Bill Peatman offers five ways to build skills and improve retention despite the Great Resignation
With record resignations and job openings in the US and UK, the Great Resignation (GR) shows no signs of slowing down. According to HR analyst Josh Bersin, companies face a “recruiting and retention crisis” that threatens economies. But if you look at the reasons employees are giving for quitting, from front-line workers to mid-career managers, the data points to a crisis of a different nature. Employees want training.
Employees have told employers why they are leaving. The message is loud and clear. More than money or perks, employees want training and development. A late 2021 Gallup poll found that:
• 57% of employees want to upgrade their skills
• 50% are willing to change jobs to do it
• 71% said learning new skills increases their job satisfaction
• 61% said they will stay at companies that invest in their training and development.
This data follows a LinkedIn survey that found that 94% of employees would stay at a company that invests in their growth.
“Employers who offer valuable training opportunities build their reputations as employers of choice,” says Kelly Aiken, vice president for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, told the Society for Human Resource Managers.
The easiest talent to source is the talent you already have; the answer to sourcing the right skill sets lies in redeployment, reskilling, and upskilling
“Companies are not investing in their talent,” said Nanette Miner, Ed.D., head of The Training Doctor. “That is why companies are finding hiring and retention so hard. They are not investing in professional development, and employees leave.”
Retention crisis or training crisis?
Maybe we do not have a recruiting and retention crisis. Instead, we may have a training crisis. Employers are now treating training and development as a new idea. But investing in your best employees, providing growth opportunities, and promoting from within are best practices businesses should have been doing long before the GR.
McKinsey found just 16% of companies have plans to train and upskill workers. Companies are now paying the price for taking the power of their paychecks for granted. As the job market shifts from employers to employees, companies that skimped on training stand to lose workers.
Even before the GR, the the economic and retention benefits of training were irrefutable. There is little question that hiring new employees is far more costly than promotions.
Josh Bersin has been advocating training and development for years. “The cost of recruiting a mid-career software engineer (who earns $150,000- 200,000 per year) can be $30,000 or more, including recruitment fees, advertising, and recruiting technology,” Bersin said. “This new hire also requires onboarding and has a potential turnover of two to three times higher than an internal recruit. By contrast, the cost to train and reskill an internal employee is $20,000 or less, saving as much as $116,000 per person over three years.”
Five ways to build skills and improve retention
Managers and employees must constantly change to meet the demands of the modern working environment, so learning, training and development is integral to business success. Here are some steps to take towards investing, developing, and retaining employees.
1. Measure and report employee retention. It sounds obvious, but not all companies pay attention to retention numbers, and of course, you cannot manage what you do not measure. “The importance of [tracking retention] is obvious, but actually doing so takes time, and these tasks are often left for another day,” said the Society for Human Resources Management. Set targets and reward teams for reaching retention goals.
2. Celebrate advancement – even when people leave. Celebrating promotions and departures can help your employees envision their growth opportunities. When someone gets promoted, explain what they did to earn that step up. When someone leaves for an exciting opportunity, celebrate that too. You will attract growth-minded employees that want to move up in the world. As Harvard Business School professor Sandra Sucher said, “When your company is a badge of honor on someone’s resume, plenty of others will want to fill their place when employees eventually want to leave.”
3. Invest in a learning system. Giving employees access to learning opportunities is easy with Learning Management Systems like LinkedIn Learning or Coursera. Create a core curriculum to guide employees to develop the baseline competencies for your business but let them take it from there. Create rewards for course completion milestones that align with business needs. “Organizations that want to hold onto employees must increase employee development initiatives,” said eLearning Industry. “A company that neglects to do this will suffer from a high turnover rate and reduced productivity.”
4. Build cohort-based learning processes. People learn better and faster in groups. Cohort learning creates more accountability and improves cross-training. Take a lesson from universities. According to Carnegie Mellon University, “Positive group experiences, moreover, have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention, and overall college success.”
5. Survey employees regularly. Asking employees for feedback can be a powerful retention tool if you act on what they tell you. Try polling your employees every day or week, asking for a 1-5 rating of their satisfaction and engagement. According to HR Daily Advisor, companies that regularly ask for employee feedback have a 15% lower turnover. Frequent feedback helps you identify issues early, so dissatisfaction does not fester and lead to unnecessary departures.
Source the talent you have
“The easiest talent to source is the talent you already have; the answer to sourcing the right skill sets lies in redeployment, reskilling, and upskilling,” McKinsey said. These are three distinct types of training defined by McKinsey as:
• Redeployment. When a person’s current role is going away, or they move to a different position, for which they already have the requisite skills.
• Reskilling. When a person is building a different skill or set of skills to perform in a new or significantly evolving role.
• Upskilling. When a person is building a higher level of competency in a skill or set of skills to better perform in the current role.
The GR can be a moment for training and development professionals to show the value training brings to companies beyond teaching new skills. Training builds employee satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.
Bill Peatman writes for Prialto