When running an organization, you want your team to be made up of the best and brightest people. You want employees with a wide range of skills who take great pride in their work and are eager to embrace new challenges. You also want lifelong learners.
Lifelong learners are constantly sharpening their skills and developing new ones. This helps them stay up to date with industry trends and gain needed expertise for higher positions.
By offering a professional development stipend, also known as an education stipend or learning stipend, you encourage your employees to discover new talents and further their abilities through continued education.
In this article, we'll go over how a professional development stipend works, give examples of how other companies use their stipends, and explain why you should invest in your employees’ professional and personal growth.
How does a professional development stipend work?
A professional development stipend is a set amount of money offered to your employees for learning opportunities. This type of employee perk is meant to nurture your employee's growth by giving them affordable access to the tools they need to succeed.
This learning stipend can be used for a plethora of options. Your employees can put it toward certifications, online courses, conferences, career coaching, college courses, and more.
The allowance you offer through the stipend is up to you, and you can choose to offer it on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis.
How do other companies offer education stipends?
Many organizations see the value in offering a professional development stipend to their employees.
Here's how some companies choose to offer their professional development stipend:
- Amazon1 heavily invests in education and skills training benefits offered to its front-line workers. Through its Career Choice program, the company funds college tuition, high school diplomas, GEDs, and proficiency certifications in English as a Second Language (ESL). Amazon also offers three education programs to give employees the opportunity to learn new skills in different areas of expertise within the company.
- Buffer2 gives its employees $20 a month for a personal learning and development opportunity of their choice. In addition, the company offers all employees a free Kindle, which includes unlimited free books.
- Webflow3 offers its employees an annual $1,000 stipend in skill development reimbursements for things like books, coding classes, conferences, and more.
- Olark4 gives its employees a $2,000 annual continuing education stipend.
- Help Scout5 offers a “Learn Something” stipend of $1,800 to its employees. The annual stipend can be used for any learning opportunity such as conferences, online courses, seminars, and books.
- Wyzant6 employees receive $2,000 per year in learning stipends to use on conferences, workshops, and other opportunities that help them grow within the company.
What can employees spend their learning stipend on?
A professional development stipend gives your employees the freedom to learn their way. Whether you're working with a large or small budget, the money you offer them can be put toward a range of educational opportunities that vary in cost.
Here are several ideas on how your employees can use their stipend:
- Online learning platforms such as Coursera or Skillshare
- Books and audiobooks
- Graduate degree programs
- Personal development programs
- Professional and career assessments, including certification exams
- Public speaking skills
- Career coaching
- Professional memberships, associations, and clubs
Why should you offer a professional development stipend?
People want more than a job that pays well. Your employees want benefits that enhance their personal and professional lives. Potential career growth and development opportunities are things that job seekers take notice of. Investing in a learning stipend shows them you want to invest in their future success.
Benefits for employer
First, offering a professional development stipend can give you a leg up on your competition. In a competitive job market, you need to offer a competitive benefits package to attract potential employees. PeopleKeep's 2022 Employee Benefits survey found that 82% of employees say that the benefits package an employer offers is an important factor in whether or not applicants accept a job.
Our survey also found that 61% of employees value professional development benefits, while only 40% of employers offer them.
While some industries have a surplus of talent, others are dealing with a talent shortage. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation, many employers have been faced with increasing employee turnover and open positions. This type of stipend can also be beneficial for hiring quality candidates who may require more job training to solidify their skills. You can essentially offer them the tools they need to become the ideal employee for your company.
On top of boosting your recruiting capabilities, a learning stipend can help with employee retention. When you give your top talent room to grow in your organization, you give them a reason to stay. A Linkedin Learning report7 found that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their career and personal development.
Benefits for employees
Unlike in-office professional development programs that tend to be one-size-fits-all, educational stipends allow your employees to learn how they want when they want. This freedom helps to increase employee engagement. For example, when Buffer8 handed out free Kindles and unlimited free books to their employees, they took advantage of it. The company's employees read 1,366 books on their personal Kindles, which came out to about 17 books per person.
Employee productivity also improves when you keep their skills sharp. When you give your employees the opportunity to learn, you help to fill skill gaps by creating more informed and well-rounded workers. Plus, when positions open up at your company, you can look within before you look at outside candidates.
When you work hard for your employees, they'll work hard for you. Taking an interest in their personal and professional growth makes them feel valued at your organization. Investing in their personal growth can help to build trust and boost employee morale. An educated, self-motivated team can help support company growth.
How PeopleKeep can help
You can offer your employees a professional development stipend with WorkPerks by PeopleKeep. Our employee stipend administration platform makes it easy to set up and manage stipends for expenses related to employee development, education, health, wellness, transportation, and more.
WorkPerks gives you the flexibility to create a custom employee benefits package that works for your organization. With the ability to set custom allowances and offer stipends for other expense categories, you can offer a tailored benefit to your employees in less than 10 minutes.
It's a smart choice to offer an education stipend as part of your benefits package. Job seekers and current employees will take notice and appreciate your commitment to their continued success. You can reimburse them for certifications, conferences, career coaching, college courses, online learning platforms, and so much more.
A professional development stipend is a cost-effective way to support the growth of your employees and your company. When you take the initiative to invest in your employees, it shows them that you care. This helps boost employee morale and productivity. It can also help you to recruit and retain top talent in a competitive job market.