Total Rewards 2012Corporate Voices for Working Families’ member companies tell us that what “keeps them up at night” is how to retain top talent and ensure the future workforce, particularly hourly employees. Corporate Voices’ recent report, Across the Great Divide, reveals that more than half (53%) of business leaders say their companies face a major challenge in recruiting non-managerial employees with skills, training and education their company needs.

Connecting the strengths and needs of talent development with the visibility and influence of workplace flexibility can help solve companies’ recruiting and retention challenges. A commitment to align business strategies across the total reward spectrum, from talent development to recruitment and company benefits, can synergize mutual goals of growing and retaining a skilled workforce while having a positive impact on individuals and communities.

Last week, I was in Orlandopresenting at the World@Work 2012 Total Rewards Conference to discuss how businesses are merging workplace flexibility and benefits with talent development strategies meeting mutually reinforcing goals. I moderated a panel with Bright Horizons Family Solutions and Ryan, Inc. who described their use of flexibility to improve recruitment, retention while increasing productivity.  They each described flexibility as a key component of their best-practice work-life and talent development programs.

Partnering with an educational publishing company, Bright Horizons developed an online Child Development Associate credential which provides a high tech, e-learning venue for its teachers to obtain the mandatory credential. By using these learned skills in their everyday work, teachers receive a nationally recognized credential which can be articulated into college credit. Employees see the value of their education as they use the classroom skills learned in their everyday work environment and Bright Horizons gains the important distinction of having one of the most educated staffs in the childcare sector.

Ryan, Inc. offers flexible options such as increased maternity and paternity leave, military leave and flexible work schedules. As a result, they have seen retention rates among employees increase from 80% to 94% in the span of three years. These options not only allow employees to pursue their education, but have also resulted in greater job satisfaction and better client service.

Peggy Walton, my colleague at Corporate Voices, recently led a panel on a similar topic at Working Mother Media’s National Conference Supporting Hourly Workers which honors the Best Companies for Hourly Workers as determined by Working Mother and Corporate Voices. Employers spoke on how they are using accredited internal training as a way to jump start educational attainment of hourly employees who might not consider themselves “college material,” but are encouraged once they have credits on a transcript.

Peggy said during her panel that, “Partnerships should be forged, wherever possible, that leverage strengths of institutions served by companies and education/training providers, such as community colleges, to serve hourly employees.”

Through Corporate Voices’ Learn and Earn case study series, we identify how businesses are using flexibility and other employee benefits, such as tuition assistance, career navigation, etc, as drivers to enable working learners to have the latitude needed to both work and continue their postsecondary education. These Learn & Earn models help businesses retain talent while building and enhancing the skills of their workforce. By expanding and successfully implementing flexibility, businesses can engage a powerful means to improve the financial and human capital results.

Merging talent development with flexibility is just one Lean and Earn model that Corporate Voices has documented. In our upcoming research paper, to be released this summer, A Talent Development Solution: Exploring Business Drivers and Returns in Learn and Earn Partnerships, we explore the various Learn and Earn models best practice companies are using to meet their bottom line. The Early Findings of the document was released earlier this month at our annual meeting.

Only by strategically connecting business investments across departments, such as human resources, benefits, recruitment and talent development, can companies make such significant impacts on the educational attainment and skill levels of current and future employees.