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Executing Your Company's Education Strategy

At this point, you have articulated your workforce needs and goals and you have examined how postsecondary credentials, as well as the learning programs and education resources you currently offer, align with your organization’s business strategy. You may also be thinking about how they impact your organization’s bottom line through increased productivity, retention, and performance, and perhaps you are also exploring new ways to encourage your employees to pursue an education credential.

By working through Steps 1, 2, and 3, you have laid the groundwork for the final step in the Tennessee Employer Toolkit –Taking Action. Step 4 is inspired by the ‘Teachable Fit’ approach outlined by Manpower, Inc. in 2010. 

What is ‘Teachable Fit’?

Teachable fit is an approach that recognizes that the talent mismatch existing between employer's needs and available workers will not be solved one hire at a time. Instead employers must commit to reskilling and upskilling current and potential employees. This requires identifying people with adjacent skills rather than traditional fit, as well as partnering with governments and other stakeholders, like local schools and universities. Teachable fit focuses on four questions:

  • What capabilities are essential to performing the job?
  • Which of these are teachable in an efficient way?
  • Is there adequate time and money to develop these capabilities in the candidate?
  • And do candidates have the capacity (both motivation and capability) to develop them?

Utilize the ‘Teachable Fit’ framework to focus on the gaps in skills

The Teachable Fit Framework maps the capabilities needed for a given role against an individual’s likelihood of meeting those needs. Capabilities are broken down into four categories:

Knowledge: Understanding of business or academic disciplines or industries
Skills: Demonstrated aptitudes and practices
Values and Mindset: Attitudes and preferences sought in work and life
Personality and Intelligence: Basic characteristics and mental traits

After examining the four areas of capability, the employer weighs how essential the capability is for performing the work well and to what extent and with what degree the capability can be developed. The idea is to be more detailed and specific about the job requirements and focus on the gaps to be filled. Employers can identify candidates with higher probabilities of success and know where to begin with the individual’s training and development plan. Manpower’s “Teachable Fit” Framework is below.:

Teachable Fit Image

Within the teachable fit framework you can ensure that you are getting the employees with the skills you are looking for. At the same time, a new perspective on how you can support your employees in gaining these skills will have a compounding effect on the likelihood of success around this endeavor. This final step is divided into three sections: how to set your employees up for success, implementing new ways to support your employees’ education, and the importance of communicating the right message.

Employees who are interested in expanding their skill sets to move within your company need your guidance on the best way to do that. Is it through in-house training, or classes at the local TCAT or community college? Will earning a certificate or degree help them advance faster, or deliver a larger salary? Providing career pathways and developing a culture in which learning programs and postsecondary education are integral to your human capital development can deepen your talent pool and can give your employees the opportunity to gain more applicable skills, as well as confidence and loyalty to your organization.

Develop career paths

The 2012-2013 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study found companies that differentiated their rewards from those with whom they compete for talent were more likely to have more highly engaged employees, better financial outcomes and fewer attraction and retention difficulties. Over 80 percent of these companies found career management and learning and development to be integral to job architecture. And through the Teachable Fit model, we are encouraged to see learning and development as essential.

A common reason high value employees leave their jobs is a perceived lack of growth opportunities – without the potential for advancement they will often look elsewhere. The process of creating career paths for every position is a heavy task; however, without formal career paths or a career framework, employees may try to carve out their own. Instead, formalizing these paths (and internal career mobility) provides a chance for HR to reinforce company priorities and goals, benefiting both you and your employees by identifying the skills, behavior, and knowledge that you need from your workforce. That level of transparency also allows employees at all levels to aspire to higher level positions within your organization.

Identify Your “A Team”

Who are your most valuable employees? Who is most willing to put forth the effort to earn a credential (given the right supports provided by you) and for what reason? Who are the employees with the best ‘teachable fit’? It may take some internal research to answer these questions. And it may reveal internal candidates for a career track that you had not previously considered in this category.


