Starbucks started out as a small business, too. So perhaps someday, you too can make international news by offering all your employees college tuition reimbursement. Someday.
Today, you’re not Starbucks. Today, you’re a small business with minimal resources and the idea of supporting your employees’ college dreams seems impossible. But before you discard the idea like yet another furniture store mailer, stop and think about why it might be a good idea for your business, and what kinds of things you can do.
You’re a smaller company than most, so the options you can offer to recruit good workers are inherently going to be limited. Less opportunity for advancement, fewer perks, less benefits, etc. But even if you can’t afford full health coverage or daycare, showing you care about employee well-being is a very attractive recruitment tool.
Essentially, if you offer any form of educational reimbursement and a larger company does not, it gives you a considerable edge.
Further, giving education to employees is a great investment in your business. Provided you build in a provision that the employee stay with your company for a set amount of time after the education is completed, you will get yourself more knowledgeable, talented employees working for you. Who also should have a sense of loyalty and appreciation for what your company does.
“Well that’s all cupcakes and sunshine,’ you might say. “But I still can’t afford to be sending my managers to online MBA programs like I’m Microsoft or something.”
This is true. But what you probably CAN afford to do is pay for individual classes that help your employees’ professional growth. Local high schools, community colleges, professional associations and universities, as well as online programs, offer all kinds of courses in just about everything from organizational behavior to advanced auto maintenance to expert computer systems training. And so long as you keep the coursework relevant to your business and don’t end up inadvertently paying someone’s way through cosmetology school, the investment will pay off.
If you want to bring the education to your employees, many small businesses bring instructors to their business to teach on-site courses over a period of time. For instance you might get someone to teach a course on effective project management or business communication, and allow employees time during the work day to attend.
Or, if the cost of bringing in an instructor is too much for you, see if any of your employees are experts in an area that might benefit everyone, and offer that person some kind of incentive to develop a course on it.
Online courses are another way to go, and even if you can’t cover all of the costs, giving employees time during the day to work on those courses will help.
And, believe it or not, there are actually a number of free courses you can encourage – or even incentivize – employees to take through SCORE, OSHA, the SBA, and even the IRS (see, they’re not completely evil). Many universities also offer non-accredited, online courses for free which may not help your employees towards a degree, but will definitely help their workplace skills. And it’s not your local community college either. It’s big names like Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Penn.
While you may think it wise to limit courses your employees take to those that directly affect their jobs, more broad business courses like English Composition, Labor Relations, Organizational Psychology and managerial courses will give your employees better business sense, and possibly prepare them for future management positions in your business.
However educational assistance fits into your business, it’s a benefit that will breed loyalty among your employees and benefit your company in the future. And while you’re a few billion dollars away from helping everyone you employ get an online degree from Arizona State, you can start by helping them help themselves. And, in the not so distant future, help YOURSELF, too.
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