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Tuition Reimbursement: Don’t Throw Your Investment Away

Brandy Urbine

In today’s world, there is a new spirit of doing more with less. This becomes possible when an organization has employees with a vested interest in the success of the organization. One method of instilling this vested interest is by offering competitive benefits packages to meet employees various needs. One often kept legacy benefit are tuition reimbursement plans. Tuition reimbursement, at face value, makes good business sense. For the employer, there is the promise of a more skilled workforce. For the worker there is the promise of a better future.

Employers invest time and financial resources in training employees on the inner workings of their trade. This in conjunction with providing financial assistance for employees to attain degree(s) signifies a substantial investment in their employees. Often employees/students earn their degrees and the employer does not capitalize on their investment. This presents problems for both parties.

An individual who has attained a degree and is unable to move up in the organization may begin to develop low morale. Additionally, there may be feelings of resentment if the employee is receiving additional responsibilities with no additional compensation. This presents potential turnover, financial loss for the employer, increased recruitment costs, inconsistency in daily tasks and additional workforce development needs.

The reasons for these types of situations are varied and usually attributed to the employer. This may be a result of a lack of available responsible positions. It is not uncommon for the graduated employee to see their own employer post jobs requiring the credentials they have and for the individual to be denied the position due to a lack of experience. Unfortunately, while the employee obtained the degree they have been unable to develop their experience as senior/supervisory staff. The problem; how does one acquire experience when experience is a prerequisite of gaining it?

Failure to capitalize on personnel investments is an irresponsible use of constituent’s tax dollars and a detriment to the organization as a whole. I propose that organizations implementing tuition reimbursement programs do so in conjunction with other personnel development programs such as:

  • Voluntary Mentoring Programs: where employees have an opportunity to shadow senior staff, on their own time, to gain insight on the senior level responsibilities.
  • Succession Planning: whenever possible give tuition reimbursement program participants the opportunity to work with retiring staff for a period of time prior to their departure.
  • Project Management: give program participants the ability to head projects within their departments to gain experience.
  • Management Trainee Programs: if funding permits, implement programs that place individuals who have successfully completed a degree program to train in various management positions.

Allowing employees to participate in activities of this nature should promote a sense of accomplishment. This should in turn develop a stronger bond between the individual and the organization. Once given the opportunity to advance within an organization, the employee should be more likely to devote themselves to said organization.

That is not to say however that employees should be given free reign of such programs. These types of programs would be comprised of workers who, in certain instances, would serve as managers. Initial assignments should include oversight of very menial tasks, but with successes, responsibilities should increase in complexity and consequence. As their competency improved existing managers could delegate more to them and be freed up for more important tasks. More would get done, with greater oversight.

Evaluations of the trainee’s progress should be completed and documented. Whenever a superior leaves or moves up, their successor is built into the organization. It is generally more cost effective to promote from within than it is recruit. Often with recruiting there are re-location costs, while not paid directly, can factor into salary negotiations. Also with a structured management trainee program, a unified management philosophy can be implemented.

When employees have made a commitment to education and your organization has paid for much of this education, why not reap the benefits with a built in succession plan? Why not inspire other employees in your organization to better themselves? Do not allow your investment to go across town and pay dividends to another organization.

Brandy Urbine is second year MPA student at Florida International University and Service Writer for the City of Coral Gables Fleet Management Department. Email: [email protected]

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