Education Benefits Can Support DEI Initiatives Blog
Diversity Equity and Inclusion

Education Benefits Can Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives


Many organizations approach DEI initiatives similarly; they make efforts to diversify candidate pools, form employee resource groups, and create intentional recruiting pipelines. But education and upskilling should also be central to a company’s DEI efforts.

A widespread issue

Conversations around workforce development are taking into consideration how people of color—especially Black and Latinx employees—can face systemic and structural barriers to opportunity. As a result, organizations are trying to identify ways to provide pathways that support the success of workers of color across geographic regions and industries, including expanded access to educational and training opportunities. 

A commitment to employees

As SVP of Enterprise Partnerships and CEO of Workforce Edge (a division of Strategic Education, Inc.), Scott Deming works to help companies engage in DEI-focused tactics. He explains the importance of organizations making education benefits part of the equation. 

“For companies that claim they’re focused on DEI, the biggest statement they can make is to say, ‘We’re going to send our employees to school and pay for it.’ That is a substantial commitment.” 

Providing employees with access to education without financial barriers creates a space where those employees can more easily achieve their goals, whether it’s adding a credential or certification or completing an academic degree. 

Khary Hodge, vice president, Total Rewards and HR Technology, Comp/Benefits/HRIS, Strategic Education, underlines the power of offering these benefits. He notes: 

“When employers offer a buffet of educational options, and the messaging is ‘we’re here to support you in choosing what’s best for you,’ it can really make a difference for employees.” 

Hodge also points out that benefit offers should be tailored to the needs of each person. “Often, HR professionals get locked in and focused on compliance,” he says. “It becomes easy to lose sight of the people involved and their individual needs, experiences, and expectations.” 

Diversity in the options offered

Another area to consider is the actual education options that companies provide their employees. It’s important to offer access to a variety of institutions as each school can offer different degree programs, training opportunities, etc. This diversity can give employees more avenues to education that are in line with their personal and professional interests. Education benefits platforms such as Workforce Edge feature a variety of schools and programs in order to create as much choice for employees as possible. 

Offering diverse options can also enhance the messaging a company sends to its employees. Hodge frames the importance of this messaging, particularly when companies offer access to schools that include historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

“By offering access to these schools and others, it’s as if the organization is saying ‘we trust and value the educational experience offered by a diverse range of institutions, and we want to specifically offer those experiences to our employees.’” 

Education benefits can support retention

Deming describes how “education benefits are gaining traction across a variety of industries including health care, technology, finance, and investment, particularly for entry-level positions. And filling positions can be its own challenge as companies ask themselves, ‘How do we get these workers to want to stay and build a long-term career?’” 

The answer can be to show employees possible career paths while making them feel valued within the organization. Education benefits can be used to create an educational experience unique to the organization and the groups within it. 

This can be particularly useful for employees from diverse backgrounds. Hodge mentions, “Employers can invest in crucial career conversations with their teams. Conversations should include diversity leaders within a company who can ask their personnel, ‘Given your experiences, where do you want to go next with your career? And how can we support you?’” 

By doing so, Hodge notes, “you’re creating an ecosystem that supports the needs of the employee as well as the company itself. You can help retain workers who are invested in the company because that company has shown itself to be invested in them.”

As a platform that connects adult learners to a diverse suite of schools, Workforce Edge helps expand choices for many organizations. For example, companies have partnered with Workforce Edge to connect specifically to HBCUs as part of their education offerings. Through the platform, employees are able to explore a variety of options that can help shape their career path. By offering access to these opportunities, employers are giving adult learners more agency as they look to expand their economic potential within the workforce. 

Interested in a complimentary evaluation of your current education benefits policy? Contact our team.

Many organizations approach DEI initiatives similarly; they make efforts to diversify candidate pools, form employee resource groups, and create intentional recruiting pipelines. But education and upskilling should also be central to a company’s DEI efforts.