Companies are paying employees to do their homework. Here’s how you can be one of them

The laundry list of perks and benefits companies are now offering white-collar employees is only getting longer in an attempt to attract—and retain—top talent. 

“I’ve been in the business of building software for recruiters for two decades, and it’s never been like this,” Peter Clare, president at Jobvite, a talent acquisition software company, tells Fortune. “The feeling I get speaking to senior leaders is that applicants are finally getting the opportunity to shape business strategy, and there’s never been as much of a focus on upward mobility.”

To that end, more and more companies are covering the cost of seminars and skill-development trainings for employees at all levels. The offerings tend to vary by industry, but most share a common goal of helping employees become jacks-of-all-trades in different areas of the business, opening up the possibility for advancement in new directions.

Classes, ultimately, are about maximizing all the things an employee can do for an organization, even if they’re different from why they were hired, Clare says.

“Paying for courses should happen more often,” Mary Elizabeth Elkordy, president and founder of PR firm Elkordy Global Strategies, tells Fortune. Her company holds weekly trainings on different subject areas, and if employees suggest a course they are interested in taking, the company will cover the cost if it aligns with their work.

Employee-development programs have many benefits

Employer-sponsored classes can also help managers identify their employees’ talents, and how those can be leveraged to help the business.

“If you can help facilitate a passion, that can help your bottom line,” Elkordy says. “Education helps retention that much more.”

Of course, it’s not just about holding on to good employees but helping them upskill so they in turn can help employers fill holes in their workforce.

“We see less of companies taking nontechnical people and making them technical, and more of people taking in-demand service skill sets, like nursing and tech, and augmenting those skills within their sphere of influence,” Clare says. “We see that more in the mid-career range; there’s more of a focused effort to upskill managers to handle the pressures of this new environment.”

Learning for all

Soft skills are also important, especially as employees grow into management roles, and Clare has seen numerous companies offer training that focuses on topics like how to give continuous feedback; build a team’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; and foster upward mobility among all employees.

At least half of Elkordy’s team attends a class each week, and she’ll pay for the time they spend doing homework when her employees “clearly outline how a class fits into their overall growth.”

The company’s commitment to continuing education has fundamentally reshaped Elkordy’s approach to hiring. “When I look at a candidate, I don’t think about who they’re going to be at the company now,” she says. “I imagine what this person can bring in 18 months.”

During the hiring stage, Elkordy can tell from someone’s personality and energy what kind of path they’re on, and can identify what skills they’ll need to gain within three months. Then, she assesses whether she and the company can get them where they want to be.

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