When you run a company, there’s an aspect of the business you never stop worrying about—enticing and retaining top talent. It’s a justified worry when 75% of companies struggle to attract and recruit the right people for the job and 79% have trouble engaging those already on staff. This is a significant problem, for your product and your brand are only as good as the workforce of professionals behind it. Fail to provide incentive for them to come aboard and work hard and both your product and brand may suffer as a result.
Financial benefits in the form of higher salaries, bonuses, or company stock used to be the driving force behind employee loyalty and engagement. But in dynamic industries like technology, financial perks are no longer the only benefits prospects and employees seek. It begs the questions of how to best provide value to tech employees. Are they looking for flexible work hours, remote opportunities, company perks in food and gym memberships, or better health care coverage?
In truth, they’re looking for all of the above, and it’s a daunting task to provide each benefit while still striving to pay competitive salaries. But the good news is, there’s a surefire way to provide instant benefits up front: invest in continued education opportunities.
In the world of technology, continued education isn’t just desired, it’s required for workers to remain competitive and marketable. How can a developer move up in responsibility if they’re unable to learn the latest coding language or the most recent software? How can IT security professionals properly protect company information if they don’t have the time or support to stay up to date on security certifications and training?
Empowering your teams with continued learning opportunities not only helps them as they flourish and grow, but it helps your bottom line. One Gallup poll showed that continued education supports engagement, and companies with engaged employees outperform those with disengaged employees by up to 202%. Those are staggering numbers that can be easily achieved by the simple practice of investing in your employees.
Technology business owners can follow through with this in the following ways:
1. Trade Show Attendance
One of the best ways to support continued education is to send employees to top-rated trade shows and conferences pertaining to their area of expertise. In a few days’ time, they’re able to learn from influencers and top talents about what’s coming down the pipeline for future requirements and skillsets. At IT- and tech-based conferences, attendees usually get to spend time in small training groups, with hands-on exploration of the latest software, learning techniques they can take back to their jobs.
You can easily research these gatherings yourself, or nominate one of your departmental managers to identify the most beneficial conferences for your team.
2. Certification Training
The professional world carries tales of individuals who are required to spend their own money and their own free time to gain the next level of certification needed to do their job. While it may be a smart move for the company’s bottom line, it’s an easy way to foster a dissatisfied employee. Though time spent studying may take away from day-to-day tasks and affect productivity, think of the cost associated with that individual leaving. You’ll have to make do with your existing labor force until you find a replacement whom you’ll then have to take time to train. Chances are, supporting your current employee produces better numbers. Simply check out The Bureau of National Affairs’ estimate, that states U.S. businesses lose $11B annually from employee turnover.
Company finances aside, put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Maybe they’ve been with the company for a few years and are looking to move up the ranks. For example, a Monster.com study outlined how a systems engineer with a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification can increase their pay by 27%. In that example, the company benefits by having a highly qualified individual on staff, and the employee benefits with an increase in salary commensurate to that of their expertise. Show your employees they deserve that advancement and invest in their future by funding their certifications.
3. Local Learning
Many colleges and universities have departments that focus on technology and development. These departments often provide continuing education courses for professionals in the area, free panel discussions on the latest tech trends, as well as certification study sessions. Keep a current calendar of their offerings and notify employees of noteworthy sessions.
While some tech individuals are proactive about the continued education they need, others may be less inclined to seek out these opportunities. Studies have shown that workforce learning and training for those in a managerial positions falls around 70% while those in service or support jobs hover around 48%. In these instances, learning encouragement falls to company owners and managers and it’s best to start local. Incentivize community learning sessions with perks like a free lunch, a remote work day, or a small bonus at the end of the year for effort shown in continuing education efforts.
4. Capitalize on Existing Talent
If you only have the budget to send one individual in your DevOps team to the latest conference on securing hardware and infrastructure, enlist them with the task of presenting what they learned to the rest of the team. In-house informational sessions provide a low-pressure environment for employees to engage with a topic, ask questions, and explore sustainable solutions together.
5. Online Learning
Technology professionals today have unprecedented access to online communities and forums like never before. When they seek assistance with tasks, answers to questions, and solutions to their toughest technology issues, they can log on to these online communities for instant support. It’s only natural that within these communities there now lies the opportunity for learning and advancement.
An employee’s ability to take online courses at their leisure, whether free through membership access or for a fee, puts education initiatives back into their hands. By investing in employee licenses, your teams can pursue topics of interest and of importance to their career trajectory and at their own pace, without sacrificing daily tasks.
Experts Exchange, for example, has long offered Courses in leading technologies. While some are free, many require payment to attend. As a way to further support our audience, we created a Course of the Month program. We partner with providers of top-tier Courses in important technology topics to give Premium Members and Team Accounts exclusive, complimentary access to one new course in a leading technology each month.
As you work toward bolstering your team’s knowledge base of the latest technology issues and trends, follow these five steps to foster a company environment that values learning.