Investing in education and development is a win-win for both employers and employees

What makes employees want to stay with a company? Although the reasons vary, studies indicate that ongoing investment in staff’s growth and development is at the top of the list. A recent LinkedIn report finds that “employees consider opportunities to learn and grow as the number-one driver of great work culture.”

While some organizations don’t have the resources or the inclination to provide ongoing training, those that do reap the benefits. According to LinkedIn, “companies that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, nearly two times as long” as companies that don’t.

What drives employee retention at Hennepin County?

Hennepin County is among the local organizations that encourage and invest in skills training. Julia Miller, who oversees workforce development in Hennepin County’s Employee Career Center (ECC), says, “Our before-and-after surveys indicate that employees are more likely to stay as a result of the investment the organization is making in their growth and development.” 

Driven by Hennepin County’s proactive efforts to invest in employee development and prepare for a slew of impending retirements, Miller and her team arranged for a group of 30 employees to go through the University of Minnesota Project Management Certificate (PM) program in early 2020. “We needed a closed cohort—a special program open to our employees exclusively—and we chose the U of M CCAPS [College of Continuing and Professional Studies] because of its reputation for excellence in continuing education programs for busy professionals.”

“Higher education has a long track record of serving future members of the workforce,” says Ross Jahnke, director of professional development programs for CCAPS, which runs the cohort program. “That perspective has often focused on the needs of the individual seeking to prepare themselves to be a great employee and engaged citizen. That is important and good work.”

“There is another side of the employment picture that has historically garnered less attention from the nation's colleges and universities,” he adds, “the need for employers to upskill the people they already have to meet new and changing needs of their organizations. That is a need our professional development programs are designed to meet. We want to help organizations discover their potential by developing their people.”

"Our employees had an excellent experience and shared their impressions with their peers, so we ran more cohorts. To date, we’ve sent close to 200 employees through CCAPS’s Project Management Certificate program.”

That first cohort from Hennepin County attended three of the nine courses needed to complete the program in person before the pandemic forced everyone online, which Miller says was a fairly smooth transition. “The pivot to online showed us as an employer partner that U of M CCAPS has the resources and acumen to make the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of their customers. The CCAPS team was very agile in making those adjustments, and we didn’t experience any attrition during the transition to the virtual format.” 

“The individualized support ECC staff received from CCAPS helped our employees to navigate through challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to complete the program on time. Our employees had an excellent experience and shared their impressions with their peers, so we ran more cohorts. To date, we’ve sent close to 200 employees through CCAPS’s Project Management Certificate program,” Miller said.

Factors that lead to success in developing MnDOT employees

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is another organization that has been sending project managers—or anyone aspiring to manage projects—through the Project Management Certificate program, starting in 2016. Pamela Schubloom, the project management liaison for the agency, says the virtual course delivery has allowed them to more than double the number of employees they can put through the program. “I’ve expanded the program to so many more learners since adding the virtual experience in 2020. It allows me to reach people who work in our offices throughout the state at lower costs while reducing their time away from work. It’s a win-win for all. Our program more than doubled without inflating the budget. The PM Certificate program is very popular!”

MnDOT employees agree. “I don’t think I would have been able to complete the program as fast if I would have had to travel to all the classes,” wrote one staffer who completed the program earlier this year.
But convenience isn’t the only benefit of offering professional training to your workforce. “After completing the certificate program, I began interviewing for positions that would take advantage of my enhanced skill set and was excited to accept a new role as a project management and quality improvement supervisor in Human Services,” wrote one Hennepin County employee. 

“It’s been a huge confidence booster for our employees”, says Miller. “They feel more confident in their technical skills and better prepared to advance their career with Hennepin County. It does take some effort to get the partnership started—connecting with employees, establishing support systems to help them overcome any barriers, and putting metrics around the programs that you’re offering. But the positive impact that you see in your talent development and engagement is absolutely worth it.”

CCAPS offers closed-cohort training for our entire portfolio of courses and certificates. Your organization may opt to take a single course, a full certificate, or a hand-picked selection of courses to meet the professional development needs of your employees. Want to learn more? Contact us at [email protected].