Your company has invisible assets, do you know what they are? If you are not aware of them, you cannot put them to work creating value. Not all your assets show up on the balance sheet. That it is nothing new, and that is likely the place you look when you want to review your asset inventory. Your employees do not show up there, and they are an asset, right? What else is there, and how do you shine a light on them? Look on the income statement. What investments are you making? Look at the expense lines, those are investment lines. How big an investment did you make in tuition reimbursement last quarter? What was the ROI?
How does your business leverage tuition reimbursement to create value for the organization? I would invite you to consider looking more closely at this hidden, off balance sheet asset. You have employees enrolled in learning institutions, which are effectively idea incubators. Every semester you pay for their learning. What are you doing to tap into that energy and stimulate innovation within your organization? Are you exploring the ideas that result from their coursework? Or, are those ideas brushed aside, languishing in obscurity. You can actively benefit from your investment rather than hope the fruits of your investment bubble up via execution of daily responsibilities. Innovation will not magically appear. It must be actively cultivated. How do those ideas make their way into your innovation machine?
Try looking at tuition reimbursement similar to how you view IT. Vast amounts of data collect through daily operation of your IT systems. They collect information that can drive your business forward, even transform it. Moreover, it will not matter without actively engaging and channeling the resources. When you apply analytics to all that collected data, you learn about your customers, their habits, needs, desires and what they will pay for next. It creates a map to the future. Don’t the ideas incubating within your employees pursuing further education have the potential to do the same thing? Isn’t it really similar to R&D expense? The topic seems particularly germane in the current challenging economy. Businesses are looking for ways to leverage every asset they have. The knowledge and ideas generated in classroom settings are vast, untapped resources. You could mine them for value at very little expense. You are paying for it, make use of it. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you view tuition reimbursement as an asset or an employee benefit expense?
- What is the ROI? Can you measure it? What are the measurement systems in place?
- Can the person in charge of tuition reimbursement dollars tell your leadership team what is resulting from your investment?
- Who is talking to those student employees to understand what is resulting from their investment?
- How are the ideas stimulated via learning environments sought out and incorporated into the company’s innovation system?
- Are the right people listening, or are conversations stuck deep within layers of the organization continuously filtered by local fiefdoms?
- Is sharing of ideas subject to political backlash within your culture?
- How could you develop a forum for capturing value?
- What elements need to be present to create an environment for ideas to be discussed and heard effectively—Hint-a conference call won’t work.
- Are your executives willing to hear new ideas, or full of reasons why they won’t work?
- Could a professional facilitator encourage conversation?
- Do you have a reward system in place for sharing and hearing innovative ideas?
Right now companies are looking at every line on both their balance sheet and income statements. Where can we cut? What can we leverage? Do not get caught up believing an outflow of cash is an expense to be reduced. It may be an investment in disguise. Knowledge is an investment. Do you have the wisdom to put it to work for your organization?
Next category to look at: intellectual property. Check out this story.