Changes in your business and your industry can move at breakneck speed. You may be struggling to keep up with new “best practices”, procedures and technologies. Your team may be experiencing the same struggle and could be falling behind. Gaining knowledge and sharing knowledge can be major assets for any business, but it takes commitment from the top to make it happen.

Whether it’s additional training in their present position, cross-training to make them a more versatile employee, or learning the ins and outs of new technology – each of your employees could probably benefit from more education. By offering educational opportunities, you enable your employees to serve you better in their current positions, and also use the knowledge they’ve attained to move into other positions within the company. It’s smart business to make it easy for your employees to get that training, whether you provide it yourself or help them with the expense and scheduling of outside courses.

In addition to helping your company become more productive, educational support can help boost employee retention. Your employees will probably consider your support of their education a valuable employment benefit – right up there with good insurance and vacation days. Supporting their professional needs shows that you consider them valuable parts of your organization, and that’s a benefit they may especially appreciate.

Don’t worry that your employees will jump ship and seek employment elsewhere once their job skills are improved. Employees who receive support in their educational endeavors usually demonstrate their appreciation by remaining loyal to the employer who helped them gain knowledge and proficiency.

Yes, helping your employees with their continuing training can seem costly – in money and in time. Remember, however, it can be less costly in the long run to retain an existing employee than to hire a new one. If training will help you retain more employees, it will prove itself a prudent investment in your business.

Here are some specific ways to integrate more formal learning and training into your business – for you and your team.

1. Make education a priority. Demonstrate that it’s important to you that your team has access to classes to hone their existing skills and gain new ones. That may mean accommodating their class schedules or redistributing their workloads while they’re attending their training. Identify relevant courses and build education and training into everyone’s schedule, including your own.

2. Provide tuition reimbursement. There’s no surer way to show your support than by putting your money where your mouth is. Footing all or some of the bill will lessen the burden on your employees and assure them that you want them to be knowledgeable and successful. You’ll need to decide on a few details about tuition reimbursement, including:

  • Which types of classes will you reimburse employees for completing?
  • Will you pay tuition only, or will you pay for books and class expenses as well?
  • What percentage of your employees’ educational cost will you reimburse? The more you pay, the more valuable the benefit will be to your employees. Bear in mind, though, they may put forth more effort in the classroom when they pay for a portion of the cost.
  • Which employees are eligible? Is this benefit only for salaried employees or for hourly employees as well?

3. Provide in-house training. It may be in your best interest to consider creating your own curriculum, specific to your business. That way, you will be assured that your employees are receiving training in the exact areas in which you need them to be competent. You can hire trainers to come in and teach particular topics or offer “virtual speaker” series or webinar trainings rather than a physical event. Alternatively, you can appoint your senior staff to teach company-specific skills to the rest of your organization. Having a company-specific curriculum will also make training new hires easier, because they’ll learn precisely what they need to get up to speed quickly.

4. Build a knowledge base. Often the most valuable information is stuck in your head or in the minds of your team members. Build a repository for this knowledge using collaborative tools such as shared Google® Documents. Include policies and procedures, how-to manuals, and tech updates.

Regardless of how it’s implemented, supporting your employees’ continuing education is investing in the people who ARE your company. Your business may benefit from a more well-educated and proficient workforce who know that top management supports their efforts to develop and grow.