Corporate America needs a skilled workforce to meet the needs of an increasingly complex and global economy. Therefore, providing education programs for employees is not only necessary, but critical to improve capability and retention rates.
In many cases, committed employees are not looking to leave an organization. Rather, they are interested in gaining additional skills that are unavailable or don’t meet their specific needs. By offering educational opportunities, there is a better chance for internal promotions, greater productivity and improved performance.
In July 2012, retailer Dollar General (DG) launched “DGU Grow,” a company-wide educational program. This program is opening the door for all employees, whether full- or part-time, to advance their education by taking courses toward either certificate programs or a range of degree programs up to and including the pursuit of a doctorate at some schools.
DGU Grow has two components. First, the company has partnered with 12 regionally accredited colleges and universities throughout the United States, all with online degree programs. These schools offer a range of discounts to employees, including tuition savings for all degrees and programs, application fee waivers and acceptance of prior learning assessments fees. These benefits are being provided to all DG employees and, in many cases, to their immediate family members as well.
Second, DGU Grow has a tuition scholarship incentive of up to $2,000 a year that is available to all full-time employees who meet specific qualifying criteria. Combining the tuition savings being offered by the universities with the possibility of a DG tuition scholarship, employee savings can exceed more than $30,000 for a four-year degree. In fact, several hundred employees who were already attending these schools will realize some immediate savings.
DGU Grow is a new component of Dollar General’s overarching training and education program, DG University. This part promotes the growth of employees through a structured on-boarding and training program, talent development centers to assess readiness for promotion, a robust succession planning process, payment for GED tests and internal placement goals for the company.
This approach to providing employees with myriad educational opportunities is appealing for a number of reasons.
For starters, the options are varied, making it easy and accessible for employees who live in rural areas away from campuses or who have inconsistent schedules. It meets an ongoing need and is a true partnership between a company and its employees.
Understanding the educational needs of the workforce and investing in the right programs are essential. What’s more important is to prepare today’s workforce for tomorrow as the bar continues to be raised and the brass ring of success gets tougher to grab.
The payoff is a more engaged, better prepared and loyal team of employees who are highly motivated to tackle the emerging challenges.
Bob Ravener is executive vice president and chief people officer for Dollar General. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.