Survey your employees

A survey distributed internally could gauge employees’ interest in completing a postsecondary credential and also allow you to understand employee satisfaction with your education programs and perks. You may consider designing questions that solicit these types of information:

Mentorships: Provide onsite feedback and leadership support to working learners

Providing feedback to employees can be one of the most valuable ways to support their professional development. In addition to the standard performance reviews, employers can also use this process to provide feedback about how educational opportunities are valuable to your organization and can help to advance a career. In addition to providing information to employees, this process can serve to strengthen the channels of communication within the organization and foster loyalty and increase retention among employees. For those employees already balancing work and education, feedback can be crucial to ensuring that time is being managed effectively and productivity increases.

Modify Tuition Assistance: Make small changes for big impacts

By making small adjustments in your tuition assistance policy, your company can better benefit from your investment.

  • Target your tuition assistance policy to certain employees or positions and advertise it accordingly.
  • Link tuition assistance opportunities to career paths for your employees and to your strategic talent development plan.
  • Provide information on financial aid to your employees to supplement tuition assistance (More information on Financial Aid here).
  • Recognize employees who have successfully used your company’s tuition assistance program.
  • Refresh your tuition assistance policy by presenting it as a scholarship to employees.

The Human Capital Lab at Bellevue University conducted a study on the effects of employer-sponsored education on a company’s workforce. Their research revealed that more employees who earned an Associate’s or Bachelor’s while employed received the highest performance rating possible. These working learners out-shone those hired with Associates degrees, those hired with no degree, and those hired with a Bachelor’s degree. This same group of high performing employees was also retained at higher rates by their organizations. The report offers data to illustrate a point we often hear: employees who earn degrees with the assistance of their employers become valuable and loyal assets to their

Credit for Prior Learning: Help your employees earn academic credit more quickly

As is mentioned elsewhere, Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA credit, can help students earn credit for skills and knowledge that has already been developed through professional experience. This saves students the time and money that would otherwise be used to take classes for credit to develop skills that have already been developed. Employers can play a critical part with students and institutions in establishing what skills a student can earn credit for through PLA. By helping students to earn PLA credits, degrees will be earned more quickly and for a lower cost, to the benefit of all parties. 

Partnerships: Collaborate with local educational institutions

You can also recruit and develop talent with the help of postsecondary institutions. Public institutions  in Tennessee are assessed based on common measures of student learning and institutional effectiveness  to ensure continuous improvement and quality in education. One measurement is job-placement, encouraging postsecondary institutions to make their programs relevant to the workforce. By partnering with a postsecondary institution, your company can articulate the skills needed in entry level positions and work with the instructors to ensure those skills are being taught. Recruiting students is part of the postsecondary institution’s operation. This allows companies to shift some of their recruitment to institutions where applicants have already been partially vetted by nature of their admission. After working with an institution to ensure the necessary skills are taught, an employer can bring in entry level talent to their organization after graduation and know that their new employees have already proven a certain level of competency and ability. These partnerships also save money by offsetting training costs to postsecondary institutions able to incorporate portions of the company’s training modules into the curriculum.

By reaching out to your local college, your company can build a relationship that is beneficial to your community and your business. These partnerships can provide recruiting opportunities for you and training opportunities for your employees. Your local college may already be offering classes relevant to your workforce that you have been providing in house. Financial aid opportunities are also used to offset the cost of employee development. 

The needs of your workforce are likely very unique, but the success of your company is important to your entire community. Building partnerships with postsecondary and other organizations can introduce innovative solutions that benefit all those involved. To begin these conversations, please visit our Contacts page to identify a point of contact at an institution near you.

Be Flexible: Innovate through your existing resources

Flextime is allowing your employees to alter their work schedules to meet other demands on their time. This section examines flextime and other methods of flexibility in the workplace as a means to retain and development employees.                                        

Benefits of Flextime include:

  • Increasing loyalty: flexibility affects an employee’s decision to stay with a company
  • Actual “benefits” or rewards:  Allowing your working learners to adapt their work life (through flexible scheduling, availability of office resources, etc) to accommodate being in school serves as a reward for their work towards a degree. This is a good motivator to complete the degree as well.
  • Improving work-life balance: Behind compensation and benefits, employees value their ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance among variables in leaving a company  
  • Being more likely to enjoy work: Survey participants with flex-time received the same average performance scores from supervisors, but reported increased job satisfaction
  • Can decrease medical costs (leave and funding):Flextime alleviates unnecessary stress on employees and thus these employees experience lower rates of stress.    

