Some experts are predicting the current skills gap will widen into a “skills canyon.” This is sending many senior leaders looking for ways to reskill and upskill their workforces—fast. These gaps, which are now compounded by labor market constraints and a high number of unfilled job openings, often end up on HR’s desk.
HR professionals know better than anyone that growing your existing workforce’s skillset is significantly less expensive than the cost of turnover for most employers. So, when tasked with drumming up solutions that will not only retain the employees they currently have but incentivize new ones to join the organization, many HR pros turn to learning and development (L&D) programs as a popular solution.
These types of programs are favored among employees, too. In fact, a recent survey of more than 1,000 knowledge workers found that 41% of respondents said learning opportunities are what keep them engaged at work. However, when it comes to implementing L&D programs, what do employees really want?
Employees know that there are more opportunities now than ever to explore the next phase of their careers. With the power that comes from a candidate-driven job market, employees are leveling up by pushing for promotions or starting new jobs altogether. Thus, associates are becoming managers, and managers are becoming directors.
This growth also comes with new, unfamiliar responsibilities. And though some of these promotions require new technical skills, like learning a new system or new business practices, there’s a steeper learning curve to become an effective manager and leader.
No wonder employees are hungry for new opportunities that will fine-tune their interpersonal skills at work. In the same survey, they said the top skills they are interested in are leadership, communication, and teamwork. Similarly, when asked how employers could improve their efforts to support employees’ professional development, respondents said employers should provide more education opportunities through their learning management system (LMS), continuous education opportunities, and clear career pathing.
So how can HR teams and senior management work together to implement effective upskilling and reskilling programs that are actually desirable to employees? The answer is using suggestive course recommendation technology.
Similar to how a consumer who is searching for an item online is served recommendations based on their previous browsing and buying behaviors, employers can leverage L&D systems that suggest courses for employees based on their profile (e.g., role, performance reviews, interests). Not only does this support an employee experience that people crave and expect now, but it also answers their need to understand what they should learn and what they should do to take the next step in their career.
One of the missteps many organizations make is not leveraging new employee skills or acknowledging the accomplishments of their current employees. Those who have fulfilled certification requirements, completed credential-building courses, or obtained a degree by taking advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement policy should be recognized by their employer. Employers should track their employees’ learning accomplishments. This instantly provides an internal talent pool with advanced skills. When executive leadership fosters a culture of growth, they also foster a culture of retention.
Moving forward, executives should support and encourage managers to celebrate milestones, make L&D part of goals and performance reviews, and reward educational advancements. Companies can’t always use monetary rewards, but company-wide recognition, mentorship programs, career pathing, handwritten thank you notes, stretch projects, and the like can go a long way in celebrating the growth employees are taking on themselves. The same is true of higher-level employees like managers and directors. Executive leaders should reward these employees who continue to invest in their team by making it part of their goals too.
Leaders should also look to the programs employees crave the most—like building skills in leadership, communication, and teamwork—to create programs that reward growth and not stagnation.
One of the best ways to retain top talent is to offer tangible and personalized reskilling and upskilling opportunities to your employees. Every 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 top employees.
Amy Mosher is the chief people officer at isolved.