With employee turnover rates reaching all-time highs, companies are making employee retention a priority as older employees are set to retire within the next decade. Holding on to current employees is less expensive than hiring and training new ones. One way to retain employees is to offer opportunities to employees to continue their education, training or certifications.

The facilities management industry in particular is facing a challenging workforce outlook. Continuing education is an effective way to enhance the skills of the next generation, says Jake Smithwick, Ph.D., MPA, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

For example, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers a 100 percent online construction and facilities engineering master’s degree designed to help working professionals earn a master’s degree on their own schedule. The program also covers some of the industry’s most relevant topics, including RFP development, safety, BIM, sustainability, team development and more.

“Technology will undoubtedly play a role in overcoming workforce challenges, but it can’t replace the ingenuity and innovative value that individual facility professionals bring to their organizations,” Smithwick says.

The university is also launching a new research project to better understand the personality profiles of facility professionals to assist in the hiring process and identify future leaders in the field, he adds.

Training and educating staff is a strong tool for employee retention, because it helps employees stay current in the industry, learn new ideas and implement those ideas to benefit the organization and their team, says Alana Dunoff, president of AFD Professional Services and instructor in the facilities management program at Temple University. Having a staff that is continuously growing is an asset to the entire organization, she adds.

Employers can help employees continue their education by offering opportunities to earn education credentials, attend conferences, webinars, programs and events, earn degrees and licenses (associate, bachelor, master, doctorate, etc.), participate in training, get access to resources, whether financial or otherwise, get access to memberships and more.

“Employees that have the opportunity to learn, earn a credential, attend conferences etc., often feel highly valued by their organization and if they are also recognized for their success that continues to build on a sense of belonging and appreciation – which is a terrific way to encourage retention,” Dunoff says. “If we feel valued, we will return that with loyalty. Regardless of where you are in your career, we all want to feel valued for your contribution and appreciation for the knowledge and expertise that we bring to work each day.”

Continuing education opportunities are a relatively inexpensive way to invest in the growth and professional development of employees, and it is also a strong recruiting tool, says Dunoff.

“If a potential hire knows they will be able to continue their learning, that may be an additional incentive to accept an offer,” she adds.

There are numerous ways that offering education opportunities to employees can benefit employers and employees, and prioritizing them can help organizations grow internally and externally and keep their employees along the way. Retaining employees saves money and helps build stronger relationships, which leads to more success.