BIZTIPS - October 14, 2007

Biz Tips: New Studies Link Training, Loyalty
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007
By Art Hill

Word on the street is that money spent on training is money wasted because trained employees soon go to work for somebody else.

Well, the word on the street is dead wrong. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 60% of employees who participated in their employer's tuition assistance program were still with that employer 5 years later, compared with a dismal 33% who didn't participate. An earlier study by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School concluded "tuition assistance appears to select better-quality employees who stay on the job longer."

That means that the old complaint about losing well trained workers is not only bogus, it's bogus by nearly double! So how can your company cut turnover nearly in half through employee training and education?

There are two ways -- the first is direct training. Every year BMCC trains hundreds of area workers in key job skills; sometimes on-site, during or between shifts. This year's round of Oregon's Employer Workforce Training Fund dollars are now available. If you haven't seen the ads, call or e-mail me and I'll get you the information you need.

The second type of education support is tuition assistance. This can include total or partial payment (up-front or reimbursed) for tuition, fees, books, travel, or any combination of out-of-pocket expenses for training, certification, or an academic degree.

One employer in our region asked how he can get more employees to take advantage of his tuition assistance program. Low participation usually points to other barriers in company policies. One is time. If the courses employees need are offered during work hours, companies can offer flexible work schedules or release time for students. Once company cited in a recent Wall Street Journal article offers up to 3 hours per week for class time. BMCC now offers many required courses at night or on weekends at all campus locations. These are some ways to reduce time barriers to participation.

Another barrier is reimbursement of expenses vs. outright payment. While tuition reimbursement might be a reasonable approach to funding an employee's advanced degree, some workers can't afford to gamble their family income on getting a specific grade in a class. Sometimes they need a tuition or expense advance. If you trust them with your customers and assets, you can probably trust them to complete the course you've paid for.

So consider education the next time you're wondering how to drive down turnover. Without a plan, two thirds of the people at your next staff meeting will be gone within 5 years. With it, the majority will be there with you, better educated, better able to make your company competitive, profitable, and smart.

Content © 2007 East Oregonian