(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at Bright Horizons, which manages over $1B in annual talent investment through Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions. Bright Horizons is a supporter of the CARES Student Loan Repayment Provision, which the U.S. Congress has extended to 2025. Enjoy the article!)
Over the past few years, employers have been really worried about an employee skills gap, especially in the area of technology. The pandemic has only accelerated this issue, with many reports showing the pace of digital transformation moving even faster now than before.
And yet there’s another, perhaps bigger, concern. Organizations know they need to educate their workforce to keep up with transforming skills, but they also need to do it in a way that reaches the new hybrid workforce (i.e. some in-office and some remote employees). Education programs have to be able to deliver the skills that organizations need with modern learning styles and in a way that doesn’t involve a centralized location.
That last part – about meeting employees where they are – is going to be extra important. Remote work is the default setting for many employees. There’s a reason it ranks on Bright Horizon’s e-book of essentials to future-proof your workforce. Not only do three-quarters of senior leaders at PwC say remote work is here to stay, almost as many at KPMG are actually downsizing office space. Google went as far to put the hybrid workforce model on paper as the policy for the company’s return to the office later this year.
Another reason for organizations to pay close attention: education assistance benefits remain an employee priority. We already know job candidates look for these benefits. We also know a big reason that employees stay with an organization is because they see career growth potential and feel the organization is invested in their success. And career growth spells confidence. With the hybrid workforce, organizations are going to have to reassure all employees that they can still reach their career goals, regardless of where they’re located.
To do all that, HR departments and management teams will have to look carefully at their current education benefits to make sure it meets the needs of a hybrid workforce. Here are five considerations that should be part of an education benefits review:
Evaluate what the organization currently offers: Review the education benefit to ensure that the program’s goals and implementation align with company culture and the evolving employee experience. Look at notes from exit and stay interviews for feedback.
Enhance online learning options: Remote working has increased comfort with online learning. Talk with your benefits partner to confirm that educational benefits include online colleges and universities and newer, innovative online learning programs such as MOOCs (massive open online courses) which offer a certificate for a small fee.
Communicate: Managers need to be up to speed on the program details so they can remind employees about the benefit and answer basic questions during one-on-one meetings and performance conversations.
Ensure information is easy to access: Program details and FAQs should be easily searchable on your company intranet. If your organization has employee self-service or an internal help desk, ensure information can be found there as well.
Talk it up: Make sure you’re including education benefits in recruitment marketing. Let candidates know what the organization offers and encourage recruiters and hiring managers to mention it during interviews.
As organizations plan for the future, workplace flexibility will be at the center of the employee experience. Hybrid workplaces might not be forever, but my guess is it will be around for a while. And the key to delivering a successful employee experience is going to require benefits, policies, and procedures that work whether you’re in the office or working remotely.
If you want to learn more about aligning your education benefits with company culture, download the Bright Horizon’s ebook, “Future-Proofing Skills: 5 Essentials for Your Workforce Education Strategy”. It’s an excellent read you’ll want to share around the (virtual) office.28