What training and certification incentives are cost effective?

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Careers and staffing
IT Business Alignment in 2010
Training and certifications
Training centers
A few of my employees have occasionally brought up continuing certifications and education, wanting us to spend some of budget of course. I'm all for helping pay for a domain-specific certification or helping employees keep up their skills, but I'm trying to balance the high cost of both the training and the days lost.
My main question is:
Will I actually get a return on my investment in terms of improved skills if I pick the right certification training to approve? Should I outline what's an option, or should I have employees pitch what they want? And should I eat the whole cost or is it fair to split the bill?
Any suggestions or personal experiences are really appreciated.

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If the employees learn something which they can then bring back to the company and use when troubleshooting or performance tuning then yes it is worth it. If the employee happens to get certified in the process then that’s even better.

I’ve seen the money handled a couple of ways in the past.

1. The company just pays for everything.
2. The employee fronts the cost, and upon successful completion and a passing grade the company reimburses the employee for the costs.
3. The company splits the cost with the employee.
4. The company tells the employee to pay for it them selves.

With options 1 and 2 your employees will be most happy. Some companies require that the employee sign a contact not to quit (may or not actually be enforceable in your state or country) for N number of numbers after the training to ensure that the company gets their money worth. This can make the employee week like crap, so use with caution if you decide to do this. Obviously you can only ask the employee to sign something like this if the company covers all the costs up front.

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  • JennyMack
    Mrdenny, Great answer here. My question is, how often do you think employers opt for option #4? I'm guessing that would not apply if there is a necessary certification an employee needs to continue holding his or her job (cert renewal, etc.)? What have you seen more often? Jenny Community Manager
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  • Kevin Beaver
    If you do your homework and invest in training that can directly benefit the business I don't see why you shouldn't consider it. Brian Tracy said "Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field." Those of us in IT absolutely need it...just don't assume it's always the best and that they're making the best of it. And just because someone is certified doesn't mean their all of a sudden an expert. Before jumping in have everyone set some goals around this training and hold people accountable by tying it into their reviews, raises, etc.
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  • HoyleT
    Another item to consider is, why do your employees want the certification? As Kevin stated, what are their goals? Typically, there are 2 reasons an individual wants to become certified: 1) Validate existing skills or 2) Increase knowledge and then validate. If your employees identify certifications they are qualified for, given their current knowledge levels and experience, there are many online self-study training options available to help prep for a certification exam. Then you could offer to pick up the cost of the exam (if they pass), which is usually nominal. If they are looking to increase their skills, then you're looking at comprehensive training to bridge gaps, which can still be done in virtual environments; although some employees may prefer classroom training. As for the value added from having a certified workforce, there are several studies and whitepapers published proving the organizational (and individual) value gained from certification. Organization value usually revolves around increased productivity, standardization, global scalability (due to standardized skill sets), lower onboarding costs, etc ... Also, don't forget about employee retention, as learning and development opportunities can play a big role in providing additional value to employees. As for identifying which ones to pursue, this depends on your structure. I've seen organizations which have a formal L&D department who align with the leadership strategy to put certification programs in place, which ensure the proper skill sets are in place for future business decisions. I've also seen the complete opposite, where the individual employee is requesting a certification for personal development reasons. Both circumstances offer benefits though... A couple examples of online resources which provide self-study certification training are www.skillsoft.com and www.gogogh.com. Both are a "paid for service", but both can save considerably on training costs and also provide that extra benefit to the employee in terms of an L&D resource. Thomas Hoyle SolarWinds Certification Manager
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  • AndreaF
    My employer used to have a policy that held employees responsible for the cost of any courses they may have had covered in the previous year, if they left the company before that year was up. I believe the intent was merely to prevent staff from using the company to fund certifications that would make them more appealing candidates elsewhere. This would certainly be worth considering for options # 1 and 2....
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