per year.

5. SkillShare for Teams

Similar to Coursera, SkillShare is an online learning platform that supports learning through a culture of creativity. SkillShare for Teams offers companies a catalog of creative content—whether your team wants to build hard skills or find a new creative outlet.

How much does it cost? 
The Starter plan for teams of up to 19 people costs $159 per person per year. 

6. Lunch and Learn series

A Lunch and Learn series is a great way to facilitate your ongoing mission to support employee learning and development, as well as foster community and engagement at work. 

For each event, you can invite guest speakers from outside your organization to come and talk to your employees on a topic of their choosing. Or, keep it even lower cost and ask your own executives and leaders to be your guest speakers. 

The speaker you choose will determine if the lunch and learn is a complete success (or a complete failure). Start with a leader internal to the organization — someone who understands the employees. This leader will know how to keep employees engaged in the presentation and deliver the information. As you prepare for the lunch and learn, ensure the speaker has everything they need to be successful."

How much does it cost? 
The cost of lunch for the group, plus any fees you may pay a guest speaker.

7. Monthly book club

Is your company small on budget but big on community? Then a monthly book club might be the right choice for you. This low-cost option simply requires a volunteer leader to keep the group organized, pick a book each month and a date to discuss it, and get the conversation started. And a budget to buy each month’s book, of course. 

How much does it cost? 
The cost of the book times your employee population.

Let’s say you pick Adam Grant’s new book, Think Again, as your next book club pick. It costs $28. You have 45 employees. That’s a cost of just $1,260 to support your entire company’s education for a month, not to mention the boost to engagement and retention. 

8. Mentorship program

Of course, one of the best resources for helping your employees grow is staring you in the face: your own knowledgeable employees!

Create a mentorship program that pairs your in-house experts with employees who are interested in learning from their peers in a one-on-one environment. Then, let the mentors and mentees drive the relationships. Et voila!

How much does it cost? 
Free!

Almost three-quarters of people consider mentors as important influences in their career. However, less than half of these same people actually have a workplace mentor. One of the biggest reasons for this may be that most people simply aren’t sure where to start in an employee mentoring relationship. This is where HR professionals could really add real value by developing an employee mentoring program within their workplaces.”

Make Time for Continued HR Learning, too

It’s easy to focus on everyone else’s needs, and neglect your own—especially when taking care of people is at the core of what you do. 

At Eddy, we help busy HR professionals by taking administrative tasks off your plate, so you can focus on taking care of your employees—and yourself!

Want one less thing on your to-do list? Subscribe to get our weekly newsletter featuring the trends shaping the HR industry right to your inbox.

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