By Claudine Kapel
When you think about all the possible perks and programs that make up the total rewards universe, tuition reimbursement doesn’t leap to mind as being especially sexy.
But if you’ve shopped on Amazon.com recently, you may have noticed the company’s promotion of its new career development offering. The company describes its Amazon Career Choice Program as “an innovative program designed to expand the choices available to our associates in their future career, whether that’s at Amazon or in another industry.”
Essentially, the new program provides an interesting twist on the notion of tuition aid.
Says Amazon: “Unlike traditional tuition reimbursement programs, we exclusively fund education only in areas that are well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and we fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.”
Its new program “will pay tuition and fees in advance rather than reimbursement after the completion of the course.”
The company says it is open to supporting employees pursuing careers in other industries by providing them with “a resource for building the job skills needed for today’s most in-demand and well-paying careers, such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technology, medical laboratory science, dental hygiene and nursing, to name a few.”
Career Choice is open to all Amazon full-time hourly associates in the United States who have been employed with the company for three consecutive years. Under the program, Amazon will pay up to 95 per cent of the tuition, textbook and associated fees up to a maximum of US$2,000 per year for four years. The program also covers the costs of online course work from an accredited school in an approved field of study.
The promotion of the new program reflects some strong marketing savvy that aligns employer and consumer branding efforts.
Through the program, the company is positioning itself as sensitive to employees’ broader career aspirations while simultaneously supporting its own talent retention efforts. The program isn’t open to employees with less than three years’ service, and it operates for four years. That can translate into better retention levels, even among employees who have career interests elsewhere.
And by promoting its tuition aid program on its online store, Amazon helped position itself as a solid corporate citizen with its customers — possibly even converting some into job candidates.
So how do you determine which elements of your total rewards offering could be a bigger draw if effectively designed and communicated? Here are some points to consider.
Know your demographics: Employee needs and priorities evolve as they age and as their life circumstances change. By understanding the age groups or other demographics within your workforce, you can more readily identify which aspects of the work experience might matter most to them.
Understand what’s top of mind with employees: In this post-recession climate, cost control remains a key issue for many people. Amazon reflected this understanding when it designed its program to pre-pay educational expenses.
Get the word out: It’s not enough to design and implement great total rewards programs. You need to ensure that key stakeholders — including employees, prospective hires and potentially even customers — know what you’re about as an employer.
Becoming an employer of choice rarely requires an organization to develop programs that no one else offers. Instead, it’s about offering programs that resonate with employees, as well as with prospective hires and the broader public.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.