In the wake of The Great Resignation and other labor market challenges, such as the global skills shortage, organizations are finding it harder and harder to retain top talent. Data shows that while compensation and benefits still play an influential role in retention, employee expectations have shifted to place a greater emphasis on non-monetary factors such as greater work/life balance, corporate social responsibility and career advancement opportunities.
In the war for talent, it’s necessary that businesses evolve to meet the needs of their employees or risk losing them to the competition. That’s why a growing number of organizations have started doubling down on learning and development (L&D) and strategizing how to enhance their L&D initiatives to more effectively engage and retain employees.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the connection between employee learning and retention and share how you can positively influence retention through your L&D initiatives.
Understanding employee retention
Hiring and onboarding new employees is costly, so it’s in your best business interest to keep your best workers around for as long as possible. Employee retention rate is a critical metric that shows you how many of your employees are sticking around and how effective your company is at preventing turnover.
Some turnover is inevitable — there will always be workers that come and go. However, a high turnover rate means that your business is losing more employees than it’s able to replace. Not only is this costly, but it indicates that there is more you could be doing to promote retention. A business is only as strong as its workforce, and if your employees are continuously leaving after a short period of time, there are likely widespread organizational concerns that need to be addressed.
The data behind L&D and retention
The data behind employee learning and retention
Before we dive into the data, it’s important to note that there is solely just one driving reason behind why people leave a company. The reality is that it’s likely a combination of factors. That said, it’s important that your retention strategy covers all of the common areas of influence — including employee learning and development.
When it comes to employee expectations, opportunities for learning, growth and development are at the top of the list. And although this has always been an influential factor for employees and job-seekers alike, it’s become an even bigger priority in recent years as widespread skills gaps have become a reality.
The accelerated adoption of automation, A.I. and other technology has workers across nearly every industry anxious about keeping their skill sets up-to-date with 46% of employees noting that they believe their current skills will become irrelevant by 2024. In turn, there’s a heightened desire to find employers that support upskilling, reskilling and provide access to continuing education. Not only does this help attract prospective job candidates, but access to these opportunities also helps to retain existing talent.
Recent data shows that 63% of employees surveyed agreed that they would be more likely to stay at an organization if they were provided with better learning opportunities to enhance their skill set and advance their careers.
The goal of workplace learning is rarely just self-improvement. Top talent wants to support their professional growth through continued learning and education. And if your organization is able to provide these opportunities in a way that’s accessible, it can be influential in encouraging top performers to remain with the company for longer.
Traditional L&D and employee retention
Where traditional learning programs go wrong for employee retention
For years, many companies have viewed L&D programs as “set it and forget” initiatives that exist inside a benefits booklet but rarely get utilized. Companies need to adapt and evolve their learning strategies to meet the needs of their employees if they want to reap the business benefits, like increased retention and engagement.
Other common problems which inhibit the effectiveness of corporate L&D programs include:
- L&D exists in a silo
In many cases, L&D departments get boxed into a silo and as a result, the programs aren’t strategically aligned with greater business objectives outside of Human Resources. This is a backward approach — especially when future-ready skills and workforce development are top-of-mind for nearly every business right now.
- Lack of alignment with company culture
For workplace learning to become widespread, it has to be integrated into existing company culture. Without this, many employees might not even be aware that your organization offers L&D opportunities or have the confidence to take advantage of them.
- There’s no way to measure success
You can’t tie retention to learning if you have no way to measure the functionality and effectiveness of your programs in the first place. This also means you won’t be able to identify problem areas that may be hurting retention.
- No recognition or plan for how learning will benefit employees
InStride data shows that employees want to see tangible career outcomes before they make the leap to take part in workplace learning. In other words, taking a training course or enrolling in an employer-sponsored degree program are time commitments. Self-improvement aside, employees want to know that their time and effort is going to pay off in the form of advancement or getting on a desired career trajectory.
L&D programs have been around for a long time. But you might need to update your strategy as well as your motivations if your employee retention isn’t where you need it to be.
How to improve retention through L&D
Key components of employee retention and how to positively influence them through learning
As mentioned earlier, there are a multitude of influences in the workplace that impact an employee’s desire to stay at a company. Long-lasting, sustainable staff retention is a balance of different components, all of which must be uniquely measured and maintained. Let’s talk about what these different components are and how you can better leverage your L&D initiatives to improve them.
There are countless studies that link employee morale to productivity. Low morale and lessened productivity can snowball into performance issues, and eventually lead to turnover. When thinking about retention, it’s imperative to consider employee morale as part of the equation.
When it comes to L&D programs specifically, there’s a lot you can do to influence employee morale. For starters, simply having learning opportunities available to your employees is a way of showing that you’re invested in their growth. Additionally, think about how you recognize learning achievements within your organization. Providing some form of recognition for workers who complete a training course, certification or degree program can boost employee morale as it gives other members of the organization tangible evidence of the outcomes that are possible if they take advantage of learning.
A common cause of low motivation is a lack of confidence, which can be exacerbated if individuals feel that they don’t have the proper training or education to do their jobs successfully. This is why spreading internal awareness of your L&D programs is so crucial — it’s the organization’s way of letting your workforce know that you’re committed to providing them with the resources they need to keep their skills up-to-date and excel at their jobs.
InStride data shows that employees seek out tangible career outcomes before they commit to learning. Another way you can inspire motivation is by practicing internal career mobility and showcasing that education and training can lead to tangible career advancement within your business. This can also help to instill motivation and ward off some of the stale feelings that set in when a worker has been in the same role for a long time.
Learning and development is proven to have an impact on employee engagement. In a recent survey, 80% of employees said that better access to learning and development opportunities would help them to feel more engaged on the job. There are countless benefits to having more engaged employees, with better retention at the top of that list.
But retaining employees isn’t just about keeping them around, it’s also about making sure that they feel fulfilled at work. That’s where L&D really shines. When you provide people with opportunities to grow their skills and up-level their careers, it drives improved performance, greater confidence and helps to keep them invested in their work.
All of these combined factors fuel employee satisfaction. Today’s top talent seeks out employers that provide access to learning and development opportunities. They value more than just compensation and want to know that career advancement is within their reach. By providing your workforce with accessible L&D programs that fit their skills needs, you’re able to reinforce your commitment to your people and their growth.
The value of L&D for retaining employees
To stay competitive in the war for talent, it’s become imperative for organizations to prioritize learning and development as a core component of their retention strategy. It’s time to break L&D out of its silo and strategize how your learning initiatives can drive greater impact across all areas of the business — starting with retention.
Don’t stop at retention: Download this comprehensive guide to learn how learning and education can help your business attract the skilled talent you’re looking for.