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Employee Experience

Want to Keep Your Best People? Teach Them New Skills

Many companies have started offering more on-the-job training, but most people believe those organizations are still lagging. Here’s how better employee upskilling can help retain and attract workers.

people working at a computer
Online courses are available to help employee upskilling and career advancement.

Amazon will invest more than $700 million to retrain one-third of its workforce by 2025. JPMorgan Chase added $350 million in 2019 to its original five-year $250 million investment in employee upskilling  programs. And PwC? The global consulting firm is  trouncing both, allocating $3 billion over the next few years to upskill its entire workforce of 275,000. The rapid pace of investment in professional development is the latest effort from big organizations to give their employees the skills they need to succeed while keeping them happy amid a growing trend of resignations and career shifts, according to the 2021 LinkedIn Learning’s “Workplace Learning Report

During what many are calling the Great Resignation, millions have quit their jobs. Some are seeking better pay and benefits; others are looking for a truer work-life balance; many will leave corporate life altogether and follow a passion. A recent Bankrate survey reveals 55% of working Americans will look for a new job in the next year, while a PwC survey shows two-thirds of U.S. employees are currently looking for a new job. 

Today, companies seeking to curb turnover and attrition will need to provide employee upskilling tools, or risk losing them to competitors with more robust professional and personal development offerings. Company-sponsored learning is an easy and cost-effective way to mitigate that risk. In fact, three-quarters of Gen Z workers — who watched 50% more learning content in 2020 than in 2019 — say learning is key to a successful career, according to the LinkedIn report.

“This whole move toward online skill development is a permanent shift,” said David Cohen, vice president of North America at LinkedIn Talent Solutions. “We’re going to see more and more people that are going to up-level their skill set on a regular basis through online learning.”

What are you doing to future-proof your employees?

A recent Gallup poll shows it costs $9,000 a year to retain an unmotivated employee, but to replace that employee, the company needs to invest between $25,000 and $100,000. That cost takes into account ramping up and training a new employee, as well as integrating them into the company culture — regardless if they’re working on-site or remotely, or a combination of the two. 

In fact, the proliferation of new hybrid working models has made the great employee upskilling challenge even more urgent for global employers. While burnout, inequity, feeling undervalued, and other factors associated with the coronavirus pandemic have all played a role in shaping the Great Resignation, few have had as significant an impact on our day-to-day as the ability to work from anywhere.

Cohen said job postings tagged with “remote work” on LinkedIn have jumped 440% compared with before the pandemic. On top of that, nearly three times more people are looking at those listings, and applications are up 350% to those jobs relative to other jobs that don’t list remote work as an option.

“A bunch of jobs are being converted to potentially permanent remote status,” Cohen said. “What is that going to mean for the way we work, the skills we’re going to need, and how we’re going to remain productive with a permanent remote or hybrid environment?”

Sixty percent of respondents in a 2020 Salesforce survey believe companies are not making workforce training their top priority.

Salesforce survey

Help your employees realize their dream job is where they are

Many companies have started offering more on-the-job training, but most people believe those organizations are still lagging. Sixty percent of respondents in a 2020 Salesforce survey believe companies are not making workforce training their top priority. For executives worried about the potential cost and resources required to stand up a robust professional development program, the same survey reveals more promising data: three-quarters of respondents say they prefer to learn on the job and in small moments throughout the day.

“What if you said, ‘So, everybody hates Tuesday mornings. What if on Tuesdays, you spent an hour developing a new skill?’” Cohen said. “What if our team works on this skill together and you block your calendar for a couple of hours and all learn together?”

Even though millions of people have left or plan to leave their job in the near future, it’s possible for employers to retain great talent and preserve institutional knowledge by implementing on-the-job learning programs of their own — and connecting success in those programs with opportunities for internal growth.

Offering training and development programs without real opportunities to apply those new skills toward the company’s growth leaves employees frustrated and prone to take their new skills elsewhere.

“People feel discouraged or disillusioned in the workplace when they have these skills and try to figure out how to transfer those in, but companies have a difficult time seeing how those skills could help someone make their mark,” said Jocelyn Orloff, a Los Angeles–based business and life coach.

Employee upskilling can help retain your best talent

Companies that emphasize internal mobility have employees that stay an average of five and a half years at the company. Compare that with companies that rank low on internal mobility rankings — their employees stick around for less than three years on average, Cohen said.

It’s almost a two-fold difference in retention rate for companies that invest in and move people around and give them new opportunities to help them develop new skills versus those that don’t, he said.

It’s about identifying the ‘zone of genius,’ that thing you’re better at than the average person.

Aaron gadiel, founder of the Gadiel group

Strong employee upskilling and professional development programs, coupled with tangible opportunities for internal growth, are the foundations for increased satisfaction and retention during a time when so many are seeking greener pastures. Add to that a company culture that focuses on strengths —  what positive psychology defines as “a person’s innate virtues” — and you’ve got a winning recipe.

“Clarifying the thing you love to do — that thing you can do all day and never get bored — that’s the ultimate goal,” said Aaron Gadiel, an entrepreneurial creativity coach and founder of Michigan-based Gadiel Group. “It’s about identifying the ‘zone of genius,’ that thing you’re better at than the average person. If you want to make a shift that’s long-lasting, identify what it is you’re really good at and focus on that.”

According to a joint 2020 study between TalentLMS, Training Journal, and Workable, 91% of companies and 81% of employees say upskilling/reskilling training has boosted productivity at work. Of those polled, 80% admit upskilling or reskilling training boosted their confidence. However, after the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, only 42% of companies said they increased training efforts, while 42% of employees pursued skills training on their own. This shows that more work needs to be done. What role will you play?

Ari Bendersky is a Chicago-based lifestyle journalist who has contributed to a number of leading publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal magazine, Men's Journal, and many more. He has written for brands as wide-ranging as Ace Hardware to Grassroots Cannabis and is a lead contributor to the Salesforce 360 Blog. He is also the co-host of the Overserved podcast, featuring long-form conversations with food and beverage personalities.

More by Ari

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