Executives have become painfully aware of the gap between employee skills and skills needed to achieve the company goals. To succeed in an economy that has become fiercely competitive, you need employees who can support the effort.
For most companies this means that you need employees who are willing to continue self-development and who embrace the concept of lifelong learning. Major technological advances and frequent changes in the business environment require that employees keep their skills updated as well as acquire new skills to meet future needs.
The challenge for many managers is how to convince employees. After all, most people already have jobs and are often juggling family responsibilities and work. It can be difficult to strike the perfect balance between their personal and professional lives already.Some have little motivation to add another commitment to their already busy schedules, especially one as demanding as completing a degree or taking a technical course to gain proficiency.
Offering incentives can be an excellent method to use, especially to motivate someone who is “on the fence.”
Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary. You might consider offering a combination of both types to encourage more workers to participate.
Monetary incentives include cash payments to or on behalf of an employee, as well as goods purchased for the employee. Some examples:
- Tuition assistance plans are among the most popular incentives. There are different types of payment methods. With tuition reimbursement, the employee is reimbursed upon successful completion of the course. Direct bill or prepay is when payment is made directly to the educational institution.
- You could offer a one-time bonus to an employee upon the successful completion of a degree. The amount could be the same for any degree, but you could also adjust the amount according to the degree earned, offering one amount for an associate degree and different amounts for a bachelor's, master's or Ph.D, for example.
- Employees might also be motivated by other types of rewards. Stock options, laptop computers or donations to a charity of choice, for example, are excellent incentives.
Non-monetary incentives are those that cost you little to nothing. However, they can be a great way to encourage employees, especially those taking a short course or seminar rather than a full degree. Some possibilities:
- Offer public recognition of accomplishments. Announce achievements in a newsletter, celebrate with a lunchtime cake, or award a certificate to the employee.
- Permit employees to work flexible hours while classes are in session. This allows them to maximize their schedules, such as taking a required course that is only offered during the day or being able to attend to their family commitments without having to miss class.
- Reward employees with in-house learning opportunities that are not available to everyone. For example, an employee who earns a minimum GPA for a semester might be given the opportunity to shadow a C-level executive for a week or take a training course normally reserved for those in a higher job grade.
Some employers feel that it is in an employee’s own best interest to further their education. Therefore they assume that rewarding the behavior is unnecessary. But keep in mind you are going to need qualified, educated employees more with each passing year. Education and learning programs are mutually beneficial to companies and employees. Offering incentives can help both groups achieve their goals.