Some experts predict the current the skills gap will widen to become a “skills canyon”. This sends many senior executives looking for ways to re-qualify and develop their workforce, quickly. These gaps, which are now compounded by labor market constraints and a high number of vacancies, often end up on the HR desk.
HR professionals know better than anyone that developing the skills of your existing workforce is significantly less than the cost of turnover for most employers. So when tasked with finding solutions that will not only retain the employees they currently have, but inspire new employees to join the organization, many HR professionals turn to learning and development programs. (L&D) as a popular solution.
These types of programs are also favored by the employees. Indeed, a recent survey of over 1,000 knowledge workers, 41% of respondents said learning opportunities are what keeps them engaged at work. However, when it comes to implementing training and development programs, what do employees really want?
Employees know there are more opportunities than ever to explore the next step in their careers. With the power that comes from a candidate-driven labor market, employees take it to the next level by pushing for promotions or starting new jobs. Thus, partners become managers and managers become directors.
With this growth comes new, unknown responsibilities as well. And while some of these promotions require new technical skills, like learning a new system or new business practices, the learning curve is steeper in becoming an effective manager and leader.
No wonder employees are hungry for new opportunities that will sharpen their interpersonal skills at work. In the same survey, they said the main skills they are interested in are leadership, communication and teamwork. Likewise, when asked how employers could improve their efforts to support employee professional development, respondents said employers should provide more education opportunities through their learning management system ( LMS), continuing education opportunities and a clear career path.
So how can HR teams and senior management work together to implement effective skills upgrading and retraining programs that are genuinely desirable for employees? The response uses suggestive course recommendation technology.
Just as a consumer who searches for an item online receives recommendations based on their previous browsing and buying behaviors, employers can take advantage of training and development systems that suggest courses for employees based on their profile (eg role, performance reviews, interests). Not only does this support an employee experience that people are looking for and expecting now, but it also addresses their need to understand what they need to learn and what they need to do to take the next step in their careers.
One of the missteps many organizations take is to fail to take advantage of new employee skills or to fail to recognize the accomplishments of their current employees. Those who have completed certification requirements, taken degree enhancement courses, or obtained a degree taking advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement policy should be recognized by their employer. Employers should track the learning achievements of their employees. This instantly provides an internal talent pool with advanced skills. When executive leadership fosters a culture of growth, it also fosters a culture of retention.
Going forward, leaders should support and encourage managers to celebrate milestones, embed learning and development into goals and performance reviews, and reward educational progress. Companies can’t always use monetary rewards, but company-wide recognition, mentoring programs, career path, handwritten thank you notes, extended projects, etc. can go a long way in celebrating the growth that employees take on for themselves. The same goes for senior level employees like managers and directors. Leaders need to reward those employees who continue to invest in their team by making it part of their goals as well.
Leaders also need to look to the programs employees need most, like building leadership, communication and teamwork skills, to create programs that reward growth, not stagnation.
One of the best ways to retain top talent is to provide tangible, personalized retraining and development opportunities for your employees. Each person is looking to accomplish something different in their career. By providing leadership opportunities to your employees, you can create a culture of continuous learning that attracts and retains the best employees.
Amy Mosher is the personnel manager at issolved.