The Definitive Guide to Learning and Development Stipends

From books to classes to conferences and more, stipends help your employees get the information they need to be their most productive and best selves.


Over the past few years, there's been a lot of new information coming out about the many benefits of learning and development stipends for employees. 

As more companies turn to this option to better solve for the uniqueness of their team, more questions arise. 

That's why we developed the definitive guide to everything you need to know about these education-forward, people-first stipends:

Here's what is covered in this guide:

  1. What is a learning stipend
  2. How other companies do learning stipends
  3. Why use learning & development stipends
  4. The data on learning stipends
  5. How to make the most of your learning stipend

What is a learning stipend?

First, a definition:

A learning or education stipend is a sum of money given to employees for them to spend on learning initiatives that relevant to them and their needs. 

Further details on what they are:

  • Learning stipends can be given out on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. 
  • They are non-taxable items.


Learn more about perk stipends from our Ultimate Guide on Perk Stipends and Lifestyle Spending Accounts here.

buffer learning stipend

Example of a learning stipend

To the left is a screenshot from Buffer's $20/month learning and development stipend.

To achieve their learning goals, their team spent money on 15 unique categories. 

How could an HR or People Operations professional create a program that supports this diversity of need? 

This perfectly illustrates the power of a perk stipend or lifestyle spending accounts.

Read more about Buffer's learning and development stipend here.

How other companies do learning stipends

There is no one-size-fits-all learning stipend as every company's size, budget, and focus on learning is different. Check out how the culture giants below leverage the flexibility and personalization of learning stipends.

Slack

On their hiring page, Slack explains that employees receive $500 annually towards a personal development opportunity of their choice and $2000 annually for professional development. That’s a significant monetary investment on employee learning and development.

Webflow

Through Compt, Webflow offers a $1,000/year learning and development stipend for their employees.

Buffer

As mentioned above, Buffer spends $20/month on every employee to learn in three main ways: core learning, stretch learning, and holistic development.

Help Scout

The Help Scout has a "Learn Something Stipend" where each employee is given $1,800 to spend annually on learning.

Olark

Olark has a professional development budget of $2,000/year to use on classes, books, software, conferences, etc. -- whatever helps their team learn.

Balsamiq

Balsamiq gives their employees $3,000/year to spend on books, classes, or travel, accommodation and fees for attending conferences.

Smartsheet

Smartsheet provides their employees $1,000/year to spend on learning-related items.

Wyzant

As noted in this Forbes piece, Andrew Geant, co-founder of Wyzant offers their employees $2,000 per year in learning stipends. 

Why use learning & development stipends

Learning and development can take on various forms: coaching, classes, conferences, training, learning through books, and many others.

Learning stipends have quickly become one of the best forms for encouraging employees to always be learning because they offer so many benefits over the traditional "we pick the learning process or path" for you.

Benefits to learning stipends include:

  • Employees can pick what is best for them. Some people may need to level-up through classes where others may need coaching, a learning stipend lets everyone get what they need. 
  • They're flexible which allows for personalization. What one employe needs is different than another, and it can change from day to day. A learning stipend lets you fill the gap between employees and their needs.
  • More learning and development. Because you let people pick the best learning for them, they're more likely to engage with stipends which means more usage, which means more learning.
  • Employees are happier. When you trust employees to pick what's best for them, you signify you trust them and their judgement. Trust is the most important building block of a high-functioning team.


The data on learning stipends  

Educational stipends aren't new, but like most other employee perks, there isn't too much data directly associated with them.

Below find stories, relevant statistics, and more from companies who are offering these to their employees:

  • A whopping 80% of employees said that some form of continuous learning and professional development ranked from “important” to “very important” to them. (Snacknation, 2018) (Click to tweet)
  • In a recent Gallup poll, 87% of millennials said development is important in a job. When employees, particularly millennials, are satisfied with the programs for career development that are available to them, they are more likely to remain with an employer. (Gallup, 2016)
  • Andrew Geant, cofounder of Wyzant, believes learning stipends have proven effective at boosting employee retention and even improving their recruiting capabilities in an increasingly competitive market. “In interviews, potential employees often cite the learning stipend as a top reason they applied,” Geant has said.
  • Among millennials — who make up 35% of the workforce, the largest generational group — 87% consider potential career growth and development opportunity important when considering a job offer.


More content on learning stipends: 



How to make the most of your learning stipends

If you invest in your people, they will invest in you.

As famous speaker Jim Rohn once said, "When you invest in people and lift them toward their potential, they will love you for it." From career coaching to conferences and books, learning stipends lets managers and employees pick the best path for them to reach their potential. 

Below are some ideas as to how your employees and your company can get the most out of your learning stipend:

  • Formalize it with process and documentation. 

A learning stipend that isn't documented and doesn't have a formal process only leads to confusion. We've all been at organizations that haven't properly outlined exactly what the benefit is, what's covered, and how to take advantage. This leads to more question for employees, and more questions to address for HR. Eliminate questions, confusion, and lop-sided support for only some people by properly documenting how much people have, how it can be used, and how to best redeem this perk. You can document this process on an internal wiki like Atlassian or Tettra, or manage the whole process through a perk software like Compt (hey there! ?).

  • Include it in your job postings. 

Let your potential employees know that you're committed to their continued development and you make this possible by giving them a stipend to pick the best methods of learning for them. 

  • Set a metric for adoption or usage. 

Buffer found that about 27% of their team took advantage of their learning stipend, however, at Compt, we find that ~X% of employees take advantage of their company's stipends. Set a utilization, adoption, or participation metric that you're shooting for, and then create process to support that. One example of a good process is by developing trainings to help people managers at your company find ways to get their team members to take advantage.

  • Where relevant, tie back to a company value.  ❤️

Since today's labor market is crowded. With three of the six billion companies in today's US labor market being hyper-competitive, finding and keeping talent isn't easy. By having a clear and powerful mission, vision, and values, you're able to find the people who have similar beliefs which will attract them to your business. Double-down on your MVV by investing in it. If you have a value of "Always be learning", then having a learning stipend tied to that really helps you walk the walk.  

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Let's connect to see how a learning stipend would work at your company, and see if it can help your company achieve even greater success.