Training & Development

A closer look at the professional development opportunities employees really want

Professional Development Opportunities for Employees

With the decline in employee loyalty and an increase in job-hopping, it can be difficult to attract and retain candidates. One way many organizations are combating this issue is by reconsidering benefit offerings. While a few employers are going the route of implementing some outrageous perks, many are focusing those that can keep employees around long term.

One such tactic is offering professional development opportunities. According to a recent report, 86 percent of employees said they would change jobs if it meant more options for training. There’s also evidence that Millennials rank the ability to learn and grow as the most important job consideration.

That said, it can be difficult to determine what kind of professional development employees want. Before you invest time and resources into your workforce, be sure they’ll actually take advantage of development-focused benefits. We’ve done some research to help. Join us as we explore the opportunities that could turn your organization into a coveted workplace.

5 professional development opportunities employees want

In a recent PayScale survey, 38,000 respondents indicated which professional development opportunities they want most. Below are the top five. 

1. Management and leadership training

According to the report, 32 percent of respondents said they were most interested in management and leadership training. Though this is a broad category, the effect of fostering confident leaders is unmistakable — good managers can improve employee engagement and overall retention.

One of the best ways to encourage manager development is by offering online courses. At University of Massachusetts Global, for instance, professionals can enroll in classes like effective delegation and self-management. In addition to reviewing relevant case studies, students engage in interactive assignments and receive support from dedicated instructors. Webinars also offer an effective learning opportunity that allows employees to engage from their desks. For an in-person option, try hosting internal workshops that are run by high-level managers who share insight and offer practical tips.

By providing training like this, you could help develop confidence in your managers and impact employees across your organization.

2. Professional certifications

Like management training, professional certifications can include course work but require more preparation and typically involve passing standardized exams.

Certifications are great middle-ground options that don’t take the same level of commitment as degrees, which makes them appealing to employees moving into new roles or taking on additional responsibilities. According to the PayScale report, the industries most interested in professional certifications were:

  • Human resources
  • Accounting and finance
  • Healthcare
  • Social services
  • Legal

There are certification preparation courses offered by schools that can help employees prepare for exams while earning continuing education units (CEUs). One good option for general business development in almost any industry is a Human Resources Certification Exam Preparation Course. This covers material necessary to pass either the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) exams. Other popular courses can prepare employees to become certified in the Six Sigma approach for process improvement and payroll accounting, management and administration.

As you evaluate which options are best for your employees and organization, be sure not to mistake certification preparation with certificate programs. While certification often involves self-paced study, a certificate involves multiple courses that can be transferred into degree programs such as a master’s. Two examples of this include a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration — covering foundations of standard business practices like financial reporting economic influences and marketing management — and a Graduate Certificate in Business Intelligence and Analytics — teaching students how to leverage data to make better decisions.

3. Technical skills training

While certain industries have more opportunities for technical skills training than others, PayScale reports that workers in a variety of occupations are interested in advancing their proficiency in areas such as programming languages, search engine optimization, and 3D molding. They include employees who work in:

  • Art and design
  • Media and publishing
  • Architecture and engineering
  • Information technology
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Science and biotech

Technical training can be included as a part of certification requirements, workshops and individual classes. For example, University of Massachusetts Global offers a course in data science for those looking to take their analytics skills to the next level. Again, it’s possible to host your own trainings by leveraging existing employees who have already mastered certain technical skills. Some professional conferences will even host working sessions to help attendees learn new skills and deepen their existing knowledge.

As industries incorporate new technologies, it’s also good to keep in mind that IT certifications can go a long way toward pushing your personnel to remain competitive. Instead of outsourcing tasks, providing technical training can keep talent in-house.

4. Teamwork and interpersonal skills training

It may seem like investing in technical skills is the most sensible thing to do, but don’t overlook soft skills. Competencies like emotional intelligence, communication and collaboration are just as important. These are the types of skills that keep your departments thriving.

While some critics may argue that these skills can’t be taught, there are certainly ways to develop these competencies with the right training. There are plenty of informal exercises that can help workers improve their communication, collaboration and creative thinking.

5. Employer-subsidized degrees

Lastly, some employees are looking for tuition assistance as they work toward their degrees. This route can be more expensive than other offerings; however, the return on investment (ROI) may increase accordingly. One health insurance company actually experienced a 129 percent ROI through implementing an education reimbursement program. Between reduced turnover rates, increased employee engagement and lower recruitment costs, tuition benefit programs can save your organization a lot of money in the long run.

Furthermore, you may not have to spend as much on tuition as you might think. Employers are able to offer a portion of educational assistance tax-free.

Attract and retain employees with enticing professional development opportunities

Professional development is about more than just meeting the baseline criteria to be a competitive workplace. It’s about cultivating an environment that values growth and encourages employees to do their best. 

Bear in mind that everyone is different. Some workers may value a degree while others are more interested in training workshops. You may need to explore a number of options like the ones we’ve covered in this article. Having a strategic partner can also help. If you’d like to explore the possibility of working with University of Massachusetts Global to bring new professional development benefits to life through custom training options, visit



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