Lend a helping hand Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
Business owners and company CEOs know that as the cost of doing business increases, cutting costs is the first action to increase the bottom line. More often than not, one of the first steps in cutting costs is to cut training and tuition benefits. This action can delay or prevent downsizing but it is important to consider how adding or preserving tuition reimbursement can actually improve a company’s bottom line.

Smart Business talked to Laura Steenbergen, MBA and southern Ohio regional director of Mount Vernon Nazarene University about why it’s important for companies to keep tuition reimbursement as an option.

How does tuition reimbursement directly benefit a company or business?

Consistently providing training or dollars to increase employees’ skills and knowledge makes your company highly desirable and more likely to attract quality employees. Employers often forget that when they interview candidates to determine if they are qualified and a good job-fit, candidates are also measuring them against their competition. Any company that provides a way for an employee to increase knowledge, skills and abilities will rise to the top of the list of desirable employers.

Genentech, a biotechnology firm whose chief executive regularly fields questions from workers and where employees have access to $10,000 in annual tuition reimbursements, earned top honors on Fortune’s 2006 list of ‘best companies’ to work for. Who wouldn’t be attracted to one of the best companies?

What prevents employees from getting their degree and then leaving the company that paid for it?

That’s an excellent question. Once you gain a work force with increased management, communication and writing skills, you certainly don’t want to lose him or her to your competition. First, you can add a stipulation to the tuition benefit by stating that employees must work for the company for a set number of months after they receive their degree. For example, an employee who enrolls and completes a 22-month accelerated degree program, may be required to work for the employer for 22 months after graduation. Since the company has invested in the employee, it is only fair to receive interest in the form of company loyalty for the length of time that it took to obtain the degree.

If an employee is already doing the job, why should a company pay for tuition for him/her to pursue a degree?

Professors with real-world business experience give students assignments based on real-world business cases. Students’ research projects can be written specifically for issues your company is dealing with. The research and corrective actions can then be implemented into your workplace. The student benefits by getting a grade and your company saves thousands of dollars that may have gone to a consulting company.

Adult students attending MVNU engage in pertinent classroom discussions involving business issues in industries represented by their classmates. This provides a broader understanding of topics and can increase workplace productivity in your own company. Remember that Henry Ford created the auto assembly line after observing the operations at a meat packing plant. As your employees are exposed to new ideas and ways of doing business, they can expand possibilities for you by offering new solutions to challenges that arise daily.

What else does tuition reimbursement add to the bottom line?

Your company will benefit from increased teamwork ability among your employees as students begin to implement classroom practices such as team building, management and presentation skills. Employees also gain self-confidence on the job and their motivation increases.

Educating managers who have already been given the responsibility but lack the training or credentials builds company loyalty and an increased sense of ownership. When employees take ownership of their jobs, their productivity automatically increases. Additionally, your company saves money by promoting well-educated employees, familiar with your company needs, instead of incurring a costly search for a new employee.

What graduate business degrees are available?

Most people are familiar with the MBA, and for those working in finance or economics, the MBA is a logical choice for professional advancement. However, individuals without a business undergraduate degree are often, over time, promoted into management positions. The Master of Science in Management degree may be the solution for those with no formal management education. It provides advanced training in business by focusing on organizational management.

LAURA STEENBERGEN is an MBA and the southern Ohio regional director of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Reach her at (877) 431-9610, ext. 6401 or Laura.Steenbergen@mvnu.edu.