The advent of online degree programs has meant that more and more people have been able to undertake a degree or postgrad course while still carrying on working in their current jobs. While it can take longer to get a qualification while working, for a lot of people it is the only way they would ever have the chance to actually gain the qualification they want while still maintaining their lifestyle. As employers, then, managers and business owners are used to the idea that staff may want to study part time, and many offer support in the form of financial assistance or extra time off for study and exams.
However, this usually happens when the qualification somebody is studying for is relevant to their career path within their company, and will bring benefits to you as a boss. What about when somebody is doing a qualification that isn’t related to your business or their role?
All Skills Are Good Skills
The first thing to consider is that all skills can in some way make someone more effective as an employee. Something like an online masters in social work may not directly relate to their current job, but it will help them empathize with customers and colleagues better and learn about conflict resolution. Something like a literature degree may not have anything to do with your business, but it will make the employee a more interesting person with good analytical skills when it comes to communication. Sure, you may not want to financially help somebody who is getting a degree as a kind of hobby in a topic they are just interested in, like art or history, but giving them some extra time off here and there for exams can be a way of demonstrating that you see the course helps them become a more skilled person, which benefits you.
What, then, if the employee isn’t doing the online degree because it is a hobby or interest, but because they want to change careers at the end of it? Should you support them even if their aim is to leave your company when they are qualified? Well, this is a tough one, but remember that it can take years to complete a courses like online MSW programs when the student is working full-time too, and did you really ever expect that that person would stay with you for their entire working life? If you give some support, it will mean the employee will have higher morale while they are studying and be grateful to you as a business. They will probably do the course and leave with or without your help, but by showing support you can make the years they are still with you more productive.
As you can see, it can be beneficial to encourage employees who have decided to do an online degree outside of work, whatever the subject.