Monday Mornings with Madison

10 Ways for Companies to Help Staff Grow and Develop – Part 1

Word Count: 1,423
Estimated Read Time: 5 1/2 min.

The U.S. Labor Market shows that unemployment is pretty low.  The overall unemployment rate is at 4% nationwide.[1] But even that number doesn’t tell the full story.  Unemployment of those without a high school diploma is 5.5%, while it is 4.2% for those with a high school degree, and 3.2% for those with some college education.[2] More telling is that the unemployment rate for those with a Bachelor’s degree is at 2.3% and with a Master’s degree was at 1.6% in April 2018.  Given that some unemployment is frictional (people displaced by technological advances), a 2.3% unemployment rate for those with a Bachelor’s degree is on the cusp of what economists call zero unemployment (2%) and 1.6% for those with a Master’s degree is below zero unemployment[3].  For companies that depend primarily on highly skilled, very educated employees, that’s a very tight job market indeed.

It’s a basic law of economics that when demand exceeds supply, price goes up.  So when demand for skilled, educated workers is higher than supply, the cost to hire skilled employees increases.  Thus, tight job markets drive up wages and benefits. To attract and retain top talent, companies then feel forced to up the ante and increase wages in order to remain competitive.  However, employees are beginning to realize that compensation is about more than just money.  Employees are increasingly looking for employers that offer not just competitive salaries but other intangibles such as flex time, positive work environments, flat corporate structures, and other kinds of benefits.

Of increasing value to employees – and thus an area where savvy employers can tip the hiring dynamics in their favor — are workplaces that provide opportunities for growth and development.[4] Given the seismic shift from a production-based economy to a knowledge-based economy — thanks to robotics and artificial intelligence – highly skilled and educated employees recognize that their knowledge and talents are aging faster and becoming outdated and obsolete more quickly.  The pace of change and advances in technology have accelerated the need for continuous learning.  From surgeons to programmers to engineers, the need to stay up-to-date is imperative and there simply are not enough hours in a day to work, update skills and still have time to enjoy life.[5]

An article in Harvard Business Review, titled Why Top Young Managers Are in a Nonstop Job Huntby Monika Hamori, Jie Cao and Burak Koyuncu, described a study that analyzed the international databases of companies employing over 1,200 young high achievers.  They found that many of the best and brightest were not receiving the career development support they wanted.  Hamori, Cao and Koyuncu found that “Dissatisfaction with some employee-development efforts appears to fuel many early exits.  We asked young managers what their employers do to help them grow in their jobs and what they’d like their employers to do, and found some large gaps. Workers reported that they were not getting much in the way of formal development, such as training, mentoring and coaching – things they value highly.”[6]

In order to remain valuable, employees are pursuing and embracing workplaces that allow and encourage continuous learning.  At the same time, employers are recognizing the value in helping employees update and expand their knowledge, skills and abilities so they can apply the competencies they gain to new situations.

In 2014, the 100 Best Companies to Work Forby Great Place to Work put employee development as a top priority, more than any other area.[7]The opportunity to gain new skills and experiences can help employees be more motivated and satisfied in jobs, stay current and relevant in positions, and manage job stress better.  This can translate into positive gains for any company by enhancing organizational effectiveness and improving work quality. This also helps companies retain top-quality employees and attract up-and-coming talent.  By providing opportunities for growth and development, organizations realize the benefits of developing workers to their full potential.  If employees are the number one resource of any company, then having employees that are underutilized is the same as leaving money on the table.

Here are some ways companies are providing opportunities for employee growth and development.

1. In-house skills training / updating

Offering in-house skills training makes sense for companies in any sector.  Employees who are constantly striving to gain more skills are an asset for any company.

Case in point.  According to Glassdoor, Seattle Genetics is a biotechnology company based in Bothell, Washington that is focused on developing antibody-based therapies to treat cancer.  With 800 employees, Seattle Genetics offers its employees onsite training courses to enhance job-related skills.[8]According to Taylor Cline, a Seattle Genetics staffing associate, “We offer onsite training to enhance job- and management-related skills and provide opportunities for our employees to attend job-related conferences and seminars.  Developing our employees’ careers is an investment for both our employees and the future of Seattle Genetics.”

