How to Get Your Employer to Pay for Digital Skills Training

By BrainStation September 11, 2018

By now, most tech professionals know that re-training and up-skilling is a must to stay ahead of innovation and an ever-shifting job market.

But if the cost of a certification course or digital skills training is holding you back, why not see if your employer will foot the bill?

We’ve written about how digital skills training can fight employee turnover, and increasingly, companies are setting aside room in their budgets for staff training and re-education. If your boss still needs some convincing, here are some points that might help persuade them to invest in you.

Other Companies are Reaping the Benefits

Companies around the world are now encouraging and assisting employees to continue their education.

A 2018 survey from World at Work found that 92 percent of responding organizations offered programs supporting classroom learning, while 85 percent offered some form of tuition reimbursement.

There also seems to be a correlation between investing in education and overall organizational success. According to a 2018 digital trends study conducted by Adobe and Econsultancy, 45 percent of “top-performing” companies pledged to invest in digital skills and education, while among lower-performing companies, the number was only 23 percent.

A compelling case example is Discover Financial Services. As explored in a 2016 Lumina Foundation study, Discover provided employees $7.4 million in tuition reimbursement from 2010 to 2013. The study found that the program produced an overall 144 percent ROI as a result of “avoided talent management costs” such as higher rates of promotion, transfers and retention, and lower rates of absenteeism.

Further, employees who participated in the program received average annual wage increases that were at least 41 percent higher than non-participating employees. Overall, Discover saved $10.9 million.

The program was so successful, Discover chose to expand eligibility in 2017 to its newest hires.

You’ll be a Better – and Happier – Employee

Of course, upgrading your skillset and updating your education will make you a more valuable employee. A Destiny Solutions poll of 200 North American employers found that 70 percent of leaders said employees needed continuous learning simply to keep pace with their jobs.

But it’s not just the new skills and competencies that will make you more effective. The Society for Human Resource Management’s 2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey found that 43 percent of workers ranked their organization’s commitment to professional development as “very important.” And it stands to reason that happy employees will also be more loyal and perform better on the job.

As just one example, fast-casual chain Chipotle expanded its long-established education benefits program with a new credit-for-training program in July 2016. Five months later, Chipotle had an 89 percent retention rate among employees who utilized the program – nearly twice the rate of those who didn’t. Participants were also twice as likely as non-participants to be promoted.

“A year into the program, we are hearing tremendous feedback from our employees and seeing strong results in terms of enrollment, retention, and internal promotions among employees who are participating in the program,” said Steve Ells, Chipotle’s Founder, Chairman, and CEO.

They Can Leverage Tax Benefits and Incentives

As much as a supportive organization will see the benefit in emboldening employees with education, it never hurts to offer a reminder of the financial upside.

In the United States, there are extensive tax incentives for employers who want to help their employees re-educate.

When an employer pays an employee’s tuition costs – as well as books, equipment, fees, and supplies – the amount is completely deductible as a business expense as long as it’s job-related. Even if it’s not job-related, businesses can deduct up to $5,250 per year per employee as long as it has an educational assistance program in place. The program does need to meet a few requirements, including one that specifies that it can’t favor highly paid employees.

As an employee, there are other educational credits that can help you. If you’re unsure which credits you might be eligible for, try the IRS’s handy interactive tax assistant tool to see which credits you might be able to claim, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and tuition and fees deduction.

In Canada, meanwhile, the Canada Job Grant offers funding toward the cost of training, with the government shouldering two-thirds of the cost of an employee’s training up to a maximum of $10,000 per grant. In some provinces – including British Columbia – the government covers an even greater percentage of the cost of training.

Both the Employer and Employee Can See Results – Fast

It’s understandable that an organization might be wary of supporting employees through a lengthy degree program. But increasingly, there are digital skills training companies and bootcamps that can seriously upgrade your skills in a short period of time with a flexible array of study options.

BrainStation, for instance, offers certificate courses in five disciplines: data, design, development, digital marketingand product management.

It’s the Right Thing to Do

Beyond the myriad financial and performance benefits, some employers are coming around to the idea that helping employees pursue an education is simply good for society.

“For the U.S. to remain a leader in the knowledge economy, all providers of education beyond high school, especially employers, must help more Americans earn post-secondary credentials,” said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs of major U.S. corporations.

“Employers can make an outsized impact through providing tuition support.”

Find out more about corporate training options at BrainStation.