Certifications are a form of training popular with both IT professionals and the organizations that employ them. They not only provide learners the essential knowledge and skills they need to work with mature and emerging technologies, but they also provide evidence of skill mastery. When an organization pays for individual employees or entire teams to earn an IT certification, it’s important for them to be able to recognize the return on that investment in terms of employee performance and business impact.

In a recent TechRepublic poll, 10 out of 12 IT leaders said certifications are worthwhile for employees — but with a few caveats. For example, Inder Davalur, group chief information officer (CIO) of KIMS Hospitals Private Limited, said it’s important for certifications to be aligned with IT strategy. He also said an employer’s support of IT certification can improve employee retention and satisfaction.

Are you considering investing in certifications for your IT staff? Do you already pay for technical teams to become certified in critical technologies? How will you know if their learning is paying off both for them and your company? Here are a few tips that will help you ensure your IT staff are well trained and contributing to business success:

Invest in Group Training

Private group training can make the certification process more time-efficient and cost-effective. Many providers even offer discounts to upskill an entire team rather than paying for individual employees to participate in training one at a time. Another cost-efficient option is to invest in virtual group training, which eliminates the costs of paying for remote or distributed team members to travel to your headquarters or a training site. Or, if you are certifying a single team that works in the same office, many providers will come to you, which provides the unique interactivity of in-person training without the cost of travel.

A certain amount of the content within a certification program will be standard across learners, but with private group training, you can actually customize the content — to a certain extent — to your own business and IT teams. Using examples from your industry and the problems your business faces can improve learning as well as application back on the job.

Pick the Right Certifications

There’s a large number of IT certifications on the market for many different technologies. Don’t waste your IT team’s valuable time — or your training budget — certifying them in a technology they aren’t likely to use. Instead, work with the CIO or other IT leader to understand the organization’s technology strategy. What products will your company be launching, and what does the IT team need to know in order to support them? What software programs will the workforce be using in the next several years? Where does the CIO see the company going in terms of newer technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) or big data? What are your cybersecurity needs, and do you have the talent needed to protect your business?

It’s also a good idea to do some market research. Taking a look at industry job reports can help you understand the field and what your learners might need in the coming months or years. For example, IT staff increasingly require skills in the areas of cloud adoption, automation, big data, AI and analytics.

Consider Digital Badges

Digital badges are growing in popularity for learners and employers. These “nano-credentials” give learners a way to demonstrate their skills and, thus, improve their employability. They also provide validation of those skills, so organizations can better understand the skills their workforce has, which is invaluable when it comes to planning technical initiatives and proactively filling IT skills gaps.

Additionally, digital badges can help organizations prove ROI. Most providers include some form of a digital fingerprint that shows where the holder earned the badge, what it took to earn the badge and what skills the badge represents.

Find a Vendor-Approved Certification

When deciding which IT certifications to invest in, look for providers that are authorized partners with technology vendors. If your team needs to be certified in a certain software, look for a training provider authorized to certify learners in that software. Common examples include many of the major software companies, such as Red Hat, VMware, Microsoft, Google, AWS, SAP and IBM. These companies work with training providers to ensure that their certification programs fully prepare learners to work with their software.

Because of the speed at which technology evolves, it’s more important than ever to ensure your learners are up to date. Vendor-authorized certifications typically include the most recent and relevant information, since it’s received directly from the vendor. In fact, any time your company switches vendors or changes platforms, it’s a good idea to look into certification on the new software for your IT team.

Don’t Forget to Consider Engagement and Satisfaction

While IT certifications certainly provide a return on investment in terms of new skills and improved productivity, they can also improve employee engagement and satisfaction. When employees know the organization cares enough about them to invest in their development, that appreciation goes a long way toward growing a loyal, happy workforce.

Training ignites passion. When your IT staff learns new technical skills, it starts them down a path toward innovation that will spark new ideas and successes for the business. When employees see the impact they have on the organization, they become more actively engaged in their work and more motivated to keep improving. And when they are more engaged and motivated, they will, in turn, be more likely to stay with your company.

IT certifications can help technical professionals develop new skills, advance their careers and improve their salaries. An employer who invests in certifications for its IT team sees a return on investment, too, as certifications enable companies to innovate and adapt to the latest technologies, improve workforce productivity, and boost employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. With so many benefits for both the individual and the bottom line, IT certifications are truly a win-win.