While our world is always changing, enduring a pandemic has forced us into warp drive. COVID-19 has affected everyone. Life is different now, and it will continue to be different even after we emerge from this. Overnight, countless jobs went remote. Many businesses closed, and many people lost jobs. The way we do business worldwide changed and continues to evolve.

A Critical Investment

How lucky are you? Would you choose to bet on a known entity or random chance? This question may seem like a silly one when boiled down so simply, but it is often overlooked in the workplace. A significant asset to any company is its workforce. Businesses invest time and money in their personnel, and, in return, those employees learn, grow and, hopefully, advance the company.

We are at a crucial time. Businesses must change the way they do business in order to succeed. Leaders must be able to pivot, adjust, and prepare for the future. Research shows that up to one-third of the U.S. workforce may need to learn new skills or find new occupations by 2030.

If you do it correctly, investing in your workforce will bring rewards. First, perform a needs assessment. Determine where your company is lacking and what prevents its people from being more productive. Send out surveys, work with department directors and obtain feedback from your employees. Next, it’s time to determine what form your new investment will take.

What Educational Institutions Offer

Partnering with an educational institution may be a good solution. Some institutions help businesses by offering or even developing the certificates or programs an organization needs to maintain its workforce. Training current employees is usually less expensive than hiring new employees, who need onboarding.

While tuition assistance programs are valuable, tuition disbursement programs are one step better. In the latter, the employer pays the education providers directly, thereby taking the financial stress off the employee. The cost is the same to the employer, and the benefit to the employee is great. This approach fosters loyalty and decreases turnover.

The retail grocery industry provides a strong example of taking a proactive approach in using education to increase employees’ satisfaction and skill set. Many grocery retail organizations provide assistance for industry-relevant certificates (e.g., retail management certificate) that articulate directly into university degree credits. Establishing your organization as one that values talent development will help your employees gain the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to prepare themselves, and the organizations they serve, for any circumstance.

Finding a Partner

Do your research when selecting an education partner. Find out their student loan default rate. A low number indicates that their graduates can find jobs and pay back their loans. Learn what their graduation rate is and if they have received external recognition through organizations such as such as the U.S. News and World Report.

Meet with a member of the institution, share your needs assessment and agree upon program models for reskilling the workforce. Often, universities offer certificates, classes, degree programs and webinars. Many have teaching schedules that accommodate working individuals, and some have certificate programs that learners can apply toward a degree. Discuss the curriculum; make sure it is current and relevant and will meet the needs of your business.

Once these items are in place, make sure you revisit them regularly and adjust as needed. We are living in rapidly changing times, and the path to success is to adapt, grow and bet on something you know.