Learning on the Clock: Should You Rethink Your Policy?

Published September 14, 2017

Most managers are all for helping employees grow in their careers.  So why do so few let staff take time out for continuing professional education classes during business hours?

In a recent study by Robert Half Finance & Accounting, only 26 percent of CFOs polled said their companies allow all employees to fulfill CPE requirements during business hours. Another 24 percent say it depends on the employee, and half said they rarely or never let any staff take classes while on the clock.

That’s a lost opportunity. With unemployment in the United States at record lows, it’s a seller’s job market and will continue to be in 2018. Companies are finding that allowing time to learn builds loyalty among employees—and attracts new hires. Another study from Robert Half demonstrates this connection: The vast majority of those polled said they consider learning new skills in a job important.

Another advantage of supporting CPE is that the better trained your employees are, the fewer mistakes they’ll make, and the more skills they’ll bring to the table. You could see continuing education as a chance to galvanize team expertise without increasing headcount.

Even for industries where continuing education isn’t required, managers should consider offering on-the-clock professional development. Administrative staff, for example, could benefit from Microsoft Certification courses or public speaking classes. People in marketing and creative fields could greatly benefit from learning new digital tools, or adopting coding skills.

Beyond allowing developmental activities on company time, you can make it even easier for your team by helping to pay for some of their training. Although traditional continuing professional education courses—especially those needed for certifications—can be expensive, some programs offer discounts for enrolling multiple employees. Likewise, many online learning programs offer company-wide licenses so your whole team can take advantage of self-paced courses. Robert Half itself offers more than 500 online CPE courses in accounting and finance.

If your company can’t yet cover continuing professional education, consider these low-cost ideas for keeping employees up to speed:

  • Host on-site workshops: People with specialized skills in your organization — or perhaps people who just attended a conference — can present short seminars to share information with their teams in the office.
  • Support industry memberships: Covering annual dues for employees to join industry associations is a nice gesture that also can reduce costs for attending conferences and give you access to learning resources.
  • Join in online courses: Many industry associations offer online learning for free or at discounted rates for members. Robert Half hosts free webinars on a regular basis, too.
  • Create your own library: Collect industry journals, books and other resources in a common area for everyone to be able to access. You may also consider building an electronic library of links and downloads in your company’s intranet.
  • Create a mentorship program: Helping employees learn from each other can be very valuable to both new staffers and experienced professionals.

Once your company has decided to support continuing education for its employees, the next step for a manager is to sit down with each of your team members to talk about individual career goals. Perhaps you’ll discover an opportunity for them to develop new skills and contribute to the team in new ways.

In a job market where top candidates may receive multiple offers, businesses should consider continuing education as a very attractive component of a bigger benefits package. That way you not only attract top talent but help your people keep growing.

About The Author

Ky Kingsley headshot
Ky Kingsley joined Robert Half in 2007 as a recruiting manager in the Los Angeles area. She was promoted to division director the following year and went on to manage multiple Southern California teams, leading recruitment, hiring and training activities. Most recently, she was promoted as a vice president and leads teams across North America supporting their growth and success.