Easy ways to include Flextime:

  • Make office computers available to employees for studying and schoolwork during and after scheduled work hours. Often time and resources prevent adults from completing a degree while working full time. Your business can overcome one of the biggest hurdles for your working learners by making this simple change.
  • Allow employees to alter their work schedule to accommodate class time and studying. Building a structure for this change will provide consistency for your office and facilitate use by your working learners.
  • Encourage leadership to be available to working learners during the day for assistance in schoolwork and mentoring. Supervisors and leadership provide an additional support to working learners by answering questions on the real life implications of their coursework. Your team can strengthen the link between coursework and the workplace by engaging with your working learners on their studies.
  •  Let employees remain “on the clock” during class. With minimal cost to your company, incorporating this change will give your working learners more time to pursue their education. Requesting documentation of the class schedule will prevent any abuse of the policy.

-Source: CBS News

Information Sessions: Bring experts onsite for specialized assistance

Connecting employees to the right information is the first step in your support of their individual career development. That information can be on financial aid, prior learning credits, non-profit partner programs, etc.  Each topic serves a different need for working learners:

Many of the college contacts listed under Contacts are available to come speak to your employees in your office about various education opportunities.  These individuals provide the first contact in discovering opportunities and resources in your area to help your workforce development.

Resources listed under Regional Resources offer additional avenues for information specific to your area. Your community’s needs are likely very different than other parts of the state. Local initiatives may already be in place to tackle some of your regionally specific challenges. These organizations can share important information on existing initiatives or potential initiatives that can bring value and opportunities to your company.   

For information on how prior learning credits can assist your organization and employees, please contact Marianne Rainey at THEC will send a specialist to your office to discuss this and other opportunities with your team. Additional information on prior learning credits are available here.

Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation Outreach Specialists are also available to you. These specialists can speak with you in advance about the individual needs of your workforce and discuss various financial aid resources. They have extensive information on both federal and state aid that can cut your company’s cost in providing education opportunities to your employees. An outreach specialist is assigned to various regions throughout the state. To contact yours, please e-mail Jason Seay, the Director of Outreach


The success of any workplace initiatives requires buy in from your company leadership. Below are some brief bullet points on why education programs are the lynchpin in developing your workforce to assist in this conversation.

  • Studies show increased productivity from employees when their companies put money towards their education. In one study, productivity went up by 31%
  • As companies vie for the most talented applicants, education initiatives make your company more attractive to candidates and more competitive globally
  • Many of these initiatives serve to build and cultivate internal talent and will save time and money by moving existing employees up in the company without the costs of recruiting, training, and retaining high level talent
  • With a variety of options, there are lots of opportunities to support our employees’ development based on the time and resources we have available.
  • There are guides available for researching and evaluating existing projects and the successes of any new initiatives as they pertain to our business strategies so we can measure our impact


It is important to create a positive work culture that bolsters employee engagement, and this can be maximized through consistent communication around higher education. You can help your employees understand how to pursue higher education options, identify skills and interests, set realistic goals, select appropriate education and training providers, and motivate them to succeed. Start communicating the right message today with the suggestions below.

  • Share how education is important to your bottom line and that employee education contributes to the overall success.
  • Explain the bigger picture to your employees by showing them that their work matters to the success of the organization.
  • Encourage your employees to save time and money by earning college credit for what they already know through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) (link to Timewise).
  • Assist your employees in making smart choices by identifying skill and competency gaps in their own personal and professional development.
  • Help your employees find the right education and training providers that fit their educational needs.
  • Fit goals into business objectives and recruitment needs
  • Still need ideas on how to support your employees? Check out our employer stories (Link to the case studies page).