2. Continuing education courses with reputable organizations

From attorneys to CPAs and from coders to programmers, continuing education courses help professionals stay on top of their game and renew licensing and accreditation.  Companies that facilitate continuing education help their employees keep up with the latest developments.   For instance, in the world of fitness, personal trainers at companies such as Gold’s Gym are able to get their recertification classes from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and ACE, the American Council on Exercise.[9] These certification renewal courses allow fitness trainers to continue to work at Golds and continue their career path.

3. Courses provided by and at training centers to learn new skills

Some business owners may not see the sense in providing employees with new skills, fearing that those very skills may enable the employee to go work elsewhere. But AT&T doesn’t see it that way.  With more than 280,000 employees worldwide, AT&T University provides an executive-led program focused on leadership and management development.  Also, in partnership with Georgia Tech and Udacity, Inc., AT&T helped create the first-ever Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) degree and partnered with Udacity to create and launch several self-paced, fast-track technical credentials called Nanodegrees about web and mobile development, data analytics and tech entrepreneurship.

Most AT&T employees, whose average tenure at the company ranges from 12-22 years, got their education and foundational job training in a different era. Rather than hire new talent to keep pace with change, AT&T chose to rapidly retrain current employees while promoting a culture of perpetual learning.  Marty Richter, corporate communications manager for AT&T, explained that “We can’t depend on just hiring and the traditional educational system as sources for retooling.  We’re focused on aligning company leaders to strategic business innovation and results and skilling and reskilling our employees.”[10]

4. Tuition reimbursement for college/university courses

Tuition reimbursement is considered by many employers as another key way to retain current employees, keep staff skills up-to-speed, and attract new talent.  In fact, of the companies surveyed by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in 2015, 83% offered some type of employee tuition reimbursement.  Logically, this benefit is particularly popular with Millennials. While most companies cap the amount of tuition reimbursement they offer employees, there are some companies that offer unlimited tuition reimbursement.  For example, Acuity, a financial services and insurance firm based in Wisconsin offers its 1,157 full-time employees unlimited tuition reimbursement.  In 2015, nearly 12% of their employees took part in the tuition assistance program costing the company $98,697.[11]They see it as reinvestment in their company, even if they are only able to deduct a certain portion on their taxes.

5.  Promotional tracks for internal career advancement

Companies that are fighting for talent want to identify talent early and offer clear paths for career advancement.  For example, CyberCoders, a division of On Assignment, is a tech-focused permanent placement organization with offices in Irvine and Los Angeles, California and in Boston and Framingham, Massachusetts.  With more than 350 employees, their Associate Recruiter Incubator Program helps them take educated, highly driven, competitive individuals and teach them to apply technology to a diverse marketplace.  According to Shane Lamb, President of CyberCoders, “In an industry such as technology, where competition for talent is intense, we use this as a way to attract top talent early in their careers.  We believe that equipping young professionals with the tools they need to build their business development and recruiting skills will lead to a long and successful career.”[12]

Stay tuned ‘til next week for five more ways that top companies are offering employees growth and development opportunities.

Quote of the Week

“A true leader is someone who does not only produce results and show efficiency in what he does but is also one who replicates himself by developing his people.”
Myron Sta Ana

[1]July 6, 2018, Anna, Trading Economics, U.S. Unemployment Rate 1948-2018,

[2]The Employment Situation – June 2018, News Release, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor Statistics,

[3]May 2018, Unemployment Rate, College Graduates, Master’s Degree, Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,

[4]Employee Growth and Development, Resources for Employers, American Psychological Association, Center for Organizational Excellence, employeegrowth/

[5]January 13, 2015, Kate Wilson, 6 Ways to Stay Competitive in a Global Job Market, Women on Business,

[6]July-August, 2012, Monika Hamori, Jie Cao and Burak Koyuncu, Why Top Young Managers Are in a Nonstop Job Hunt, Harvard Business Review, Human Resource Management,

[7]February 2, 2015, Jerome Ternynck, 7 High-Impact Approaches for Employee Development, Inc. Magazine,

[9]June 5, 2018, Dustin Bogle, Gold’s Gym Personal Training Certification Requirements,,

[10]October 2016 issue, John Donovan and Cathy Benko, AT&Ts Talent Overhaul, Talent Management, Harvard Business Review,

[11]March 4, 2016, Claire Zillman, These 6 Companies Give Their Employees Unlimited Tuition Reimbursement, Fortune Magazine,

[12]Isabel Thottam, 10 companies with awesome training and development programs,,


© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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