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The Role Employee Learning and Development Plays in Retention

Organizations are facing a serious employee engagement crisis. According to Gallup’s "State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report," only one in three U.S. employees are engaged at work. This study also reveals that workers in the U.S. and Canada reported the highest rate of daily stress globally.

These figures aren’t surprising, considering the heightened social, racial, and economic tensions of the last year. The correlation between employee engagement and levels of daily worker stress also isn’t new: stress in the workplace leads to burnout, then disengagement, and finally, voluntary turnover.

Pre-“Great Resignation,” this employee churn cost U.S. companies one trillion dollars annually. Turnover may seem inevitable in a post-pandemic workplace, but organizations have the opportunity to implement new employee retention strategies that engage current employees and attract new ones. And it all starts with an employee development program.

How employee development programs affect engagement and retention

Employee development is vital to engage and retain employees, especially coming out of such a stagnant period of work where promotions, raises, and professional growth were put on hold. There’s no question that the pandemic has altered workplace standards for workers.

The shared experience of living and working through a pandemic, coupled with the 89% of millennials who consider constant learning and growth in their jobs important, make it necessary for organizations to offer their employees opportunities to upskill and expand their knowledge.

Millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, aren’t just talking about what’s important to them — they’re taking action. Study after study shows that the main reason millennials leave their jobs is because of poor opportunities for development. Other generations share similar sentiments.

Additionally, workplace benefits outside of healthcare and retirement plans are being reimagined. While ping pong tables and lunchtime yoga classes were once considered “fun extras” by millennials, Gen Y, and Gen Z, employees want tangible proof their employers are committed to them, their well-being, and their lives.

For organizations, this means finding opportunities for employees to grow. Upskilling and reskilling are a top priority post-pandemic, with 59% of learning & development professionals focusing on building stronger employee development strategies to increase engagement and retention. This is a 15% increase from last year.

Solid, robust employee learning and development programs are the path that successful organizations take to demonstrate their commitment to employee fulfillment and investment in their long-term growth.

4 tips to increase learning and development in your workplace

You've seen how essential learning and development programs are for employee engagement and retention. It's clear that organizations need a strong L&D program, but it's not as easy as that. It's not just a case of "If you build it, they will come." Where do you start? How do you improve?

Support skill building

As we’ve explored above, without opportunities for growth, even the most engaged employees can become discouraged and unsatisfied with their workplace.

Enter upskilling.

Upskilling is an integral part of a successful employee learning and development program, as it offers workers the opportunity to learn and strengthen skills that they wouldn’t otherwise learn on the job.

Creating opportunities for your employees to build skills sends them a powerful message that your organization trusts and is invested in them. By investing in the skills they’re learning today, organizations show employees they’re interested in building a long-term relationship. Couple that with clear, defined paths for promotion and you’ll have committed employees who can’t wait to grow with you.

Upskilling also builds organizational longevity, as organizations can train their employees ahead of the demand for new skills that will be required as industries continue to automate.

Employees who are working on building their professional skills not only get the opportunity to grow, but have a positive impact on business. Studies show that employee engagement consistently predicts organizational outcomes across industries. When comparing organizations with high levels of employee engagement to those with lower levels, Gallup found an 81% difference in absenteeism, 32% difference in productivity, 43% difference in turnover, and 10% difference in customer loyalty. The benefits of having engaged employees cannot be overstated –– higher employee engagement rates lead to higher productivity, job satisfaction, and customer service.

Encourage employee recognition

Celebrating your employees’ accomplishments, whether they earned a new certification or did a great job on a presentation, is a powerful way to boost employee engagement. 40% of American workers report that they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often.

A recent white paper from IBM's Smarter Workforce Institute echoes these findings, stating that recognition from an employer leads to higher engagement among employees. Digital badges allow employees to be recognized for their hard work by not just their employers but their peers as well, because badges are shareable on social media and internally.

Promote from within

A tangible way to recognize and reward employees is to provide opportunities for internal mobility. Organizations that promote from within show employees that they’re willing to invest in their development, encouraging and motivating employees to focus on their performance so they can continue to grow within the organization.

There’s also less risk involved when hiring internally: these workers are already trusted by their organizations, and their work style and ethic are clear.

Learning and development in the workplace thrives when organizations offer employees opportunities to advance their skills and careers.

Focus on skills-based hiring

One way to ensure your employees will be engaged with, and taking advantage of, opportunities for upskilling is to restructure your hiring and promotion processes to focus on skills. While skills requirements continue to pivot due to automation, skills-based hiring continues to be at the forefront of conversations about the future of the workplace.

Not only does skills-based hiring create workers with stronger skill sets, but it also helps organizations gain access to wider talent pools and offer employees more objective promotion opportunities. If your employees know the specific skills needed to move up the ladder and you provide them with the opportunity to build those skills through a digital credential program, you're opening up many career paths within your workforce.

Oftentimes, employees and their employers don't realize that seemingly unrelated skills from a past job can translate well to another job or project. Skills-based hiring bridges that gap.

It's time to focus on learning and development

Learning and development programs are one of the key pieces to increasing employee engagement during the “Great Resignation.” Ensure your organization is able to retain and attract employees, compete in a tight hiring market, and meet workers’ needs, now and in the future.

At Credly, we're passionate about helping companies offer employees the opportunity to upskill and earn digital credentials. Contact us today for a free demo about what our program could look like in your organization.