The more knowledge and skills employees have, the better they perform and the more value they bring to your business.
No matter how competitive the market, upskilling existing employees should be a priority for business. When staff members stagnate, so does their performance and engagement. Training and development bring more possibilities to the table. The more they know, the better they perform. The better they perform, the more value they have to the business — no matter how large or small.
To attract talent, a clear career trajectory is needed. Potential hires are looking for a company to invest their time and talents for the long term. An organization that has employee growth built into the equation is more attractive. They may be applying for a specific job today, but if they know there’s a potential for growth, they’re planning their extended career with your firm.
The stats don’t lie
Almost 2/3 of workers said upskilling was a very important or extremely important factor in their decision to accept a job offer.
A recent poll by Gallup found almost 2/3 of workers said upskilling was a very important or extremely important factor in their decision to accept a job offer. For existing staff, 61% said upskilling was important in deciding whether or not to remain in their current job.
The Work Institute’s 2021 Retention Report found the top reason for employee’s premature departure from their company. Almost 20% of those polled said the reason they were leaving was “career issues/lack of opportunity for growth and achievement.”
In a good market, turnover is a problem. In a tight market, turnover can be devastating. The cost of employee churn can run between 16 and 213% of the employee’s annual salary. In high churn industries, like retail and hospitality, turnover rates can be higher than 75% per year. The cost of replacing employees is so high, business leaders have to leverage every possible tool to retain staff. Training and development do more than attract and retain — they add value.
LinkedIn reports 59% of Learning and Development professionals were targeting upskilling and reskilling for 2021. As the labor market continues to shift, with businesses challenged to find qualified staff, upskilling will be necessary to attain head count: reskilling will be needed to retain.
Training — from beginners …
Your business is probably involved in some form of training already. New hire training brings talent up to speed on the workings of your organization. The program you created can be formal or casual, but you’re imparting the knowledge they need to succeed initially and into the short term.
Once the new member of the team has mastered their tasks, it’s time to start planning for the future. You’ve invested time and resources in this hire, it’s time to turn the old interview question around: “Where do you see this staff member in 5 years?” More importantly, what are you doing to help them get there?
It’s never too early to start planning for growth. If you’ve made a hire with an eye for them to one day be supervisor; get their degree; or develop skill sets, start planning early. At their first evaluation, discuss plans for their future. Are their career plans aligned with yours? Is there something specific they’d like to develop?
Work together to set goals, then follow up with concrete actions and timelines. You may have to tweak plans along the path, but don’t let that deter you. Your goal is a long-term hire; that requires long-term planning.
… to advanced
For existing employees training is key to keep them engaged and productive. Even those who don’t want immediate advancement benefit from training. Adding competencies and expanding their knowledge base underscores you’re committed to them as a team member. The more training you can provide, the more value they have professionally and as a part of the team.
It’s important to recognize who’s at risk for flight. Where is turnover highest in your company? If employees are moving on to greener pastures with more opportunity for advancement, target this area for development. Make sure opportunities are equally allocated. The glass ceiling is real: you’ll want to make every effort to break it in your company.
If employees are moving on to greener pastures with more opportunity for advancement, target this area for development.
Don’t forget the remote team
Working from anywhere has a lot of advantages, but it also has concerns. One study found 41% of remote workers worry they’re missing out of learning and development opportunities. Another 34% believe they’re missing out on chances for career development. These employees are integral team members — out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind for career planning and development.
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Types of training you should offer
Training can be as formal or casual as suits the needs of your business and staff, but it should be an ongoing priority. If you don’t have a learning and development professional on staff, HR can take the lead. In some companies, team leaders and supervisors provide guidance and direction. Whoever is assigned to work with the employee, plan on meeting routinely to make sure goals are developed and being met.
Whether it’s a structured mentor program or an informal coaching agreement, someone who’s available to train, support and prepare the employee for the future is a great way to start. Creating a mentorship program is relatively easy. These senior staffers provide guidance to their colleagues as well as access. Networking opportunities grow when junior staff have a direct connection to the higher-ups. And so does job satisfaction.
The mentor/coach has been there and done that: they know what the employee needs to know today and what they should be learning for tomorrow’s growth and advancement. Make sure you identify mentors and coaches who have the time and the bandwidth to help. Nothing more frustrating than inaccessible support.
Online learning is a great way to grow and develop staff members. Employees can develop soft skills (communication, leadership, collaboration) or hard skills (such as how to use Excel or PowerPoint, or areas specific to your industry) at their own pace and when they need or can use it.
Online learning is an excellent way for employees to develop individually, but you may find online classes would be beneficial to entire groups of workers.
Help staff identify which skill development areas are needed today and for future advancement. If they’re performing well today, look for classes they will need to make the next step up the corporate ladder. These can include courses like:
- Supervisory training
- Safety or compliance courses
- Project or people management
Then look for available online resources. L&D/HR professionals and team leaders can find with a simple internet search there are hundreds of online classes available. Many are free, others are highly affordable.
Employees who don’t have a high school diploma should be supported and encouraged to get their GED. Business can work with local community colleges or online classes to get the staff the equivalent of a high school diploma. It may seem like a small step for employees, but it could be the beginning of a larger commitment to learning and growth.
Tuition reimbursement is another way business helps employees grow and develop. You may have found market conditions have made it impossible to hire staffers with the degree you demanded in the past. Finding staff with potential to finish their schooling while on the job (and do both well) may be the solution.
Tuition reimbursement is an attractive benefit for job seekers. For existing staff, it may mean staying long-term as they grow.
Prioritize continuous learning
Ongoing learning and development should be a top priority for business and staff. Every performance deficit is an opportunity for growth and training; every stagnant employee is at risk for flight. Continuous learning should be encouraged and actively promoted. Performance evaluation times are a great start to plan for the coming year, but continuous learning should be top of mind and encouraged every day.
Identify staff who have mastered their tasks and are ready for the next challenge. Employee curiosity can open the door to learning: stretch projects and cross-training can give a staff member a peek into what goes on in other departments. Expanding their skill set outside their team provides a bigger picture of the organization and a clear path to its success. It may even offer an opportunity for the staff member’s growth they hadn’t considered in the past.
Why training and development are key
Training and development have always been key for businesses to keep a well-informed and productive workforce. As technology and protocols change, companies strive to keep pace. Today’s business leader understands training and development have added bonuses: they attract and retain top talent.