The Great Resignation. The Great Reshuffle. The Big Quit. The Great Rethink. Quiet Quitting. Ghost Quitting. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the events over the past few years have caused employees to reflect on the role of work in their lives and, in some cases, to take action (or in the case of quiet quitting, inaction!). They’re taking a new look at work’s impact on their fulfillment and what makes work meaningful. And they’re asking themselves what they really want from their professional lives.
The talk of this unprecedented attrition is not hyperbole. 47 million Americans left their jobs in 2021. That’s not insignificant; it means that almost a quarter of the total U.S. workforce quit their jobs in 2021. But it didn’t end in 2021. In the month of February 2022, at least 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, and 4.53 million workers quit in March.
Employees have been leaving in droves, and the bleeding isn’t stopping. Many are still planning their exit. According to a study by McKinsey, 40% of employees are somewhat to almost certainly likely to leave … in the next six months. The study revealed that the top reason people left their jobs last year was a lack of career development and advancement. Yet, according to Gallup, companies that make a strategic investment in employee development are twice as likely to retain their people while increasing profitability by 11%.
In a period of rapid change, talent development is essential for remaining relevant. And it has the added benefit of reducing attrition and amping up engagement and loyalty. Here are best practices for using learning as a way to engage, inspire and yes, retain, your talent.
Let your learners decide what to learn.
As employees reflect on what they want from their career and how they want to contribute to the world of work, employers need to focus on what their people really want. Chief Learning Officer at PwC-US Leah Houde says, “At PwC, we know that our people want greater opportunities to learn, grow and practice new skills to enable both career growth and mobility. We designed our My+ people strategy to flexibly meet those needs and enhance our Infinite Learning culture.”
Houde notes a variety of approaches that ensure a good fit between the employee and the learning programs: “While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing our people, we have an opportunity to amplify personalisation for the individual learner. To help our people chart a learning journey that is tailor-made to their career progression, we introduced a tech-enabled, personalised learning platform and new skill development opportunities through My+. Simplifying and customising our people’s experience with their learning journeys is a worthwhile investment that helps our people develop as leaders and build the career they want with the firm."
Give employees the opportunity to pursue the development that they choose for themselves. Invest in awarding them a stipend to fund some of their learning on programs that are outside your company’s professional development catalogue. In this Forbes piece, Kate Harrison shares why learning stipends may be the best perk you can offer your talent.
Build learning programs that functional teams or project teams can participate in together creates a real connection while building team cohesion among team members and between team members and their leader. The virtual and hybrid work environments can be efficient and cost effective, but they’re creating a humanity deficit at work. Employee satisfaction increases nearly 50% when an employee builds meaningful relationships at work. And Gallup says that having a best friend at work is the number one predictor of employee engagement. Learning, especially on more human topics, fosters connection and creates a positive environment for workers.
It’s especially important in the hybrid world of work that team members have opportunities to contribute to activities that aren’t related to their daily work so they can connect on a more human level and build long-lasting relationships with each other.
Provide time for learning.
The biggest obstacle to learning is always finding or making the time. Prioritising learning over other work activities can feel awkward for many employees who believe they’ll be seen as not taking work seriously or goofing off. As a result, learning is often at the bottom of employees’ do-list, so it rarely gets actioned. “If you want to engage people and get them excited about a continuing career at your company, giving them time to learn can be a fantastic motivator said Kelly Palmer, CLO of Degreed. When you give people time for learning, thinking, and exploring new possibilities, they feel valued.” Studies show that when people feel valued, they are much more enthusiastic about their job.
Discover: How Digital Learning Benefits Your Organisation
Connect learning to your organisation’s core beliefs.
Add life-long learning (a.k.a. L3) to your company’s value system. Integrate it into everything you do. Make it clear in the hiring and onboarding process that professional development is a priority, an opportunity and an expectation. When you build a learning culture and your people know from day 1 that learning is an important part of their job, they’ll be more likely to engage in learning programs without feeling guilty that they didn’t respond to an email within minutes of its being sent. Building a learning mindset among people at all levels of the organisation will not only keep your people engaged, it will help them remain relevant in our times of rapid change.
Prioritise soft skills
Since the pandemic, “people skills” have become more powerful than ever, according to Linda Jingfang Cai, the VP of talent development at LinkedIn. She calls soft skills "the currency of the future workplace." With technology woven into the workforce at light speed and virtual work becoming the norm for many workers (at least some of the time), there’s a need for more empathy, authenticity, transparency and effective communication at work. Topics like emotional intelligence (EQ), personal branding, communication skills and stress management go a long way to create lasting human connection and can have an impact equal to or greater than tech skills. Digitally enabling the workforce without encouraging the growth of their humanity will only make the turnover worse. Engaging their hearts and minds—and helping them learn how to engage your customers, your suppliers, and each other—will inspire your people to stay, not walk away.
Listen to this podcast: Digital Learning: A Passing Fad or Crucial Future?
This article was originally published in Forbes.