C-Suite Advisory

Six Ways Strategic Workforce Education Can Boost A Company’s Bottom Line

Jonathan Lau, Chief Learner Officer & Co-Founder at InStride
Jonathan Lau, Chief Learner Officer & Co-Founder at InStride

As the global business marketplace experiences rapid change, one of the most enduring ways for companies to build resilience is by investing in their most important asset – their employees.

With the pandemic disrupting the U.S. economy and automation restructuring existing roles, the ever-growing skills gap is more critical than ever before.

A critical business strategy to address pandemic recovery and mitigate skills gaps is workforce education. By investing in these programs for employees to earn skills, credentials and degrees, companies can elevate their entire workforce and deliver meaningful business and social impact.

When aligned with a company’s strategic business needs and growth goals, workforce education programs can have six major benefits on an entire organization, including:

  1. Becoming More Agile
    In today’s rapidly evolving environment, workforce education also equips companies and employees with skills to meet the needs of the market. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the words “business” and “pivot” have been regularly used side-by-side, but what are the actual benefits of a business pivot? Everything in the world is changing at a rapid pace, and businesses are no exception.

    When businesses are able to pivot their offerings, large or small, they’re able to stay relevant and resilient, and employees are part of this equation. Upskilling or reskilling employees enables the workforce and the business to become more agile, ensuring that the organization is able to continually innovate in order to stay relevant and competitive. As CEOs and business leaders provide access to educational opportunities to help reskill employees, they’re creating a more well-rounded workforce, ultimately increasing their team’s effectiveness. As such, rather than cutting staff due to skills gaps, upskilling and retraining employees can positively impact company culture and the company’s bottom line.

  2. Meeting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Goals
    As companies reckon with issues related to lack of diversity, particularly among their leadership, workforce education can help level the playing field for all employees. While hiring diverse talent drives representation, it’s just as critical to provide meaningful career advancement opportunities to current employees – from frontline associates to C-suite.

    By investing in workforce education programs, companies can play an important role in making quality education more accessible and affordable to individuals who have faced barriers to higher education in the past. Thus, an investment in education is an investment in addressing equity within a company. The access to higher education allows workers to obtain the skills needed to succeed and grow in their career.

  3. Retaining and Attracting Top Talent
    Workforce education and skills development programs can improve morale and employee satisfaction because leaders are showing, rather than telling, how they appreciate and are invested in their employees’ careers and futures. This is largely because these programs provide opportunities for employees looking to grow their careers and increase their earnings potential. In fact, 61% of millennials globally believe learning is the key to success in their career. At the same time, when employees feel supported by their employer, they can play an integral role in the recruitment of new talent that is looking to grow at a company or transition into a new role.
  4. Boosting Brand Recognition
    Aligning to your brand values through purpose-driven efforts matters. Investing in your employees’ education gets them motivated about working toward something that will better their lives. This creates a deep sense of purpose, and provides a unique opportunity for the company to become an “employer of choice” which elevates the corporate brand internally and externally.

    Research has found that when a brand has a strong purpose, consumers are four times more likely to purchase from the brand and trust the brand. While a workforce education program may look different from other company perks like free lunch or unlimited PTO, employees will always remember the impact of a life-changing investment in their education, and this positive sentiment can reverberate out to your customers.

  5. Doing Well by Doing Good – Corporate Citizenship
    It is important not to underestimate the power of being considered a good corporate citizen. The incredible impact employees realize through an investment in their education will resonate throughout their lives. It can even have a generational impact on their families. If there are a significant number of employees who utilize the opportunity to pursue their education in a given geography, the entire community can benefit from the investment by a corporation in its people.
  6. Maintaining Revenue and Profitability
    Any initiative has to be reviewed through the lens of the ROI to the company. The previous five benefits must bolster a company’s ability to demonstrate that an investment in its people fits with both its short-term and long-term financial plans. Companies shouldn’t be limited in their growth because of their talent. As an example, retailers need to be able to have enough managers to open new stores. Properly trained salespeople are needed to sell more of the company’s goods.

    Companies without talented product developers aren’t able to build more products. When a workforce continues to acquire new knowledge, productivity increases as does engagement. By crafting learning experiences that optimize returns and reduce the risk of new industry pressures, companies can better develop a revenue and profitability strategy.

While workforce education programs have a myriad of benefits, it’s important to continually measure outcomes. Gathering and utilizing data, including direct feedback from employees, will allow leaders to determine the success of the programs, as well as the shortcomings in order to make any necessary adjustments. Education is not a one-size-fits all, and making sure each employee is getting what they need is crucial to capture all the potential benefits.

As companies continue to grapple with the challenges resulting from the pandemic, strategic workforce education can play an integral role in building organizational resilience. It can ensure companies grow stronger by filling skills gaps, uplifting employees and creating equal access to meaningful career and leadership opportunities. Leaders have the unique ability to provide this benefit, so what are they waiting for? The time for upskilling and reskilling is now.

Written by Jonathan Lau.

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Jonathan Lau
Jonathan Lau is the Co-Founder and Chief Learner Officer of InStride, a public benefit company that enables employers to provide career-boosting degrees and credentials to their employees, through leading global academic institutions.

Jonathan holds a master’s and bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jonathan Lau is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.