Organizational leaders often question the return on investment (ROI) for employee training. Yet, varied statistics across industries, job types, and training quality make it difficult to calculate a one-size-fits-all financial metric.
Even without a clear dollar-to-dollar equation, organizations are planning to invest more in training. Data shows the global training market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 9.57% between 2022 and 2028, reaching $251.72M USD.
Jeremy Rabson, Executive Director for GIAC, has been studying the effect of certifications in relation to business outcomes. “We have the metrics on training budgets, engagement, and student performance. But what happens if those trained do not retain their knowledge over the long term? How does that affect an organization’s financial calculation of ROI?”
Rabson noted that employers should look at the entirety of a training path to optimize spend. When asked for advice on how an organization can ensure their dollars are spent wisely, Rabson replied:
“The simplest way to optimize your spending is to require those who train to take a test at the end of a course. Taking a test is not just for validation, it sparks long term memory recall. These memories can then be actioned. This is particularly essential in cybersecurity where one must be able to quickly recall and then act on information under pressure.”
The Retention Effect
The retention effect, or forward testing effect, refers to the enhanced ability to retrieve previously studied information through the act of taking a test. Simply studying is not enough to retain information. Students must exercise their newly learned skills to fully comprehend the material. This pressurized situation strengthens neural pathways to prompt both recall and application.
The retention effect is one of the most consistent findings in cognitive psychology. It can be applied to most areas of learning from recalling a list of terms to synthesizing complex technical information. The results of this phenomenon aren’t isolated to intense testing environments. Interim testing, such as taking quizzes between modules, prompts recall while motivating students to continue learning.
The forward testing effect starts early in the learning process. University studies have shown an increase in the attentiveness of students who are preparing for an exam. This is measured by the number of notes taken, questions asked, and quiz performance. The forward testing effect has been shown to have longer term implications, such as extending the ability to recall other contexts while in this “warm up for a test” mode. The psychological effect increases when test takers are recognized for their achievements, further motivating workers and reinforcing organizational culture.
Business leaders can apply this psychology to ensure their organization is getting maximum value from training spend. Requiring a certification at the end of a course creates a narrative that performance outcomes are expected. Employer sponsored training isn’t simply a “nice to have,” it is a key metric for employee, organizational, and financial performance.
“Students taking a course invest 40 hours in learning. Those who go on to pursue their GIAC certification average 40 hours of additional study. They also commit to two practice tests prior to the certification exam. By requiring employees to take a test post training, employers are increasing their likelihood that information is not only retained but can be applied on the job,” said Rabson.
Upskilling and Employee Retention
When asked whether encouraging certifications will lead to employee turnover, Rabson replied, “There is an underlying fear that if workers are reskilled, they will leave for other opportunities. Yet, the statistics say otherwise.” For example, 71% of employees said training increased their job satisfaction and 61% cited opportunities for upskilling was an important reason for staying at their job.
The financial metrics may vary, but psychology is consistent. Asked for final advice to those evaluating ROI, Rabson replied, “If you want to get the most from your training dollars, you need to require testing. The act alone raises the probability that your investment will provide return.”
GIAC Certifications provides the highest and most rigorous assurance of cybersecurity knowledge and skill available to industry, government, and military clients across the world. Explore GIAC certifications today and see just how far certification can take your cybersecurity career.