When you work in information technology, you don't reach a point where you finally get to ��graduate�� from advanced learning. IT industry professionals are constantly required to acquire new information and skills based on the evolution of the products they work with.
Much of this ongoing education is found in training and certification programs offered by tech vendors and industry associations. And, as every certified professional out there knows, these programs come with a price tag attached.
The average IT pro working towards a certification usually ends up buying some form of specialized training. Depending on the difficulty level of the certification and the learner's budget, training can consist of paying for one or more of the following items:
- Instructor-led classroom training
- Online self-paced training
- Practice lab equipment and systems
- Training books, DVDs, CDs, and other materials
Beyond the training component, IT pros may also purchase dedicated study material and exam preparation products. Once they are ready to proceed, they must pass one or more certification exams — and these exams all come with an associated fee.
When you aren't working, or if you're an independent contractor, IT training and certification expenses come out of your own pocket. When you're employed, however, there is the possibility that your employer will agree to cover your certification costs.
And, your employer definitely should want to pay your certification costs — because organizations gain a number of significant benefits by having certified professionals on staff.
Certification and Business Value
In 2015, the IT market intelligence firm IDC released a report titled "The Business Value of IT Certification." The report was the result of a study conducted with organizations from several different industries, with workforces ranging from a thousand to hundreds of thousands of employees. All of the organizations in the study had some certified IT professionals on the payroll.
The IDC study offers convincing evidence that employers who encourage their IT professionals to earn industry certifications — And what better encouragement is there than offering to cover the costs? — are actually generating key advantages for their organizations.
Based on the IDC study results, here are five excellent reasons why employers should cover certification costs for their IT workers:
IT Staff Productivity
The companies in the IDC study reported that certified IT employees are more productive and better equipped to deal with complex issues. Employers also find certified IT pros to be more skilled at supervising and mentoring uncertified employees, which helps reduce the total number of staff required for a certain IT function.
In particular, the study found that employees with one or more certifications are quicker to reach their maximum productivity than uncertified workers.
Better Risk Mitigation
According to the IDC study, "(C)ertified staff members reduce the frequency and duration of unplanned outages as a result of deeper knowledge and the ability to apply their knowledge." Employers with certified workers reported fewer unplanned downtime events, faster outage situation resolution times, and overall improved risk mitigation.
The IDC study found that certified employees are more efficient, which enables organizations to be more agile in terms of supporting internal and external users, and adopting new technologies and strategies.
Organizations doing application development were particularly bullish on IT certification, reporting that app development teams with certified workers were better at delivering new products on time, delivered more new applications on budget, and generated higher product user satisfaction ratings.
Employee Hiring and Retention
Employee retention has been recognized as a major issue in recent years. There are significant costs associated with job recruiting, interviewing and hiring, onboarding new employees, and getting them up-to-speed in their positions. Companies with high staff turnover rates end up spending more than their competitors on these types of activities.
The companies in the IDC study told interviewers that certified IT workers have longer average job tenures than uncertified staff, and that certified workers have a stronger commitment to their jobs.
IT certification also helps to streamline the process of finding new employees, as hiring managers are more likely to use certification as a qualifier for sorting through job applications.
Companies are having to deal with this sobering present-day statistic: 10,000 Americans are turning 70 years old every single day. The well-documented Baby Boomer effect means the country's workforce is getting older, and the number of experienced professionals expected to leave their jobs to retire is ramping up quickly.
As noted previously, there is a direct link between IT certification and employee retention. There is also a relationship between certified employees and succession planning. The IDC study found that certified workers are capable of handling more responsibilities, are more likely to be skilled at supervising others, and are more interested in career advancement.
Why should employers pay for IT certifications?
The findings from the IDC study make it pretty clear that employers who agree to cover IT certification costs for employees are getting a significantly positive return on their investment.
Employers who pay for ongoing IT training and certification can expect their staff to be more committed to their jobs, and more likely to stay with their employers for longer periods than uncertified workers. Certified IT professionals are more productive, and provide higher levels of reliability when it comes to systems stability and service uptimes.
Having certified IT staff results in greater business agility, making it possible to deliver more products on budget, and provide higher levels of user satisfaction. Certified professionals are able to take on greater responsibilities, and provide supervision and mentoring to uncertified coworkers.
Perhaps most significantly, providing paid training and certification for IT employees plays an important role in succession planning, helping organizations to hang on to candidates in order to develop them into the next generation of IT analysts, managers, and executives.
If you are looking for some ammunition to bring to your employer when asking them to cover the costs of your next certification, you can download a PDF of the IDC report from this page on the Microsoft Learning website.