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Retaining Top Performers with Professional Certifications

  • 10 March, 2023

In the last several years, there has been a great shift of employees through many organizations brought on by the global shutdown in 2020. There are dozens of reasons for employees deciding to ultimately leave their positions like dissatisfaction in the workplace and remote work opportunities outside of traditional office settings. Many employees realized that their efforts weren't being matched by their employers and decided to take their talents elsewhere.

A study conducted by Pew Research Center found that employees often leave their job due to a lack of adequate career development opportunities as well as inadequate pay. Of course, it's difficult to stay in a job that lacks promise. One way for an employer to prove their commitment to top-performing employees and keep them satisfied in the job is to offer professional certifications as a form of career development.

Retaining Top Performers with Professional Certifications

1. Why Do Top Performers Stay with Their Company?

Staffing Advisors defines a top performer as "someone who is capable of, and interested in, driving the business results you need- someone who will take responsibility for getting results within the norms of your company culture." For a better understanding of why high-achieving employees stay with specific jobs- namely, jobs that offer certification- let's look at some traits specific to effective employees:

1. They have long-term goals that aren't affected by job changes.
2. They don't only do what's asked of them.
3. They're accomplished.
4. They're part of quality teams in multiple disciplines.
5. They seek and gain promotions rapidly because they're constantly improving.
6. They value goals over dreams.
7. They accept challenges with excitement.

A top-performing employee will change careers only if it benefits their long-term goal, exceeds their job expectations, and provides an opportunity for growth. If employers do offer certifications that align with these goals of accomplishment, they're more likely to stay with and be a benefit to the company.

Finding quality candidates is half the battle. The other half is keeping them. Forbes' tips for retaining top employees include (but are not limited to):
  • Creating an environment that supports growth.
  • Building rapport between employees.
  • Learning what motivates employees most.
  • Showing your support and staying connected with them.
  • Giving them flexibility.
  • Developing managers capable of retaining top talent.
  • Actively improving standard operating procedures.
  • Acting on your promises.
  • Having clear purposes for tasks.
  • Letting them take initiative.
  • Keeping track of productivity.
  • Discussing what will help them succeed.
A final way to retain employees is to step back. While retaining top talent, it's not only about finding and keeping capable employees. It's also about developing your current employees into balanced high achievers. Giving workers opportunities to decide for themselves what kind of employee they'll choose to be will also give the employer the ability to watch those that do take chances on themselves.

2. Steps to Employing and Retaining Top Employees

There is a process, though not guaranteed, that will enable an employer to not only hire but also build and retain top-performing employees. It takes time to develop a process personal to the company itself, but a basic template starts like this:

1. Know what you want. Having specific goals in mind when onboarding employees will eliminate any frustration that may come from not being clear enough.

2. Carefully structure your interviews. During the interview process, screen them for potential, not only current abilities. Using carefully curated, yet unexpected questions will give you insight into the interviewee and their thought process.

3. Evaluate potential during the onboarding and probationary process, which includes offering opportunities to show you what they can do.

4. Train, evaluate, and offer guidance where needed. In the end, trust that they can get the job done that you hired them to do.

5. Evaluate company culture and consider ways that might improve the one you currently offer. Some ways to better company culture are to have improved opportunities for individuals. Employees will stay in a position if they feel it's a good fit and if they know they're valued. One way to do this is to offer industry-specific and general business certifications in various capacities.

3. Top Benefits of Professional Certifications

Professional certifications, in one way or another, help tick off each step on the list above.

Gaining industry certifications enables the industry as a whole to raise the standard of professionalism. Creating a base level of competence and confidence ensures that the group is only as knowledgeable as the least knowledgeable company. This works well for both large-scale industry standards, as well as smaller-scale, interpersonal business dynamics.

Professional certifications also help to create a culture of trust between boss and employee. It's important that managers take the time to get to know the workers in their space. To figure out what works well for them, what does not, what tasks they're best at, or what makes them feel most confident in their job. Given the opportunity, most employees will jump on the chance to gain certifications. If these opportunities are offered in the interview process and followed through on, the trust built between employer and employee will go a long way.

Professional certifications allow employees to do their best and show their employer their skillset. It takes time and effort to study for certification exams. As a standard, coursework can take five months to complete, often taking as much time during the week as a part-time job on top of their original job. It takes time and dedication to prepare and then take the exams required for certification. Offering certifications is another way of attracting the best-performing employees.

As a reward system, certifications can influence employees to reach goals faster and more completely. Offering professional certifications as a reward after reaching certain milestones creates a system of continually bettering the employee and the company.

Certification opportunities help good employees become great employees. Say one employee is excellent at creating presentations, but a little less confident on giving them. One way that this employee could use certification is to gain a greater oral communication ability. Certifications aren't only there to help prove knowledge. They're also there to help gain more knowledge.

4. Types of Certifications

As a standard, there are two overall types of certifications: general business and industry-specific. General business certs such as the PMP® (Project Management Professional) or a business analyst certification can apply to many industries. Others, like the NCLEX-RN® for nursing, can only be used in the medical field. The specific type of certification necessary depends heavily on the job being performed. For instance, and a little obvious, nursing certifications are only applicable to nursing staff. However, within the nursing field, there are dozens of types of nursing jobs depending on which subfield the nurse intends to apply to.

5. Retaining Top Performing Employees with Professional Certifications

Top-performing employees are simply high achievers at heart. They like to do well, complete projects, and know that their work is appreciated. Offering certifications as a way to help create, employ, and retain top-performing employees enables the employer to weed out individuals who are just working for a paycheck instead of a job well done.

Professional certifications also help to build a community of productive and goal-oriented workers. When a group works well together, and nobody has to step over to another's area to do the work of another, it helps develop employees who are confident in themselves and their coworkers and can instead create a healthier dynamic between employees.

In the end, professional certifications help employees and companies gain exposure and networking opportunities, demonstrate an employee's competence and confidence in a field, and help raise the standard of professionalism in the industry. As an employer, it helps to know that you can delegate a task to someone and trust that they will complete it with the same level of attention and accuracy that you would.

Retaining stellar employees who are ultimately dissatisfied with their available work opportunities is a difficult task. Developing a business process of onboarding and creating top-performing employees using professional certifications as a tool helps protect the employer from increased employee turnover and the negative associated costs. It's better to spend those funds in areas that will be an ultimate benefit to the company rather than a detriment.

High-achieving people do well when not when they're micromanaged, but when they are recognized for their work and dedication. Professional certifications are one way of saying, "You've done well, and I think you're ready for the next step."

Are you ready to help your employees take the next step in their professional development? Contact School of PE today to learn how we can help your team maximize their careers!
About the Author: Anna Taylor

Anna Taylor is a freelance writer and avid researcher- a jack of all trades, but a master of none. She graduated from the University of Hawai'i with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts because she had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. She has since found her love of Extended Reality and the possibilities it brings to the world, as well as gardening, cooking, and writing. Anna lives in Interior Alaska with her family.

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