One in 5 working Americans lacks a high school diploma. That’s millions of American workers who lack the basic education and skills they need to advance within a company, or take advantage of the undergraduate education benefits many companies offer. On the employer side, more than 50 percent of employers say it is increasingly more difficult to recruit workers to fill jobs that require more than a high school diploma.
Companies like KFC Foundation, Taco Bell, Walmart and Southeastern Grocers recognize the important role they have in supporting their frontline workers who want to earn their high school equivalency credential. In 2015, we at GED Testing Service launched a GED completion program called GEDWorks in conjunction with the above employers to support their frontline workforce.
Workers without a high school diploma face different challenges and needs and it is important that when companies provide educational benefits to this population, they tailor the program accordingly. We released a white paper that identified lessons learned and best practices in providing foundational education programs for frontline workers.
The companies offering this type of foundational education program see it as a tool to help develop a stronger internal talent pipeline, positively impact their retention and recruitment efforts, and make it a component of their corporate social responsibility efforts.
In pilot programs with these employers, we identified four key factors that help drive student engagement and success in foundational education programs; eliminating upfront costs to workers, providing them with guidance and encouragement from a personal adviser, recognizing graduates, and establishing a degree of employer involvement.
Costs: Why aren’t more workers taking classes and preparing for the GED test on their own? Many can’t afford it. Some frontline workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and support families. An education program where they pay costs upfront can deter their participation. Companies that incorporate a “no employee cost upfront” model, compared to traditional fee reimbursement models, often see a significant increase in employee participation and completion.
Personal touch: Providing personal advisers that act as coaches and motivators can help hold students accountable. They provide the moral support and encouragement many of these students need to tackle balancing their personal, professional and academic commitments. This level of support is especially critical to help re-engage those who have fallen off the path.
Recognition: Companies should recognize GED graduates with parties, letters of recognition and rewards programs. They should also provide resources to order graduation caps and gowns, decorations and ideas on how to plan a party or order a cake. Some companies provide financial rewards for GED attainment. In this way employers can showcase their commitment to education and worker development, while spreading awareness to other potential program participants.
Employer involvement: According to a 2016 report from i4cp, high-performance companies are more likely to reward managers who encourage workers to pursue development and training. Leaders should monitor worker performance and participation. Managers, learning coordinators and members of management play an important role in helping drive awareness and engagement. Their moral support is critical to boosting student success. There are countless stories of personal intervention from colleagues that kept students motivated to complete education and earn their diploma.
These best practices can help drive significant improvements in program completion rates for participating employers. As companies look to invest further in their frontline workers, these best practices should be incorporated into foundational education programs.
Randy Trask is president of GED Testing Service. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.
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