What’s The Relationship Between Learning and Retention?

What’s The Relationship Between Learning and Retention?

It’s become almost an expectation that employees will leave a company in just a few short years after a new hire. Younger generations are seen as rapid job changers, eager to learn what they can from each new career experience before moving on. One study conducted by Robert Half indicated that 75 percent of employees aged 18 to 34 view job hopping as beneficial to their careers. This as compared to the 59 percent of employees aged 35 to 54, and 51 percent of those 55 or older who believe finding new jobs helps their career growth. With employee mindsets about tenure and career changing, what does that mean for employers who want to keep them in place?

Changing job market has impacted values employees look for

Retaining employees has become just as much a battle as recruiting new talent. This is a reflection of the values of the new talent generation who saw their parents struggle through the most recent recession and decided they were going to put themselves first, not some faceless employer. Many watched as their parents started their own businesses, took on side gigs, and found success as freelancers. Long gone were the 25-year careers and pensions of their grandparents’ generation.

This shift in career longevity can also be attributed to the increasing number of individuals who are choosing freelance and remote careers, thanks to the convenience and opportunities that technology provides. Side hustlers, freelancers, and independent contractors account for around 60 million American workers as of this article. The US Department of Labor estimates that by 2027, half of all U.S. workers will be part of the gig economy.

Read more: Check out these 5 skills to hire for today to weather the changes of tomorrow

So what can employers do to attract and retain more workers?

Turns out talent is seeking more than just a steady paycheck these days.

An interesting factor was discovered by way of an Execu|Search Group survey of what talent really wants from a job is experience. Given choices about what they wanted in a career (salary, benefits, perks, etc.), more than half of the respondents said the opportunity for professional development (which includes training and career planning) was a number one priority. In a related study, Gallup Poll found that, “87 percent of Millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them in a job.” In many cases, learning is the glue that helps them stick with a job longer.

If your organization is struggling with dismal recruitment and high employee turnover, perhaps it’s time to boost your professional development and training programs.

Offering above-average starting salaries and generous benefits are just one piece of the puzzle in recruitment and retention. What generates the most interest and keeps employees engaged in their current jobs is the ability to learn and grow a career that matters. Millennials understand they are a precious commodity in the job market, so the more skills they can obtain through work experiences, the better their chances of long-term career success. Instead of collecting a gold watch at the end of their career, most people would rather collect experiences and knowledge. If your company offers the employee development programs they’re searching for, you’re less likely to lose your employees to early turnover.

The role of training and development at work

For the longest time, there has been a disconnect between what employers think employees want and what employees really want. Employers viewed training as a way of boosting productivity sooner. The benefit was seen as one-sided, something that had to be offered. But they didn’t understand how employees valued this experience of learning. They saw it only as, at best, a means to an end — a more skilled workforce. At worst, learning and development programs are often considered a waste of time and resources. Why train your staff over weeks or months when you can hire someone with the required skills? This can also lead to employees not asking for the training and development they need to succeed because they fear it will be viewed as a mark against them that they don’t already have the right skills.

But as old career mindsets shift, so too our views of employee training. Instead of being something to be avoided or a box to be checked, employers can see it for the opportunity it is. Not only are you upskilling your workforce and future proofing them against the coming future of work, but you’re also answering a clear employee need that will keep your best workers around longer. In more workplaces, training and development is taking a central role in improving many areas. Everyone from the entry level staffers to the highest level of executives can benefit from learning. Leaders learn to be better leaders. Employees learn to be better employees. Even customers have gotten onboard with corporate learning by engaging with on-demand training.

Pro-tip: Learn how to measure the success of a leadership development program

Meeting ongoing learning needs in the workplace

It’s one thing to understand the importance of developmental opportunities but it’s another to ensure they are effective. How can an employer ensure they are doing enough to provide a rewarding career building experience with learning resources? Luckily, there are several ways to manage this.

First, keep learning personalized and relevant to the work that each employee does. Choose a learning management system that allows your company to make the learning experience directed at specific success goals. And consider the training method. Some skills might be better learned with hands-on experience while others may require video modules an employee can refer back to.

Make sure learning is 100 percent accessible to your learners as they may be working from different locations, accessing it via multiple devices, and at varying times. This learning should be cloud-based and delivered in brief easy-to-digest lessons. Design additional learning that blends hands-on training with online experiences.

Give all learners incentives for participating in learning initiatives. This can be as simple as completion certificates and digital badges they can display in work areas and on their email signatures. You can also tie performance bonuses and perks to learning completion. This is a great way to retain employees if they know in a year they will be earning more and have a certificate to show for their efforts.

Keep learners accountable for their progress. Make learning mandatory to move forward in new programs and activities on the job. Give employees the ability to monitor their own progress so they can keep on top of their own work. Have management available to coach employees who may be struggling to learn certain concepts.

Learning and professional development has an important place in every workplace. By including it in yours, you can help to attract more candidates and retain employees who are motivated by learning.

Changing times

Remember, no matter what you do, a step forward is better than nothing. While it’s easy to say this is a job for human resources, creating a culture of learning is everyone’s responsibility. And even better, everyone should be engaging with it in some way. Most managers don’t receive leadership development. New employees are often kicked into the deep end after a brief onboarding period of job training. Talent management staff rarely get recruitment or interview training. And the list goes on. There is no role where more knowledge is a bad thing so instead of focusing only on the worker bee level of the organization, take a holistic view of how you develop your talent and start from there.


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