One of the roles I did when I worked internally in a global tech firm's OD group was to look at further education as a way to develop and retain talent.
The thing about continuing education for employees is not a very easy one to make for organizations. It's easier to conduct in-house training programs that are designed and customised for the organization. However, when it comes to sponsoring or encouraging employees to go to a university or other educational institutions to get a degree/diploma most organizations balk at the thought.
The hesitation stems from various factors:
- Will the person return to the organization? This question almost always leads to the "service bonds" that the organization makes such employees sign. On the one hand it can be seen as a contract - we'll give you the time and other resources to educate yourself further, and you've got to come back and serve us. On the other hand it also tells the employee - look we really don't trust you and we'll like to have it in writing from you.
- Will we have a role for the person's new skills and capabilities? When a person goes through education he/she picks up a variety of skills. Organizations need to have a constant communication channel when the employee is immersed in the course to find out how the employee is developing. However, firms are not able to deploy such energy to this effort.
- How will the employee's expectations change? Often employees after interacting with fellow students for 2-3 years might change their expectations of what they want from their career and work. Organizations are wary about such an eventuality. However the way forward is the same. Keep a communication channel always open.
However what organizations should NOT do is promise opportunity for further education and later renege on such a promise. That's what happened to a friend and she had no hesitation in walking out from the firm and going on her own funding for her further educational dream.